New energy plan released

A $550 million energy plan unveiled by the South Australian government will aim to improve the reliability of statewide power.

Premier Jay Weatherill released details of the plan on Tuesday, March 14, saying the goal was delivering “reliable, affordable and clean” power. The state government expects the plan to create 630 new jobs in SA.

South Australian Power for South Australians will ensure more of the State’s power is sourced, generated and controlled in SA.

The plan will include:

  • Building Australia’s largest battery to store energy from the wind and sun, part of a new Renewable Technology Fund that supports clean, dispatchable and affordable power
  • Building a government-owned 250MW gas-fired power plant to provide emergency back-up power and system stability services for South Australians, in the meantime procuring temporary back-up generation if necessary
  • Introducing new Ministerial powers to direct the market to operate in the interests of South Australians
  • Incentivising increased gas production to ensure more of our state’s gas is sourced and used in SA
  • Introducing an Energy Security Target to ensure our power system uses more clean, secure energy generated in SA
  • Using the government’s purchasing power through its own electricity contract to attract a new power generator, increasing competition in the market

The new gas-fired power plant is budgeted to cost $360 million, $150 million will be committed to the SA Renewable Technology Fund and new PACE grants are worth $24 million.

Commenting on the plan, Mr Weatherill said coal-fired power stations closing across Australia, no “coherent” national energy policy and “ideological attacks on renewable energy” had led to under-investment in new energy sources.

“The privatisation of our state’s energy assets has placed an enormous amount of power in the hands of a few energy companies,” he said.

“These factors, together, have led to too little competition in our national energy market. It is a market that benefits the owners of the privatised assets, rather than the people and businesses who depend on this essential service.”

He said the plan’s goal is to make the state more self-reliant.

“Our plan will make our power supply more reliable, put downward pressure on prices and create jobs.

“In the longer term, SA will become more self-reliant for its power supply. As a state that has built its reputation on its clean green environment, this plan recognises that clean energy is our future.”

State Liberal leader Steven Marshall hit back, labelling the plan a “$550 million electricity tax”.

“I’m disappointed that Jay Weatherill didn’t apologise to every South Australian today,” he said.

“This $550m electricity tax is the latest cost of Jay Weatherill’s decision to drive the Northern Power Station out of business.

“Since Jay Weatherill forced the Northern Power Station to close down South Australians have suffered blackouts, price hikes and now tax rises to pay for that foolish decision.

“South Australians have been paying massive power bills and the latest one comes in at more than half a billion dollars.”

Clare and Gilbert Valleys Council chief executive officer Roy Blight weighed in on the topic and said having reliable power was at the base of the issue. 

He said the two major storms last year resulted in significant losses for businesses and Mr Blight said something should be done to increase reliability.

“That reliability is something that you come to expect,” Mr Blight said. 

“As long as there is a reliable solution that is put in place in a timely manner that’s what people are looking for.”

Action: South Australian Premier Jay Weatherill released the state government's energy plan last week. Photo: Morne de Klerk/Getty Images.

Action: South Australian Premier Jay Weatherill released the state government's energy plan last week. Photo: Morne de Klerk/Getty Images.