Port Augusta Solar Thermal Storage Motion Vote

WEDNESDAY MAY 31 2017

Port Augusta Solar Thermal Storage

Adjourned debate on motion of Hon. T.A. Franks:

That this council—

1. Acknowledges the work of the Port Augusta community in advocating for solar thermal with storage as a 24-hour renewable solution for SA's power and for local jobs post the closure of Alinta Energy coal power station;

2. Applauds the work of the local community and unions in calling for an economically viable and environmentally sustainable transition for Port Augusta and other coal-dependent communities;

3. Calls on the state government to use every avenue available to use its purchasing power to facilitate solar thermal with storage capacity in Port Augusta; and

4. Urges the Turnbull government to deliver on its promise to make solar thermal in Port Augusta the 'number one priority' for its clean energy funds as announced before the 2016 federal election.

(Continued from 12 April 2017.)

The Hon. R.I. LUCAS ( 17:24 :56 ): I rise on behalf of Liberal members to indicate support for the motion. As members will probably be aware, carriage of this issue in the Liberal Party has been with the member for Stuart, Mr Dan van Holst Pellekaan. Again, those who have followed this issue will be well aware that, as local member, he has been supportive of the development of a solar thermal power station at Port Augusta for very many years. He has championed the cause within the Liberal Party and within the local community. He has advised us that it was in 2012, which is certainly a long time ago, that he prodded the state Liberal Party into establishing a select committee to study this proposal. That is five years ago.

More recently, he has advised that, in February this year, he wrote to the Minister for Mineral Resources and Energy calling on the government to include the development of a solar thermal power station at Port Augusta and, if it did not intend to do so, to explain to him and to the community why they would not support the position. For those reasons, the Liberal Party, under the leadership of the member for Stuart on this particular issue, has indicated its support for the passage of the motion.

The Hon. M.C. PARNELL ( 17:26 :25 ): I rise to add my voice to that of my colleague, the Hon. Tammy Franks, in supporting this motion. I congratulate her for putting it on the parliamentary agenda because there are few issues in South Australia that have attracted so much support from such a divergent range of people. As we all know, Port Augusta is a town at the crossroads. The coal-fired power stations have closed and there is a wonderful opportunity to replace them with Australia's first solar thermal plants that will deliver clean electricity day and night, through the addition of storage.

The campaign has been going for many years and, in fact, I cannot remember how far back it was that the people from Beyond Zero Emissions came to see me. I am sure that they saw other members of parliament as well. They brought their little model with them showing the mirrors and the towers and how it worked. It was a good campaign that really got people thinking about what the future energy supply would look like in South Australia.

The Repower Port Augusta Alliance was formed. That alliance has carried on the work of Beyond Zero Emissions, and they have been joined by many other partners in that endeavour. The local community, the local council and local businesses are all keen to see a solar thermal plant with storage at Port Augusta. I might just put on the record some of the members of the Repower Port Augusta Alliance because that will show how wide the support is and the divergence of interests that are represented on this alliance.

I mentioned Beyond Zero Emissions. I think they were the first. We have the Australian Youth Climate Coalition, the Port Augusta city council, Business Port Augusta, SA Unions, the Australian Nursing and Midwifery Federation, the National Union of Workers, the Australian Education Union, the Tertiary Education Union, CLEANSA, 100% Renewables, the Conservation Council SA, the SA Student Environment Network, Doctors for the Environment, the Climate and Health Alliance and the Public Health Association of South Australia.

I know that the list is actually bigger than that and other groups have come on board, whether it is as part of the alliance or independently. Certainly groups like Solar Citizens have been very supportive of a wide range of solar initiatives including this one. In fact, it is very hard to find people who think it is a bad idea. I have not met anyone who has any ideological or other opposition to solar energy in general or solar thermal in particular. We know that the transition away from dirty fossil fuels is inevitable but one of the great sadnesses, I think, of this campaign is that it has not been managed that well.

