Greens' response to SA Government's new power policy

New Gas = Epic Fail for the Climate

The State Government’s long-awaited “dramatic intervention” in South Australia’s electricity market has missed a golden opportunity to transform our State to a renewable energy powerhouse, according to Greens SA Parliamentary Leader, Mark Parnell MLC.

“Apart from a modest spend on batteries and some regulatory reform, the bulk of the money is going straight to fossil fuel generation with massive taxpayer subsidies to big gas. There is also a massive missed opportunity to support a concentrated solar thermal plant at Port Augusta or a pumped hydro storage facility,” Mr Parnell said.

“Most people now agree that the future for the planet lies with renewable energy, not with burning coal or gas. The key to providing secure and affordable clean energy is to provide sufficient storage so that intermittent energy from wind and solar can be dispatched at all hours regardless of whether the wind is blowing or the sun is shining.

Preliminary Scorecard:

1. Battery storage and renewable technology fund – 8/10

$150m (half grants, half loans) delivering 100MW will support existing and new renewables. As SA reaches 50% renewable energy, more storage will be needed.

2. New gas power plant – 0/10

This is an epic fail for the climate and economy. If the answer to our energy problems involves burning more fossil fuels, then we’re asking the wrong question. This is a bad call that risks leaving SA taxpayers holding an expensive “stranded asset” in just a few years as renewables, batteries and other storage drop in price and make gas uneconomic.

3. Local powers over national market – 7/10

This will help ensure that decisions about how much power to generate and when generation occurs are made in the State interest, rather than the interests of private companies. To avoid a tit-for-tat war with other States, this should be negotiated nationally to ensure all Australians have a secure and reliable supply.

4. New generation for more competition – 5/10

It makes sense for the Government to use its leverage as a major buyer of electricity to insist on clean energy generation. If the Government was serious about clean energy, it would rule out gas and insist on renewables plus storage. The proposed Concentrated Solar Thermal Plant at Port Augusta would be a great project, but it is missing from this announcement.

5. South Australian gas incentives 0/10

This is corporate welfare for the fossil fuel sector with $24m handouts to gas companies. Will these funds be used to re-ignite interest in fracking for unconventional gas in the South East? The community there has already said it wants no part of it – a point recognized by the multi-party Natural Resources Committee of State Parliament last year.

6. Energy security target 5/10

The jury is out on this one. It makes sense to ensure as much local procurement as possible, particularly from local renewable energy sources. The target may face difficulties with the NEM and competition rules, but time will tell whether it works.