14 March 2017
Power intervention welcome, but risks being stranded as renewables roar
There’s a lot to like in today’s announcement of the SA Government’s energy plan, says the state’s peak environment body. But the new government owned gas-fired power station risks becoming a white elephant as renewable technology bounds ahead, and chucking more subsidies towards gas exploration is irresponsible and divisive.
“Trying to wrestle back control of the power market makes a lot of sense,” said Craig Wilkins, Chief Executive of the Conservation Council of SA.
“A strong intervention was clearly required to calm the system down after the game playing and politics over the past few months.
“While we strongly welcome the $150m renewable technology fund, the new powers to maintain reliability and a commitment to build Australia’s largest grid-connected battery, a new gas fired power station costing $360m is a hyper-expensive lock-in of an energy source that is supposed to be a ‘transition’ fuel only.
“Elon Musk’s tweet storm over the last few days shows how much excitement and interest there is in batteries and other clean and reliable energy options - including solar thermal with storage and pumped hydro - and how quickly the technology is coming on.
“There is a great risk that a better and cheaper option to provide grid security than a gas-powered station will emerge even before we as taxpayers receive the keys to the plant.
“And why are taxpayers continuing to subsidise the exploration of new gas? These new areas are likely to be controversial and divisive, and the Government’s offer to throw some of the royalty payment to landowners will pitch neighbour against neighbour.
“It will be years before these new gas options become operational, if they happen at all. And then as a fossil fuel they will continue to cook the planet.
“In the meantime cheaper and cleaner renewable technology will keep roaring ahead.
“A lot rests on the mid-year announcement of the State Government’s electricity procurement tender. The government has a tremendous opportunity to choose an exciting option such as a solar thermal plant with storage at Port Augusta,” he said.
Further comment: Craig Wilkins, 0417 879 439