South Australia should aim for 100% renewables by 2025, not 50%

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South Australia can show the rest of the nation how to build a 100 per cent renewable energy system to makes people’s lives better.

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South Australia’s wind farms have coped without baseload power before - they can do it again. Fairv8/Wikimedia Commons, CC BY-SA
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South Australia can show the rest of the nation how to build an energy system that makes people’s lives better.

But to get there, whichever party is elected at the March 17 state election, must be committed to a clear target and plan to achieve a fair transition to 100% renewables in the state by 2025.

South Australia already leads the nation in renewable energy and despite the continued bluster from the Federal Government in Canberra, South Australians are proud of it.

Recent polling by the Climate Council found the majority of South Australians wanted the rest of the country to follow our lead. Renewable energy is the pride of South Australia.

But the job isn’t done. South Australians are still too often left at the whim of big gentailers who’ve consistently pushed up the price of power.

That’s why Solar Citizens worked with Nicky Ison from the Community Power Agency on a new blueprint called Repowering South Australia, which not only shows how South Australia can get to 100% renewables by 2025, but also how we can ensure nobody is left behind along the way.

To get there, Repowering South Australia recommends:

  1. Making South Australia a renewable energy superpower by setting a 100% renewable energy target by 2025 and making a plan to export a further 50% outside of the state through technologies such as hydrogen.
  2. Supporting low-income households by establishing a publicly-owned non-profit retailer to secure cheap, renewable power.
  3. Boosting local manufacturing by establishing renewable energy industry precincts in locations where renewable energy hotspots meet energy-intensive industry.
  4. Working with Aboriginal communities to design a well-funded Indigenous Communities Clean Power Program.
  5. Giving communities back power by establishing regional community energy hubs that increase community benefit from renewable projects.

A big step forward was made on Sunday to support South Australians currently locked out of the benefits of clean energy. Around 25,000 homes in South Australian public housing will now be part of a connected home solar and battery power station, with another 25,000 low income households to follow.

This program not only makes solar and storage available to people currently missing out, it will eventually reduce grid demand and wholesale power prices across the state. The big question is who will be running the show.

A government or community owned, non-profit retailer could be the retailer managing this world-leading project. This would put power back in the people’s hands and ensure existing gentailers aren’t able to use South Australians’ rooftops to keep gaming the system.

With this virtual power plant, Port Augusta’s solar thermal plant, and a wave of new solar, wind, battery and pumped hydro recently supported by the South Australian government’s Renewable Technology Fund, there is no doubt we are going to eclipse our existing state renewable target of 50% renewables by 2025. (Ed: We already have!).

That’s why South Australians and the renewable industry need to know where South Australia plans to head next and a strong 100% renewable target tells us just that.

In this context, it is maddening that Steven Marshall’s South Australian Liberal Party has committed to scrap the state renewable target in favour of a national target.

With the Federal Government’s national energy guarantee predicted to send new renewable investment off a cliff and the national renewable target largely met, leaving South Australia’s transition waiting on a new national target makes no sense.

Some people might think that South Australia should wait for the other states to catch up before we move any further, but that would leave the job half done.

We can’t risk leaving too much power in the hands of the big gentailers and allow jobs in new storage technologies to go interstate or overseas.

People across Australia and the world have been watching South Australia transform into a world leader in renewables with storage.

By committing to a strong plan for a fair and fast transition to 100% renewables South Australian politicians can give people a reason to keep watching.

Dan Spencer is a South Australian Campaigner with Solar Citizens

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20 Comments
  1. Chris Drongers 10 months ago

    Frydenburg , Kelly and Turnbull surprisingly haven’t complained very much about SA’s promotion of renewable power and distributed generation.
    Probably waiting until after the election to resume hostilities. If Jay wins Morrison, Kelly and others will be screeching as they are pushed into the background in the face of political reality that voters don’t trust the existing power /political nexus to deliver cheaper or even reliable power. Voting for Jay would indicate an appetite for risk in progressing to a full renewables future.

