Jay Weatherill on hydrogen, load-shedding, community activism and his critics | RenewEconomy

Jay Weatherill on hydrogen, load-shedding, community activism and his critics

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The SA Premier talks eggs, sausages, solar thermal, battery storage… and why the federal Clean Energy Target still matters.

Image source: Wikimedia commons
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Image source: Wikimedia commons
Image source: Wikimedia commons

The South Australian Premier Jay Weatherill has given his critics further food for thought. After Monday’s announcement of a 150MW concentrated solar thermal power plant to be built near Port Augusta, he conducted a brief interview with RenewEconomy at the launch of the programme for SA’s Open State festival.

Asked what his response to Federal Energy Minister Josh Frydenberg claiming he was all sizzle and no sausage, and Treasurer Scott Morrison’s comparison of the lithium-battery facility in Jamestown to a ‘Big Banana’, Weatherill opined that “they’ve been left with egg on their face.”

Weatherill believes that despite the price of renewables and storage dropping so fast the putative Federal Clean Energy Target still matters. He told RenewEconomy that existing thermal generation is still cheaper, but dirtier” and that “perversely, coal is still pushing gas out of the market.”

Looking forward, Weatherill was about possible load-shedding and other grid issues this summer (ahead of the March 2018 state election), would he be able to tell South Australians he’d done to keep the lights – and air-conditioning – on.  He responded “Our plan is designed to avoid [these events], but some natural catastrophes are unavoidable.”

That plan, launched in March, includes battery storage, back-up diesel generators, a controversial energy security target and new generation.  Of course, the Aurora power plant – the subject of a double page full colour advert on page 2 and 3 of today’s Advertiser – will not be operational until 2020.

He reaffirmed the statement that he made in Port Augusta on Tuesday, that this was the community’s victoryThey kept the faith in the project, giving SolarReserve the confidence to continue to pursue the project.”

He rejected the criticism that the Northern power station had been closed prematurely, sticking to the position that it was an economic decision made by a private company because of the policy uncertainty in the National Electricity Market.”

In response to a question about Moreland Council  Melbourne is building a hydrogen refuelling station for its garbage trucks he stated that this was something he would encourage South Australian local councils to look at, and pointed to the Battery and Renewable Technology Fund.

The Open State festival that Weatherill was launching is part of the State Government’s attempt to put South Australia ‘on the map’ in terms of innovation to meet the challenges of the 21st century. As well as Weatherill’s speech, those in attendance heard of urban transport projects (eco-caddy) and had a chance to eat rocky road sprinkled in crickets thanks to post-dining.

The carbon emissions reduction from these sorts of projects does exist, but is completely dwarfed by the energy systems.  If South Australia is spoken of in ten or twenty years’ time as a trail-blazer, it will be for the investments in new technologies, and the risk-taking it undertook in the face of a truly bewildering level of incompetence, complacency and stupidity at the Federal level.

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  1. Joe 3 years ago

    Premier Jay, you are a ‘Rare Gem’. It is telling that Big Mal, his hand puppet Joshie F. and ‘Lump of Coal Scotty’ have been quiet as mice since the Port Augusta announcement. But the Liberal State Opposition haven’t held back in poo pooing this visionary project. Here we have long term energy infrastructure, investment in CLEEEEEEN energy, creating jobs and boosting the local economy and completed within 3 years. To quote our illustrious PM….dare I say it…”Jobs and Growth”, “Innovative and Agile”……only a bunch of dopes would knock the Port Augusta announcement.

    • MrMauricio 3 years ago

      only “another” bunch of dopes would knock the Port Augusta announcement
      -State and federal LNP-lost lost lost!!!!

    • Alastair Leith 3 years ago

      worse than dopes, Liberal party are corrupt and ignorant about the profound risks of climate change and manifold benefits of renewables.

  2. John Blundell 3 years ago

    “If South Australia is spoken of in ten or twenty years’ time as a trail-blazer, it will be for the investments in new technologies, and the risk-taking it undertook in the face of a truly bewildering level of incompetence, complacency and stupidity at the Federal level.” – Premier Jay Weatherill.
    ..levels of i., c., and s. only possible in a collapsing government and with a state opposition so bewildered by the animal magnetism and charisma of banking executives and their PR blather they’re prepared to throw the election away for them – and in Ian Narev’s big week! Jingoes.
    Houston they have a problem. Which is OK because the rest of us can ignore them and get on with our lives, to plan, work and realistically hope for a healthy future for our kids,

  3. Radbug 3 years ago

    I’m a big fan of magnesium/iron pyrite batteries for grid-scale storage.

    • trackdaze 3 years ago

      Wind turbines àre big fans too.

    • Ken 3 years ago

      Any more details available ?

      • Radbug 3 years ago

        I haven’t seen any new FeS2/Mg papers precised by “Science Daily” since 2015/16. Dunno what’s going on. In the papers alluded to, performance numbers were good enough, but no mention was made of lifetimes. Perhaps they’re working on lifetimes?

        • Ken 3 years ago

          Reason for asking is that I was told there is a Zinc Oxide battery being commercialised in the near future with better energy density, better DOD, less degredation and at a far lesser cost ( the holy quad finity as its not a trinity?)

