South Australia’s rapid wind farm growth has reduced carbon emissions at negligible cost.

8 May 2014 — A new study of South Australia’s electricity sector has found that wind energy has greatly reduced the state’s carbon emissions without increasing wholesale electricity prices or requiring back-up.

South Australia has installed a large number of wind farms over the past eight years, with wind energy now accounting for 28 per cent of electricity produced – enough to power every house in the state.

The study, conducted by Windlab Systems, found that the amount of electricity generated by wind turbines had quadrupled over the past eight years, with capacity going from 388 megawatts to 1203MW, and carbon emissions dropping by 34 per cent.

During this period of growth there had been little change in South Australia’s wholesale electricity costs in real terms, the study found, compared with prices across the rest of the National Electricity Market. The study also revealed that wholesale electricity prices had not risen, even if the full cost of the renewable generation certificates from the Renewable Energy Target were included.

“This study is particularly timely and poignant,” Windlab chief executive Roger Price said. “There is clear evidence that the common complaints made against wind energy are wrong. Wind power does not need continual ‘back-up’ and the costs are not onerous.”

Mr Price said there had been no proportional increase in back-up generation capacity, something wind sceptics often point to when criticising the wind industry.

“In fact,the state’s reliance on expensive and emission-intensive peaking plants has dropped, as have imports of electricity from Victoria. As a result, CO2 emissions due to electricity generation have plummeted 34 per cent, while electricity usage remained stable,” he said.

“The findings should provide clear guidance to the Federal Government’s Renewable Energy Target review panel that wind energy and by association the RET should not be a scapegoat for explaining increases in domestic and business energy costs.

Co-author Dr David Osmond said The South Australian experience provided no evidence of direct or indirect cost increases for consumers through the introduction of large amounts of wind energy.

“However, it is clear that there has been a very large reduction in carbon emissions – which of course is the purpose of the RET,” Dr Osmond said.

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