    • Joe 10 months ago

      Two Tongues Turnbull hasn’t stop his screeching. Whenever the topic of energy is raised he goes into ‘SA Bashing Mode’ with his slogan…”Left Wing Ideology and Idiocy”.

      • david_fta 10 months ago

        Twelve syllables just doesn’t cut it as a slogan. It took me thirteen syllables to point that out, another twelve to count how many it took me to say that, then another …

        … more sherry, waiter.

  2. GlennM 10 months ago

    With the press and federal GOVT against this I suspect the only way to do it is to promote RE as much as possible. Then when it reaches 70% set a 70% target when it reached 80% an 80% target etc. Unless the Murdoch media change this must be done by stealth. obviously vote for the right people come election day.

    • Jay Asper 10 months ago

      Agree – wait for the benality in The Advertiser to reach fever pitch as the election draws closer. Jay’s focus on the tech wow and jobs (particularly regional ones) is a good way to deflect this, but it’s hard to argue with the South Australian naysayers

  3. Mark Diesendorf 10 months ago

    Since SA has already achieved its 2025 target of 50% renewable electricity, there is indeed a strong case for increasing the target. However, achieving the second 50%, in a state with no potential for on-river hydro, faces new challenges and initially high costs. Reluctantly I have to stick my neck out and say that calling for 100% as early as 2025 is, in my opinion, unrealistic and sets up its proponents as easy targets for renewable energy deniers.

    They will point out that at present:

    – batteries are only affordable for a few hours of storage at most;

    – concentrated solar thermal (CST) with thermal storage is still very expensive and construction of the first power station is yet to commence at Port Augusta;

    – although off-river pumped hydro plants can offer cheaper storage for longer periods than batteries or CST, they are still at the planning stage and will take longer to build than batteries or CST;

    – SA has no renewable fuel source as yet for open cycle gas turbines;

    – virtual power stations are just being trialled; and

    – contracted demand management is at the pioneering stage.

    All these technologies and other measures are technically feasible and merit rapid development, but eight years is too short a time to gain experience and roll out most of them at a reasonable cost on a large enough scale to achieve a reliable 100% renewable electricity system.

    The cheapest of the above options, and potentially the fastest to implement, is contracted demand management, but even this will require experimentation with various institutional systems together with the mass production and dissemination of smart switches with appropriate software.

    I would be delighted if SA set and achieved a target of (say) 75% renewable electricity by 2025 and, upon achieving or exceeding that, then decided on a realistic year for aiming for 100%.

    • itdoesntaddup 10 months ago

      A bit more sense than the article. Well done.

      • danielspencer 10 months ago

        Hi Mark, thanks for the reply. South Australia is well on track to hitting 75% renewable by 2025, purely on projects announced as part of business as usual.

    • Nick Kemp 10 months ago

      – concentrated solar thermal (CST) with thermal storage is still very expensive and construction of the first power station is yet to commence at Port Augusta;

      They may not have started yet but I thought they won the business on price

      • Donald Pettitt 10 months ago

        I went looking for price and found this quote

        The reported contract price to the state government of $78 per MWh is not much higher than recent contract wind generation prices and at or below prices for electricity from current solar photovoltaic power stations, neither of which include energy storage. It is also well below the estimated cost of any new coal fired power station in Australia, and well below the spot wholesale price of electricity in the SA market region, which has averaged between $110 and $120 per MWh since March this year

    • solarguy 10 months ago

      SA do have a RE fuel source for OCGT, it’s called sewage and food waste. Not being utilized. What a waste, pun intended.

    • Ian 10 months ago

      The definition of percentage renewables is not clear but let’s assume it means the average amount of electricity generated by renewables on an average day (ie total renewables generated in a year vs total electricity generation in a year). Then getting close to 100% renewables is relatively easy – engineering wise – there are only a few days in the year, if any, when renewables fail totally. Semi-retired gas generation can be dusted off and taken out of standby mode to fill the gaps. But from a business and economical point of view this is exceptionally hard or expensive, what owner of a gas plant or supplier of gas would want to maintain a huge infrastructure, just to be used on the never never. As usage of a gas infrastructure declines, there will come a point when it becomes uneconomical, at that point owners of this type of plant will shut down or demand some sort of capacity or standby payment.