We do need to transition workers into cleaner new industries, such as solar thermal, and we need to manage the transition carefully. Port Augusta is a classic example. Some people said that we should never have let the coal-fired power stations close without a transition plan. That is the wrong way of looking at it: what people should be thinking of is the fact that this proposal has been around for so many years that, if the federal and state governments had grasped the nettle earlier, the transition would have been smoother. Those workers who are no longer producing electricity for us using coal could have stepped straight into an alternative clean energy generation job.

Everyone knew that Port Augusta was closing. In fact, even before it closed it was being mothballed for, originally, parts of the year, then most of the year, and its ultimate closure was inevitable. We knew that the coal was running out, and we knew that the old Playford power station in particular was the dirtiest power station in Australia per unit of energy generated. What we have needed to get the solar thermal plant up and running was a suitable funding model. Many were put forward, but many of them involved the government using its buying power to buy clean energy and to lead by example.

The final thing I wanted to do was put on the record an acknowledgment of one person who has been involved with this campaign and driven it for many years, and that is Mr Dan Spencer, who built—

The Hon. R.I. Lucas interjecting:

The Hon. M.C. PARNELL: No, no, a different Dan. I acknowledge that Dan van Holst Pellekaan has shown a great interest in this as well, but without wanting to bring comparisons into this, the other Dan (Dan Spencer) has been involved with this for many years and was the co‑ordinator of the campaign in Port August that that saw a fantastic local vote. I have forgotten the exact number, but something like 98 per cent of people thought that solar thermal for Port Augusta was a good idea. If it is not 98 per cent, it is close to it, but a vast majority of people.

Dan Spencer's contribution to climate activism has been acknowledged and awarded. In 2012 he received the Bob Brown Foundation Inaugural Youth Environmentalist of the Year Award. He was recognised by the Conservation Council of South Australia with the Jill Hudson Award for Environment Protection. In 2013 he received the Flinders Ports Environment Award at the Channel 9 Young Achievers Award in South Australia, so I would particularly acknowledge Dan Spencer's contribution.

But, the campaign is not won yet. There is still a lot more to do, and I am delighted that the Legislative Council at least looks like it is going to be supporting the Hon. Tammy Franks' motion, and that sends a clear message to both the federal and the state government that this is a project that South Australians want, a project we deserve, a project that will be good for our climate, good for our economy and in particular good for Port Augusta.

The Hon. T.T. NGO ( 17:32 :45 ): I rise on behalf of the government to speak on the Hon. Tammy Franks' motion regarding solar thermal in Port Augusta. The government is committed to increasing renewable electricity generation to 50 per cent by 2025 and to supporting the development of commercially viable renewable energy projects. Two solar thermal projects are in the early stages of development in South Australia, both in the Port Augusta area.

Solar thermal projects can dispatch clean energy, when it is needed, into the grid. The government has initiatives in place to support development of dispatchable renewable energy. These include tendering 25 per cent of our long-term electricity load to a dispatchable renewable energy provider, and providing financial assistance through the $150 million Renewable Technology Fund.

A few weeks ago I visited Port Augusta as part of my duty as a junior member for the Labor Party up there, and I met with locals, ALP supporters and members. While I was there, the majority of issues that were raised to me were regarding the Joy Baluch Bridge and the local concern with the increase in pedestrian traffic and traffic congestion on the bridge. The bridge forms part of the national highway network. It is a key freight route. People travelling west in Australia and up north must cross that bridge. I am also told that all emergency services such as ambulances and hospitals are situated on one side of the bridge, and if access to the bridge is limited for some reason, it will be extremely difficult for emergency services to attend accidents on the other side and, therefore, people's lives could be in jeopardy.

The solar thermal plant proposal was also mentioned. I am not privy to the business case which has been submitted to the minister, but some of the questions raised when the locals met with me were whether this investment would stack up; for example, whether it will be able to compete with other renewable energies such as wind. To me, any government subsidy of a project should be considered very carefully to see whether it will bring about competition in reducing the energy costs for the locals in the long run. So, I will leave the business case to the people who put the proposal together and the minister to consider that project.

