The threat of three state Liberal parties to unwind the renewable energy targets in South Australia, Victoria and Queensland has elicited an encouraging response from SA energy minister Tom Koutsantonis about the attraction of solar thermal energy as a “dispatchable” energy source.
The Liberal party in SA, led by Steven Marshall, has joined state counterparts in vowing to scrap South Australia’s 50 per cent renewable energy target if elected next March.
That’s a little academic, because by the time the next two wind farm stages are completed at Hornsdale, and the 100MW solar farm is commissioned by Snowy Hydro, the state would likely have already met that target, with more than seven years to spare.
But the reaction of Koutsantonis to the news has been particularly encouraging, given that the state is currently holding a tender for the supply of 75 per cent of the government’s energy needs. He used the prospect of solar thermal as a key thrust to his argument.
“All it would do (killing the 50 per cent renewable energy target) is help the coal cartel, and it kills solar thermal in Port Augusta or any part of this state, forever,” Koutsantonis said in an interview with ABC Radio
“The dream of renewable energy that is dispatchable, that has storage and can be baseload, has just been pierced through the heart by (Opposition leader Steve Marshall).”
Solar thermal, particularly a project pushed by US company Solar Reserve in Port Augusta, is likely one of many projects to have submitted a bid for the government tender, although its success will likely depend on numerous factors including the length of the project.
(Another proposal, from the Solarstor company fronted by John Hewson, appears to have disappeared without a trace, failing to deliver its promise of a pilot plant at the end of 2016, nor delivering on its promised international projects).
Even Opposition Energy Spokesman Dan van Holst Pellekaan has talked in support of solar thermal at Port Augusta:
“We have finance available, we have companies that say they want to do it. We have an indisputable outstanding solar resource in Port Augusta, we have land, we have space, we have a skilled workforce, we have a willing community. All of these come together to say that solar thermal in Port Augusta must be part of the solution.”
Giles Parkinson is a journalist of 30 years experience, a former Business Editor and Deputy Editor of the Financial Review, a columnist for The Bulletin magazine and The Australian, and the former editor of Climate Spectator.