      Here is how one can view this conundrum, using some renewables detractors assumptions: South Australia has a peak demand of say 3GW, – its interconnectors could supply some of this load, but assume that they could very possibly fail, and must be left out of the equation – renewables being the pesky intermittents that some fear, for the sake of argument , will on occasion fail completely, not just for minutes or hours but for a day or more. You now need the gas pipelines, gas wells, storage tanks, and generators to supply 3GW of electricity on a sustained basis until renewables recover. If renewables then supply the total demand for days or weeks, then the gas infrastructure is left unproductive. If renewables supply 10% of average demand then gas will hardly notice the dip in its share of demand, 20% a twitch of economic pain, 30% a definite hurt, 40% a loud complaint 50% , a lot of discomfort 60% overwhelming distress 70% total economic failure. At what point does gas become unviable.? From the behaviour of the government of SA with all these storage ideas, and from the gaming behaviour of the gas incumbents one has to say that the current 50% gas is unviable. SA may have already reached the “toggle point” where gas will just give up the fight and shut down. If that’s the case then a very rapid buildout of renewables and storage is required, 2025 may be too late.

      An excess of renewables will need to be installed, Be it 150% or 200% of optimum conditions, storage will be needed to smooth out day to day fluctuations, or as a luxury, week to week fluctuations, optimising geographic distribution and types of renewables is needed to ensure that there are no Valleys of death.

  4. itdoesntaddup 10 months ago

    Is that with no interconnectors?

    • danielspencer 10 months ago

      no

    • Mark Diesendorf 10 months ago

      A major new multi-gigawatt double-circuit interconnection, such as SA-NSW via Broken Hill, could take a decade to plan and build, after a decision to go ahead is made. Such a decision appears unlikely in the near future, given the emphasis on marginal economics instead of long-term strategy. So the SA government is wise to plan on the basis of going it alone, apart from its existing fairly weak interconnections to Victoria.

  5. Mark Diesendorf 10 months ago

    While I’m on a roll, could I make a plea that all articles published on RenewEconomy distinguish between electricity and energy? Not all energy use is in the form of electricity, since ‘energy’ includes transport and non-electrical heat. (However, in a renewable energy future, it’s likely that most transport and heat will be delivered in the form of electricity.)

  6. Dennis Matthews 10 months ago

    I agree with Mark Diesendorf re the use of the term energy when what is meant is electricity, just one of various forms of energy. This practice is likely to cause mass confusion with the public, media and politicians. The Renewable Energy Target (RET) was in fact about energy in that it included things like solar hot water.

    The omission of thermal renewable energy (e.g.,solar hot water) is regrettable because the SA Greens “Solar on Every Roof ” slogan was intended to include solar hot water. For reasons I don’t understand, solar hot water has been almost totally neglected. Yet solar hot water systems can, and have been for many decades, made locally.

    Concerning a 100% renewable electricity target.

    As a long term resident in SA (46 yrs) and as strong supporter of renewable energy I have been amazed about what appears to have been an exponential growth in renewable electricity, first large scale wind and then small scale rooftop solar. But, as most people realize, an increasing %contribution of renewable electricity cannot go on for ever, mathematically it must taper off and, hopefully, tend towards 100%, but it will probably take a very long time to reach 100%. A more realistic goal is 90% by whatever year is thought achievable.

    Finally, I am concerned about the emphasis on electricity generation and by implication consumption. There is no mention of energy conservation, for example, energy efficient dwellings.

    • Ian 10 months ago

      Energy conservation, demand management synergies between electricity grid and transportation are absolutely critical and underpin all other decarbonising efforts to be sure.

  7. Realist 10 months ago

    If SA is so successful with power generation, why is it always taking power from other states via the grid?

    • Axel Sonnenburg 9 months ago

      I think you’ll find in recent history that we have IN FACT! Been exporting to place like Vic and have a greater export/import ratio. Yes in the past we have been at the whim of other states and price hiking but this will forever be a thing of the past.

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