It was with great anticipation and excitement when, as a small boy, our family home was connected to the 240 Volt state-wide power grid. The arrival of electricity brought many changes to our daily lives.
The ensuing 50 years saw technological advances, particularly in communications, that resulted in the world being connected in ways we could never have imagined. All the while, our demand for electricity increased, and our reliance on technology meant that every facet of our lives, both at work and at home, required a constant power supply.
During last week’s storm, that supply failed across the entire state of South Australia as a result of a transmission towers being brought down north of Adelaide. This of course disrupted almost all we do until the lines could be repaired and the supply reinstated. For parts of Eyre Peninsula, this took up to three days. We are, quite literally, ‘on the end of the line’.
This most recent event, once again highlighted the centralised nature of our grid, with South Australia now reliant upon an interconnector with Victoria for some base-load power at least. It also demonstrated that we no longer have the option of isolating sections of the grid. The current inability to store renewable energy is also an issue, although with rapidly improving battery technology, this should be overcome in the future.
There will be much discussion about why and how the system failed so spectacularly, but in all of this, we managed to get through. However, I believe the most concerning thing of all was the breakdown of our modern communication systems. The inability to communicate with others through our mobile phone network, internet and in some instances, even our landlines was a significant issue. It also resulted in authorities being unable to put out timely and reliable information, an imperative in an emergency situation. And of course there was no way to access 000 either.
The disruption to our business and industry sectors was also of major concern. With losses predicted, this will be felt not only by businesses effected, but by our entire local economy. We are major contributors to the State’s agriculture and seafood sectors, and the knock-on effect will be significant.
Changes must occur for the sake of South Australia’s economic future. It is imperative that Eyre Peninsula and SA become part of a consolidated truly national grid that has the resilience to manage disruptions in supply. Governments at every level must take up this challenge.
In all of this we must recognise the tremendous work of our Emergency Service personnel, those who volunteered their time, and the efforts of those who worked tirelessly to reconnect Eyre Peninsula to the rest of the world. We thank you.