South Australia steps up in the 'absence of national leadership' on energy crisis

SA Premier Jay Weatherill. Source: AAP

SA Premier Jay Weatherill says it was "totally unacceptable" that his state went into darkness earlier this year, and has announced a six-point plan worth more than $500 million to secure the electricity grid.

The South Australian Government has announced it will build Australia's largest battery to store renewable energy, and a 250MW gas power plant, as it attempts to secure its power supply amid a national "energy crisis".

It's a $550 million investment which the state government said would create 650 jobs, and put downward pressure on electricity prices.  

"Today, South Australia takes hold of its energy future. We have a national electricity market which is failing not only SA but failing the nation," Premier Jay Weatherill said. 

The six-point plan will see the Weatherill Government build its own gas power plant to have government-owned stand-by power available to the state in the case of emergencies.

It follows months of attacks from the Turnbull Government, after 90,000 SA homes and businesses lost power because of "load shedding" on February 8th, and freak storms in September of last year which brought down transmission lines and blacked out the whole state. 

"It is a plan for the 21st century. It is a plan to take our clean, green, renewable resources and use them to create an energy future for our state and indeed for our nation." 

Its first project, the $150 million 100MW grid-scale battery will be funded by a Renewable Technology Grant Fund, to support projects which make renewable energy available 24 hours a day, seven days a week. 

Legislation will also be implemented to give the energy minister direct power to intervene in the electricity market but "only in extreme circumstances".  

Watch Jay Weatherill and Tom Koutsantonis speak on the SA energy plan:


The Renewable Technology Fund will provide $75 million in grants and another $75 million in loans to those eligible projects which support private innovative companies and entrepreneurs.

"South Australia has stepped up into the breach in the absence of national leadership," Premier Weatherill said. 

But the Federal Government says the $550 million spend is "an admission of failure" by the South Australian Labor government. 

"Going it alone created SA's problems and going it alone won't fix SA's problems," Resources Minister Josh Frydenberg said.

Mr Frydenberg said the national electricity market, established two decades ago, was to ensure low cost electricity was dispatched in five minute intervals.

"South Australia wants to rip up that national agreement and in doing so will only drive up prices for its people as well as those in other states."

Incentives will be offered to those who replace coal-fired energy by sourcing more gas for use in South Australia, and a new target will be created to increase the state's energy self-reliance by requiring cleaner and more secure power.

Watch Bill Shorten and Josh Frydenberg speak on the SA energy plan:


The site for the gas power plant hasn't get been chosen and the Premier acknowledged getting it up and running before next summer was an ambitious target. 

The move has been welcomed by environmental groups, they have labelled the plan the "future of Australia’s energy system". 

"Renewables and storage technology means zero emissions, affordable power and electricity that’s available every hour of every day,” Climate Council CEO Amanda McKenzie said. 

Federal Opposition leader Bill Shorten said there needs to be "recognition that there is a national energy crisis" and called on the Prime Minister to work with Labor to secure national policy certainty on energy.   

"Jay Weatherill is acting. Now it is time for [Malcolm] Turnbull to stop playing political games and work with Labor and let's work together for the interests of of the nation," Mr Shorten said. 

The Federal Government is yet to comment. 

Insight: The Valley. What happens when a town’s major industry shuts down?


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