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Crisis, what crisis? How smart solar can protect our vulnerable power grids

Lawrence McIntosh and Dani Alexander write in The Conversation (8.2.17) about recent fears over the ‘security’ of power supply as renewable sources add to the energy mix. The authors contend that, while managing voltage on the electricity network has always been an issue, solar panels now have the potential to make the situation better, not worse as some have feared.’Some commentators seem to be worried that our electricity networks are facing an impending voltage crisis, citing fears that renewables (rooftop solar panels in particular) will threaten the quality of our power supply.

‘These concerns hinge on the fact that solar panels and other domestic generators can push up voltages, potentially making it harder for network companies to maintain stability across the grid. But what is less well understood (and far less reported) is the massive potential for local generation to actually improve the quality of our power, rather than hinder it.

‘A new report from our Networks Renewed project aims to show how technologies such as “smart inverters” can help to manage voltage at the household scale, rather than at substations. This would improve the quality of our power and flip the potential problem of household renewables into a solution.’

High energy prices? Blame fossil fuel generators, not renewables

Giles Parkinson writes in Inside Story (10.2.17) that, amidst the rush by some to blame renewables for states’ energy supply woes, the Coalition is chasing the wrong target, despite all the evidence.

‘It seems that you can ask the Coalition government pretty much any question – about plunging polls, Donald Trump, Cory Bernardi or even the weather – and the answer will always be the same: “We’re focused on electricity prices”.

‘Great. But what exactly is the Coalition doing about them? On the evidence to date, not a whole lot, apart from blaming renewables for soaring wholesale electricity costs and promoting something called “clean coal,” despite all the evidence pointing to the fact that coal generation it is not very clean, and not cheap. They are chasing the wrong target. Australia has experienced some extraordinarily high wholesale electricity prices this summer, and most of these price surges have come in states with little large-scale wind or solar.

‘It is the activities of the fossil fuel generators that are to blame. This is about competition, or the lack of it, and the fossil fuel generators have been going to extraordinary lengths to get rid of competition.’

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