Today, we bring you a dispatch from the land down under on how a media campaign against renewable energy crashed and burned.
First, some background. For the past few weeks, electricity prices in South Australia have been extremely high, averaging $321 Australian dollars per megawatt hour (MWh). Compared with $80 per MWh for July of the previous year, this was certainly troubling. But what was to blame for the spike in prices?
Rupert Murdoch’s media machine incorrectly blamed high electricity prices on wind energy. Michael Slezak has a deep dive in The Guardian. We’ll hit just the highlights.
The Murdoch-owned Australian reported that not only were the wind farms failing to produce enough energy to meet the nation’s demand, the wind farms were actually using high amounts of energy themselves, thus amplifying the problem. The Australian also ran a piece calling South Australia the “canary in the coalmine” for high electricity prices due to its reliance on renewables.
Multiple experts have debunked this explanation, pointing out that the spike in electricity prices was actually caused by a doubling of gas prices. Gas supplies 90 percent of non-renewable electricity generated in South Australia. A sudden surge in cold weather and a disruption in the connection between the South Australia and Victoria power grids were also contributing factors.
Even former resources minister Josh Frydenberg, who once said there was a “strong moral case for coal,” couldn’t get behind this attack on renewables. “To say that [this price spike] is the fault of renewables is not an accurate assessment,” Frydenberg said. As The Guardian pointed out, “the media hostile to wind has been almost completely silent on the matter” since Frydenberg’s remarks.