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Blackout blame reignites renewables debate

AAP logoAAP 28/09/2016 Elise Scott

The blame game over South Australia's statewide blackout has reignited the debate about renewable energy, with Malcolm Turnbull condemning aggressive and unrealistic state targets.

Ferocious storms on Wednesday damaged one of the state's power stations and 20 transmission towers and left more than a million homes without power.

Before the last 75,000 homes had electricity back on, Mr Turnbull was blaming SA's heavy reliance on renewables for instability in the state's electricity grid.

Opposition Leader Bill Shorten accused the prime minister of trying to use a natural disaster to play politics.

"The experts have made it clear what has taken the power out in South Australia is the weather, not a government policy," he told reporters in Canberra.

"This is a super storm, 80,000 lightning strikes - that didn't happen because of the renewable energy target."

The prime minister accused Labor state governments of paying little or no attention to energy security when setting renewable targets.

He wants to stop states setting their own renewable energy targets, instead installing a national goal.

"If you are stuck in an elevator, if the lights won't go on, if your fridge is thawing out, everything in the kitchen is thawing out because the power is gone, you are not going to be concerned about the particular source of that power," Mr Turnbull told reporters in Launceston.

"You want to know that the energy is secure."

SA Premier Jay Weatherill insists the long outage was caused by an unprecedented weather event and not its 40 per cent renewable energy mix.

"What happened yesterday was a storm event," he told reporters in Adelaide on Thursday.

"What it did was destroy infrastructure. What the system did was to protect itself so that we could get it up and running quickly and that's exactly what happened."

It's believed when transmission lines fell, the frequency of the grid dropped to a point where an automatic shutdown was triggered.

Federal Energy and Environment Minister Josh Frydenberg is hauling his state counterparts in for a meeting in the next few days to discuss what lessons should be taken from the SA disaster.

"Right now in this country we have a hodgepodge of renewable energy targets that are spread differently across the state and territory and federal governments," he told reporters in Melbourne.

The federal government's target is to have 23.5 per cent renewable energy by 2020 but Queensland and South Australia are aiming for 50 per cent and Victoria for 40 per cent, although over longer time frames.

South Australian senator Nick Xenophon has called for an inquiry into the power supply, saying the Australian Energy Market Commission should examine whether the state's energy mix made it more vulnerable to an outage.

Energy experts deny the power outage was caused by the state's renewable energy.

"It's basically just unlucky in terms of both timing and location," Dylan McConnell, a research fellow at the Melbourne Energy Institute at the University of Melbourne told AAP.

"It could happen in NSW. It just so happens it happened to be in the state with the most political discussion around renewable energy recently."

Mr Weatherill said it was disappointing some people were prematurely jumping to conclusions about contributing factors.

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