A push for the federal government to fund the development of a solar thermal power plant in the South Australian town of Port Augusta has gathered strong popular support across the state – and across party political lines – according to the results of a survey released on Wednesday.
Plans to replace the city’s now shuttered coal-fired power plant with a solar tower and storage power station have been in the works for years now, led by local community group Repower Port Augusta.
To date, they have had little success. And in November last year, Alinta Energy, the owner of the ageing brown coal generators, abandoned the idea, declaring it to be financially unviable.
In March this year, members of Repower Port Augusta took their proposal to Canberra, asking for up to $100 million in grant funding to build the plant.
While they didn’t get to meet PM Turnbull at that time, the team reported a generally positive response from the Coalition MPs they did talk to. This confidence has since been buoyed further, after Turnbull mentioned “a large scale solar facility with storage in Port Augusta” as a potential project that his new Clean Energy Innovation Fund could support.
This week’s poll, conducted by ReachTEL, found that 78 per cent of South Australians also support the proposal, while 76 per cent think it should be funded by the Turnbull government’s new Fund.
The survey also revealed that support for the solar thermal plan extended across all the major political parties, with 76 per cent of Liberal voters, 78.6 per cent of Labor voters, 81.6 per cent of Greens voters and even 66.7 per cent of undecided voters in favour of it getting federal government investment.
Another 72 per cent of survey respondents supported Australia’s transition away from coal-fired power to 100% renewable energy by 2030.
The poll also found that more than 50 per cent of voters rated political support of renewable energy as a “very important” factor in determining their vote.
“Our community needs investment in new jobs as the coal station closes which is why it’s so important that the federal government commits to solar thermal in Port Augusta” said Repower spokesperson Lisa Lumsden.
“The ducks are lining up for solar thermal in Port Augusta. …It’s clear the South Australian community wants the federal government to act” Lumsden said.
“The Prime Minister singling out solar in Port Augusta as a potential project is a positive step forward, now we want that turned into a commitment to funding solar thermal with storage in our region” Port Augusta City Council Mayor Sam Johnson said.
“Our community is fighting hard to create a positive future in clean, renewable energy but to do it we need Federal and State support. This poll is a positive indication that the South Australian community is with us. It’s time for the federal and state government to get behind solar thermal in Port Augusta” Johnson said.