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Open letter to SA government: Don’t sell out to gas

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On 29 February this year the South Australian Premier, when visiting Port Augusta, clearly indicated his support for a clean energy industry in the region, backing both solar thermal and wind-powered proposals.

The state government has since loosened the emission cap on new power stations from 400kg CO2/MWh in 2015 to 700kg. This suggests a sell-out to gas, the implications of which could be a dent in the progressive, clean, green image of South Australia, an increase in the state’s emissions, and loss of solar thermal power generation for Port Augusta.

pelican point gas

Concentrated solar thermal power provides energy security. It is a proven cutting edge technology for the 21st century – it has been built in the USA and Spain on a commercial scale, and it is perfect for Port Augusta with its plentiful sun.

Port Augusta, a battling regional town, deserves its vision of being a clean energy hub with better health outcomes, cheaper electricity, sustainable jobs and another base for technological progress in South Australia.

We urge Labor to reject the federal government’s spruiking of gas as a means of attacking SA’s excellent record on renewable energy development. It is wrong for several reasons.

Firstly, it is frequently ignored that there are significant “fugitive” atmospheric emissions of methane from the mining, processing, and transport of gas. Because methane is so potent a greenhouse gas, the touted advantage of gas over coal is disputed, and is likely borderline at best.

Secondly, while we recognise that air pollution from a gas-fired power station itself would be much less than for coal, this pollution would still have health impacts and therefore costs for Port Augusta (see appended health information) or for Adelaide if Pelican Point is chosen.

Furthermore, where would the gas mining occur? If from within SA, surely any involved communities should be advised of the expected health issues, and these are extensive (see appended list).

Australia has endorsed the global agreement to limit global warming to 2°C. In order for this to happen, 80 percent of the world’s remaining fossil fuel deposits must be kept in the ground. This includes gas. At present SA is the only State which could comply with these ideals and we should maintain this position.

As doctors and socially responsible citizens, we urge the South Australian government to advocate for a clean energy source for Port Augusta and to commit to ambitious emission standards. The decisions you make now will affect your children and all future generations of Australians.

Yours sincerely,

Dr Katya Glogovska, Member of Doctors for the Environment SA State Committee

Dr David Shearman AM, Hon National Secretary Doctors for the Environment Australia  

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  • Breza Lily

    Its easy for doc. To pay these huge energy bills. Ask pensioners how they suffer during winter.

    • brucelee

      It only gets worse with gas

  • Gary Rowbottom

    The key enabling step for Solar Thermal with Storage in Port Augusta is for the currently open SA Government energy tender to be awarded to a credible solar thermal constructor. Some Federal funding via ARENA/CEIF/CEFC, as virtually promised by Greg Hunt and Malcolm Turnbull allows that electricity to be provided at a reasonable price, fixed for 10, 15 or 20 years – however long the government decides. Imagine that, a fixed price for at least 10 years. Hard to get that with gas. Ordinary consumers won’t be part of that contract, it is for government facility energy use. And the jobs created, thousands in construction and around 50 ongoing for decades has economic value – we could sure do those, particularly the ex power station workers like me now out of a job. So what is not to like?