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 victory. “They 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.