The opportunity to develop a nation leading solar thermal power plant in Port Augusta is ultimately going to come down to two main issues.
Is it feasible, and is there the political will to drive this clean energy technology forward into the future.
This state Labor government has already demonstrated its intentions in regard to the feasibility of the project by co-funding a soon to commence study.
In terms of commitment to alternative energy sources such as solar thermal, the Liberals have shown they have no appetite for moving away from dirty coal.
One of the first acts of the Abbott government was to slash $430 million from the Australian Renewable Energy Agency, the Federal body (created by the previous Labor government) charged with supporting these very initiatives.
At the coming election, there is a clear choice.
Only Labor has the commitment and the opportunity to push through the barriers to see Port Augusta become a national leader in clean energy technology.
Since attending the first public meeting to discuss solar thermal at Cooinda in October 2011, I have been extremely active on this issue and, if re-elected, will continue to be.
I arranged a meeting at Parliament House for all MPs to hear about this important issue.
I established a Parliamentary Select Committee to fully investigate the proposal.
As has “Repower Port Augusta”, I have helped make solar thermal in Port Augusta a statewide issue.
I have advocated for the feasibility study which is now underway.
Alinta’s powers stations are the biggest employer in Port Augusta with over 200 jobs and, importantly, there are the same again at Leigh Creek - these are jobs we cannot afford to lose.
However, it is also a fact that we must do everything possible to reduce pollution to improve people’s health and the environment.
So I will continue to press ahead - can solar thermal be the solution to the problem we will face when the Leigh Creek coal runs out and, if so, could it be built sooner?
We have skilled workers at the power station who could transition from all coal to all solar thermal over time. We must retain local jobs while transitioning to cleaner electricity production.
The Greens are committed to a sustainable economy, powered by renewable energy. We know that solar thermal technology will be an important part of the baseload electricity requirement for South Australia. While there are several ideal locations across our state, Port Augusta already has in place the workforce, proximity to the electricity grid and transport and also the community support for this exciting step into a renewable future.
Specifically, the Greens are working with industry and across all levels of government to ensure that solar thermal plants are included in political and financial decision-making. This means protecting the national Renewable Energy Target (RET), and also ensuring that SA adheres to our own RET.
The Greens will lift this statewide target to 50 per cent by 2020 and 100 per cent by 2025.
The Greens will also commit the state government and local governments to purchasing 60% of electricity needs from renewable sources by 2016 to ensure certainty of demand for these plants. We are also working to reduce ‘peak’ demand for electricity by diversifying the electricity grid, including rooftop solar and broad scale wind power. The massive investment generated from all of these initiatives will bring household and business bills down and create local jobs, especially in regional areas.
Family First are excited about the potential to generate over 1,500 jobs in the construction stage of a solar thermal plant, and 360 permanent jobs once the plant is completed.
The proposed plant is ideally located close to the electricity grid, making it a more cost-attractive proposition than other potential renewable energy projects that will require energy infrastructure.
The funding is already allocated through the federal and state government bodies and grants to develop the concept further.
Estimates put the cost of building the plant at over $200 million.
If elected member for Stuart, on behalf of Family First I will seek a state government commitment of $10 million to get the project off the ground through partnership payments with business and the federal government.
If the voters of Stuart and the residents of Port Augusta have representation that forces people in Adelaide and Canberra to listen, the money for the project can be found.
As a non-government member of Parliament for Stuart I would have the support in the Upper House of Rob Brokenshire MLC and, hopefully, a re-elected Dennis Hood MLC to use vital cross-bench votes to push for this project to become a reality.