Mr RAMSEY (Grey—Government Whip) (19:35): This week there’s been some very good news for South Australia, with the agreement by TransGrid in New South Wales to build their end of the new Project EnergyConnect transmission line between South Australia and New South Wales. Of course, ElectraNet in South Australia have been keen proponents of this deal. This will build a new 800 megawatt line from South Australia to New South Wales. Currently we have two interconnectors to the eastern states, and they both run to Victoria. There is Riverlink, which is capable of transmitting 250 megawatts, and Haywood, which is 650 megawatts. Getting virtually a doubling of capacity here will not only give security to South Australia, Victoria and New South Wales but will also give us the ability to keep pushing that envelope on renewable energy.
We shouldn’t gild the lily. The $2.3 billion that will be spent on this project is a direct result of the transformation of energy production in Australia. We didn’t need to have this backup from other states. We didn’t need to have these other markets before we moved into renewable energy, which is by definition variable-rate energy, rather than large gas- and coal-fired power stations, which put out a constant amount of electricity. This, along with pumped hydro, batteries and investment in open-cycle gas power stations, is part of the transitional cost of getting to renewable energy. You can’t keep building renewable energy unless you’ve got that backup capacity. So all of those things have an important part to play.
In South Australia, we’ve reach the point now where last year about 60 per cent of our electricity came from renewable sources. A lot of that is coming from rooftop solar, which is difficult to manage, it must be said. There are some large investments in solar farms, about 250 to 300 megawatts, but the largest proportion is wind energy, with over 2,000 megawatt nameplate capacity. There are also projects under construction in my electorate at the moment, still being built, so that will add to that supply. Interestingly enough, AEMO decrees that no more than 1,300 megawatts of wind energy can be generated in South Australia at any one time, because it is too unstable; it is a risk to the grid. Already we have capacity which is turned off on windier days, and we’re building more capacity, so this interconnector through to New South Wales is so important for the growth of that industry. What will happen is that electrons that are generated by renewable energy in South Australia will find their way into Snowy Hydro 2.0, where that energy will be stored and fed back into the grid at the appropriate time.
Just a couple of weeks ago I attended a ‘pouring of the concrete’ for an ElectraNet project which is building a 150—upgradeable to 250—megawatt transmission line to Eyre Peninsula, replacing an old line. There is a lot of new demand coming on from Eyre Peninsula for projects that will need electricity, and it is one of the prime sites in Australia for wind energy. At the moment, the connector to the peninsula is overloaded. There are two wind farms on EP, and if they are generating at full capacity the line is full, so there has been no capacity to build more renewable energy on that very high-yielding coast facing the Southern Ocean. An older man once said to me, ‘You always know when you get back to South Australia—the trees all lean one way.’ Within 200 kilometres of the coast, he’s pretty much right, and it’s because all of our coastline fronts onto the Great Southern Ocean, which sends a lot of wind in our direction. That’s sometimes for better and sometimes for worse, but in this particular case it will open up great new opportunities for investment in more renewable energy in South Australia. Because we have land that is comparatively cheap and available in the outback, where the building of these solar and wind structures that generate electricity is not so contested, I can see South Australia becoming a real energy giant when it comes to the generation of renewable electricity and feeding it back into the national grid.