Switch on SA – Power to the People

The time has come. The age of coal is over and the era of gas is coming to an end. It is high time SA became a renewable, clean energy powerhouse. With the right leadership, and better rules and regulations, SA could lead the way in renewables, bringing power to the people.

Domestic solar installations are breaking records in many parts of Australia. Solar panels make economic sense, even without the subsidies of earlier years. South Australia has led the nation in solar power, but we still have work to do and the Greens are working to Switch on SA to a renewable energy future.

South Australians need affordable, reliable power that doesn’t endanger the climate. Here’s how: Solar Power

1. Fix the National Electricity Market

The National Electricity Market (NEM) operates from Port Douglas in Far North Queensland to Port Lincoln in South Australia. It’s huge and highly technical, but it’s also broken and is failing to allow new renewable generators to compete fairly with fossil fuel power stations. The NEM was never designed for new technology such as solar farms or battery storage. Simple changes such as reducing “settlement intervals” from 30 minutes to 5 minutes, would allow fast responding renewables and storage to shine and prevent gas companies from gaming the market to their own advantage.

2. Support jobs with a $500m Clean Energy Transition Fund

Modelling by ACF and ACTU found that Australia could create one million new jobs and reduce pollution by 80 per cent by 2040 by introducing clean energy support policies. Clean energy is an investment into all facets of our future.

A starting investment of $500m could leverage billions of dollars of construction investment in new energy generation. If we took the initiative as a state to introduce such a plan, South Australia could be a world leader in renewable technologies and solutions to global energy problems such as managing summer and winter “peakiness” in demand.

3. Grid-scale battery farms

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.

Grid-scale battery storage is proven technology, providing additional power when it is most needed. US renewable energy entrepreneur, Elon Musk made headlines with his promise to deliver the world’s biggest battery to South Australia in 100 days. The Australian Energy Storage Council has revealed there are multiple other companies (including Australian-owned companies) who could also match the Tesla bid, including Lyon, Zen and Carnegie. The Lyon Group is proposing a $700 million battery and solar farm at Morgan in the Riverland on top of their smaller $250 million Kingfisher project in the state's Far North. Irish company DP Energy already has approval for a Port Augusta windfarm and has plans underway for a solar farm with battery storage. For SA to be  serious about a renewable energy future, we will need multiple storage options in different locations.

4. A concentrated solar thermal plant for Port Augusta

A concentrated solar thermal plant at Port Augusta would give South Australia the double benefit of clean solar power plus storage of energy for night-time use. The project is incredibly popular across the State, but especially in Port Augusta where retrenched power workers are ready and able to get back to work to supply our State with electricity. A number of companies are interested, including Solastor and Solar Reserve. The Greens want the State Government to commit to buying the electricity from a solar thermal plant so these companies can secure finance and commence building. This project makes much more sense than commissioning a new polluting gas-fired power plant.

5. Pumped Hydro Power Storage

As with grid scale batteries, pumped hydro is a proven way of storing large amounts of energy that can be dispatched when it is needed. Water is pumped to a hill-top dam when energy is plentiful and cheap; then released back to a lower dam via a turbine when the grid needs extra power. Even a relatively small dam would hold enough energy to provide 3 hours at 200MW or six times as much electricity as was ordered to be shed during the February 8 load-shedding incident. The Australian National University has identified multiple potential sites in SA including near Whyalla and in the Mid-North that would serve as appropriate for usage as pumped hydro power storage.

6. A fair price for solar

While many South Australians are doing the right thing by installing solar panels onto their homes, they are still being dudded by unfair prices paid for exporting excess electricity back to the grid. An ESCOSA decision last year to drop the minimum “retailer feed-in tariff” from 6.8 cents kwh to zero failed to appreciate the true value of solar energy to the grid. If we contrast this with the Victoria Essential Services Commission which has just raised the minimum payment from 5 cents up to 11.3 cents kwh and with a similar move likely in NSW, we can see that our State’s record number of solar households are being left behind.

The Greens’ amendment to the Electricity Act will force ESCOSA to take into account avoided distribution and transmission losses as well as avoided social costs of carbon when setting the minimum solar energy price. This will encourage more households, businesses and factories to install solar panels and help give the power back to the people.

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