As I said previously, I am not privy to all the information but the locals privately said to me that they were a bit disappointed that at the end of the construction of the project, there will probably be about 40 full-time jobs once the whole construction is completed. They are a bit concerned that there are not as many jobs as there should be to help with the town. With that, on behalf of the government, I support this motion by the Hon. Tammy Franks.

The Hon. T.A. FRANKS ( 17:37 :33 ): I rise to respond and thank members for their support and the indication that this motion will succeed tonight. I thank in particular the Hon. Rob Lucas, the Hon. Tung Ngo and the Hon. Mark Parnell who have made contributions this evening. I acknowledge the work of the member for Stuart, Dan van Holst Pellekaan, and note that the idea for this motion came about when I was walking through the corridor and ran across Dan Spencer who has quite rightly received some praise tonight for his fine and ongoing work in Repower Port Augusta. He was sitting with the member for Stuart and they were both encouraging of such a motion coming before this place.

This motion calls on all political parties to work together and I am heartened to hear that there is support from the Liberal opposition who are the Liberal federal government in their capacity and the Labor government here in South Australia. I note also that around about the time I moved this motion, the Xenophon Team in the Senate (to be SA Best in this state) have also been involved in regard to supporting Repower Port Augusta getting off the ground.

The federal government has come to the party; we have that particular financial federal commitment made. All we need now is for the Premier to use the state government's buying power to ensure that this can go ahead and for the Premier, when he receives the petitions that will be presented to him tomorrow, as I understand it, to listen to the voice of the people, not just of Port Augusta, not just of South Australia, but across this nation who have seen the power of organising and community.

I simply want to note that one of the most recent events, as part of this very long—many years long—campaign that has been a fine example of community organising, are the words of Lovisa Muyderman from the Australian Youth Climate Coalition, when she stood on the steps of parliament less than a month ago and talked about her involvement in this campaign. She said on those parliament house steps:

This is a campaign and a story that people want to be part of and I think it’s because they realise what a good opportunity solar thermal in Port Augusta is because r epowering Port Augusta is about more than adding capacity to our energy system. It ' s about doing right by a community that ' s been left behind by the fossil fuel industry. Repowering Port Augusta is making sure that our regions survive without the strains on our health, on our communities , and on our climate that come hand in hand with relian ce on the fossil fuel industry.

Repowering Port Augusta is about providing clean jobs to South Australians and making sure that workers have access to the renewable energy eco nomy. It's about being part of the transition to clean energy that we ' re seeing around the world. It's about taking strong action on climate change and making sure that young people don't have to see a future where we ' re experiencing the worst effects of global warning.

The story of Port Augusta is one of my favourite stories to tell and I feel so privileged to be part of it, but this story isn't over yet. I'm looking forward to the day when we can look back and tell the story of the community that stood up to s tate and f ederal g over nments to produce a brighter future for their town.

But there's a missing piece still a nd that missing piece is Jay Weatherill. Right now, Jay Weatherill needs to stand up and turn his words into action. He needs to do right by Port Augusta. He needs to give young people a f ighting chance for our future a nd he needs to commit to solar thermal in Port Augusta now.

Another speaker that day was another young woman—

The PRESIDENT: The Hon. Ms Franks, you are actually supposed to be summing up, I believe, not doing another speech, so can you please just sum up.

The Hon. T.A. FRANKS: I am summing up.

The PRESIDENT: No, you are not, you are doing another speech and going through other people's speeches, and all that. Just get to the point and sum up so we can get it passed.

The Hon. T.A. FRANKS: I am sharing the words of the young people of Repower Port Augusta.

The PRESIDENT: Do not worry about that; you are summing up, not doing another speech; just move on.

The Hon. T.A. FRANKS: I will sum up then and I will not share the words of Maddie Sarre. I will also reflect that I am quite disappointed that the state government has yet to come to the party. We have had fine words. We are sick of the words of the Premier. We want the Premier to sign up to public power from this state being used to repower Port Augusta. Tomorrow, the Premier will yet again receive missives and thousands of petition signatures. Let's hear the Premier actually sign up and put his money—our money—where his mouth has been.

Motion carried.

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