          And then there is the Zebra battery, why is this not more widely used?

          I’m just curious why there seem to be other battery chemistries that seem to promise so much but all the focus appears to be on LiOH ?

          • Radbug 3 years ago

            Jay Wetherill has an election to win and Musk has promised to deliver before summer. Remember, Ken, Tesla EV hasn’t delivered a profit yet! It’s the same with Amazon & Uber, all bullshit and the madness of crowds. Step back … do these business plans actually work???

          • Radbug 3 years ago

            Ken, this yield-starved financial world, is very American, ie., almost insane. The trick is to maintain an image of growth & prowess, just as Adani does, pedalling fast, going nowhere. Musk doesn’t have to make to make a profit on his S.A. venture, all he has to do is look as if he’s going forward bigly & his Tesla stock will hit new highs!! Ken, bet money that he’s in the new S.A. space agency with his new rockets … remember, Ken, always go forward bigly!!

          • Ken 3 years ago

            Go Forward BIGLY… have to remember that one .
            Go large of go home ?
            Have to admit the Adani arrangement is a mystery as to why it will ever proceed. Suggestion is that it is carried as an asset on the books so to write it off would mean the whole house of cards will collapse under the load of current debts ( in the billions).

            Why wouldn’t the Tesla SA battery not be profitable,, if all they are doing is supplying a battery package for an agreed price with no additional risk attached to trying to get a return on the capital cost over time ?
            Surely they can manufacture at cost ( not wholesale) and sell it for retail and there must be a margin in between.

            Uber I agree is a basket case, but Amazon ? Thought they were highly profitable ( and disruptive!).

          • Radbug 3 years ago

            Tesla is the 4th largest automobile manufacturer by stock market value, and yet it produces 76,000 cars!! Sayings: Bullshit baffles brains. + When the music plays we’ve all gotta get up and dance. Marius Kloppers (CEO BHP) got bullshitted. Chesapeake Oil (frackker) has never made a profit, mines the market bigly. Kloppers paid Chesapeake 20 or 30 biggies for their frackking acreage. Yesterday, the BHP wrote it all off. Western Mining paid a fortune for Alcan at the top of the market. It walked away with a company crippling writeoff. Ken, bullshit baffles the best, BHP should have paid me Kloppers salary, I wouldn’t know how to lose as much money as he did!

          • Ken 3 years ago

            I remember when they shut down the Hot Briquette Iron plant in WA,, cost over run by a billion dollars, then written off down to zero on the books ( or $1) before shelving the project with added cost of millions to rehab the site.
            That $2 billion “investment” looks like small change compared to the shale oil debarcle.


            Seems like we need to have more “humble” leaders heading up these corporates:


          • Radbug 3 years ago

            Latest news: Tesla bonds are commanding a higher interest rate than Ukrainian bonds. Ukrainian bonds are rated at CCC+, several rungs below junk.

          • Alastair Leith 3 years ago

            Volume and price.

          • Ken 3 years ago

            Price I get,, but volume? Is that insufficient volume in orders so they can’t scale up or insufficient volume due to production bottlenecks ?

          • Alastair Leith 3 years ago

            A bit of each. Learning curves improve as production numbers increase because more players in market innovating in small ways and these changes get adopted across the industry in time. More suppliers means less bottle necks, financiers become more familiar with the market so more research and production gets a green light. Virtuous circles overlapping. Conversely for tech that is in the shade gets none of these things and the dominant tech can shade it right out, even if its a superior technology (Beta vs VHS for one of many examples).

            Mac vs PC is an interesting one, Apple approached the brink of being ‘acquired’ by IBM no less and Mac sales were tanking before SJ returned to refocus the company onto a journey the led it to become the global megacorp it is today. Now so many more Macs are being sold, largely thanks to the halo effect of the iPhone and iPad lines — ironically, because these devices seemed to take the best talent at Apple off the Mac teams and iPad even cannibalised iMac sales for a time.

  4. Just_Chris 3 years ago

    Talking of hydrogen and other forms of storage. I see the wholesale price of electricity in SA just went negative again today – it’s a shame it’s not sunny in Melbourne today or the flood of renewable energy probably would have taken Victoria with it. It’s going to be interesting to see what happens if we have a cool, wet, breezy, spring. Maybe someone will reprogram the controlled loads to come on at lunch time instead of 11pm.

  5. Barry 3 years ago

    FZSoNick Batteries perfect for load shedding – Sodium Nickel Chloride
    “Molten Salt” technology: safe, high-performance, environmentally
    sustainable, cost effective energy storage, long life 20+years, no
    Non toxic
    Non flammable
    Non Explosive

    • Ken 3 years ago

      Do you have any info on these batteries and if they are commercially available ?

      • Barry 3 years ago

        Hi Ken yes they are commercially available in Australia…. for mor info email [email protected]

  6. Don McMillan 3 years ago

    It’s still an experiment. If it works out Jay is a visionary, if it does not workout Jay is off to retirement with his huge superannuation package. Right now industry is shutting down one by one. The losers are the workers.

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