The Greens have outlined plans to have South Australia source 100 per cent of its electricity needs from clean energy by 2030, a path it says will create 1,000 jobs and include a 100MW solar tower and storage plant near Port Augusta.
The plan was outlined by Greens leader Richard Di Natale and other Senators in Adelaide on Monday, as the Greens seek to differentiate themselves from the far more conservative policies of the mainstream parties ahead of the forthcoming federal election.
South Australia is the obvious place for the Greens to target a 100 per cent renewable energy plan. This year, it will be the first mainland state to pass the 50 per cent renewable energy mark, courtesy of more than 1,500MW of wind energy and 640MW of rooftop solar.
Labor premier Jay Weatherill has also canvassed a 100 per cent renewable energy future, although he is yet to put a time frame on that. Indeed, the official state target is 50 per cent by 2025, a target it will reach with nearly a decade to spare.
Like Weatherill, di Natale is investment in renewable energy is key to providing South Australia with the jobs in the future, particularly as it mainstay industries of the pass few decades, cars and steel start to wind down.
He says the task will take an investment of around $15 billion over 15 years.
“Transitioning to clean energy is the key to unlocking South Australia’s economic potential and combating global warming,” di Natale said in a statement. “While both Malcolm Turnbull and Bill Shorten talk about tackling climate change, they have locked us into the industries of the last century, supporting coal and vested interests.
“It is a testing time for South Australia. The Whyalla community is facing the possible closure of its major employer while Port Augusta prepares to close its coal-fired power station. Thousands of jobs have been lost in this state yet our vision for a clean energy future would see this state thrive.”
The Greens declared their support for a proposal by US company SolarReserve to build a 110MW solar tower with storage plant near Port Augusta, where the state’s last coal fired generator is due to close down in May.
“This plan will deliver major new clean energy projects where the sun shines and the wind blows by working with industry and the community through a combination of reverse auctions and direct investment,” the Greens said in their statement.
The Greens official policy platform is for Australia as a whole to reach 90 per cent renewable energy by 2030. While fossil fuel and nuclear interest decry this as a fantasy, the Australian Energy Market Operator says 100 per cent renewable energy for the entire country is technically feasible.
As the head of the Chinese state grid said recently, incorporating renewable energy is less of a technology challenge than a cultural one.
Indeed, AEMO outlined recently a “rapid transition” scenario that said South Australia could reach 100 per cent renewable “well before 2035” as rooftop solar increased five fold, wind energy doubles and 500MW of large scale solar is built.
In any case, the growth of rooftop solar is expected to lead to occasions where it meets all of daytime demand within a decade, downplaying the need for “base load” generation and focusing instead on “flexible” generators like the solar thermal and storage plants, and battery storage, along with gas in the interim.
Last year, UNSW academic Mark Diesendorf outlined a plan to take the state to 100 per cent renewable energy, saying that the South Australian electricity system could be operated entirely on scaled-up, commercially available, renewable energy sources.
“South Australia is at risk of being left behind unless we invest in 21st century technologies,” the Greens policy document says.
“We have already seen 250 jobs lost last year with the closure of the Leigh Creek coal mine and another 200 jobs will go in just a few weeks when Port Augusta’s coal fired power station closes its doors, highlighting the need for our state to transition to renewables.
“The Whyalla community is also reeling at the prospect of losing its major employer, Arrium, which would see thousands of jobs go from the region. Locally, sustainably made steel could be used in advanced manufacturing and renewable projects to ensure the longevity of this industry.”