“Until the 1990s, Australia had a series of separate regional power grids. We now have a system linked almost across the nation – a system which, when well managed, is cheaper and more reliable. In the late 1980s, governments finally came to see that the existing state monopoly power commissions were amazingly inefficient and hungry for great gobs of capital for new power stations and coal mines.
“The greater reliability of a connected system is just as important as the cost savings. With a national grid and a national market, it is possible to provide softer cushions against natural or man-made catastrophes: a spiraling cyclone, a stinking hot afternoon (one of the worst risks), the collapse of a transmission tower, or, to take a gloomy view, a terrorist attack.
“So it is hardly surprising that state governments should have looked for a new way to keep the lights on. Of course, when talking to their voters back home, they still kept assuring their constituents – and still do – that they were looking after their power, that they were making sure that their state’s power supply is in good shape. The fact is that now all of the connected states rely upon each other and NEMMCO, to keep the whole show firing.
“As a result, much the same amount of base generating capacity can meet our needs now as 20 years ago. And, when precarious episodes have arisen, the wizards at NEMMCO managed to keep the system up, and you, good citizens, probably neither heard nor worried about it.
But … read more from Gavan McDonell at OLO about South Australia’s special role in the administration of all of this: http://www.onlineopinion.com.au/view.asp?article=7585&page=0