Shining Sun, Blowing Wind

…when the sun doesn’t shine and the wind doesn’t blow.

You’ve surely read such a phrase in any number of articles about supplying climate-friendly electricity to households and economies. Me, I roll my eyes every time I see it, no matter who the author is, but that’s mainly because it has to already be numbingly obvious that sometimes it’s cloudy or nighttime or calm.

Yet you wouldn’t know it from headlines like

This and articles like it invariably rely on significant dispatchable hydro but you wouldn’t know it from the choice of image.

or hot takes like

More than 150,000 [rooftop PV] systems installed in the last year alone would produce enough energy for 226,000 homes.

Why not? Because of last night on the mainland, for example:

Care of Tomorrow.

That’s an average of 91% fossil fuels supplying the evening’s electricity, with most of the remainder from existing hydro. The perseverance of solar and wind development in Australia is absolutely commendable, but even with all current projects completed this picture from last night would barely change.

Renewable energy advocates (and I count myself as one) were cautioned at the beginning of the year to be mindful of the reality of energy supply systems. When the triumphalism shown by advocacy groups like GetUp eventually fails to translate into rapidly diminished fossil fuel consumption at those times when the sun’s not shining and the wind’s not blowing, the resulting cynicism might make the “Tony Abbott years” not seem so bad by comparison.

GetUp heralds Australia’s progress with renewable energy as “the end of the era of big polluting energy companies dominating the market” but the growing awareness of waste and pollution also generated directly by the big overseas manufacturers of their favoured alternative energy sources must be addressed, not ignored just because it’s not happening here.

I’ll conclude with official data on annual shares from Australia’s technology mix.