Mr VAN HOLST PELLEKAAN ( Stuart ) ( 15:31 :46 ): There is absolutely no discussion, no debate, no disagreement, between anybody on this side of the house that our state and in fact the world must transition away from fossil fuels and towards renewable energy. That is an absolute given, but where we disagree with the government is that it must be a sensible, well-planned, well-managed transition. The government’s desire, purely for political purposes, to leap overnight from one to the other is harming South Australians very seriously.
At this point in time, renewable energy is still intermittent energy. Intermittent energy cannot be relied upon. Wind farms and solar farms, when it is not windy and not sunny, produce no or little electricity for us. Until renewable energy can be stored on a large scale, it remains intermittent energy. Until it can be stored on a large scale, we must have a significant amount of reliable, affordable, base load electricity in our state. The government has got this transition all wrong: the government is trying to leap from one to the other overnight.
Very unfortunately, the government is damaging the cause of renewable energy because it is turning people off renewable energy. By leaping too quickly from one to the other, the government has delivered South Australia the highest electricity prices in the nation, the least reliable electricity supply in the nation and, very unfortunately, the highest unemployment in mainland Australia. It is no coincidence that they go together.
High electricity prices affect everybody, from the smallest households all the way through to the largest employers. They put a very unfair burden on all South Australians, and for us to be paying the highest prices for electricity in the nation is completely unacceptable and damages the public’s confidence in the transition towards renewable energy. If the government had taken half a second to think about this seriously and said, ‘Yes, we will transition in a well-planned, well-managed way and do it just a little bit more slowly to ensure a much higher chance of success’, all South Australians would be better off and the environment would be much better off as well.
Everybody in this place knows what a strong advocate I am for renewable energy, particularly for solar thermal production of energy in Port Augusta. I established a select committee in this place to look into exactly that, and I firmly believe that is where we need to go. If the government had allowed Alinta to continue operating the Port Augusta coal-fired power station for just a little bit longer, the move to renewables, the move to solar thermal in Port Augusta would have been far more successful.
The government refuses to tell us what support Alinta requested, so that the government could continue operating. I am not saying that they had to give it to them; I am just saying they have to tell us what it was so that we can investigate whether it would have been sensible or not. We know that since the Port Augusta power station has closed, spot electricity prices in South Australia, on average, have risen 105 per cent, more than double since May. That is directly related to the removal of the Port Augusta power station from generation contribution in this state, and we need to know what government could have done, and what the government was asked to do to avoid that.
Let me make it really clear because this is what the Minister for Mineral Resources and Energy, and the Premier, and the government do not get: this is not about agreeing to contribute financially or otherwise to Alinta so that they can stay operating forever and ever. This is about the potential to agree to support Alinta so that the government could choose the time that it would close, not so that it could stay open forever and ever. Of course, nobody wants coal-fired energy forever and ever.
The government had the opportunity as part of a well-managed and well-executed plan, away from fossil fuels towards renewables, to say to Alinta, ‘Here’s the deal: this is what you’ve asked for, this is what we can do. No, we’re not going to give you everything that you want.’ The government could have said, ‘We think that if you close on this particular date in the near future that will give us the very best opportunity to transition from fossil fuels towards renewables.’ The government did do that, and the government will not even tell us what opportunities they had to do that.