Mr RAMSEY (Grey–Government Whip) (19:54): Today in South Australia there was a rather significant announcement for my electorate with the state government announcing that they had done a deal on a purchase for renewable energy with a company called SolarReserve. SolarReserve have a solar-thermal concentrating facility in Nevada, which I’ve visited, where they store energy in molten salt. I’m very pleased with this announcement. The project holds great promise for Port Augusta. But I must say, at this stage, the Premier has not actually given us the full detail on the deal, which I think we need to fully assess its true value and viability. Over the past couple of years I’ve worked very closely with several proponents looking to construct a solar-thermal plant in Port Augusta and, in fact, as part of our election commitment last year we committed to supporting that particular project through ARENA. But for almost 12 months now there has been a hold-up, because whoever it is that proposes to build a plant in Port Augusta needs a long-term take-off agreement. Industry has been a little reluctant to sign one of those agreements, so the state government came out some time ago and said they were prepared to negotiate such a deal. It has been a long time waiting for this deal to come, it must be said, but I’m pleased it’s here now, even though there has been a lot of uncertainty along the way.
It is my understanding, though, that SolarReserve has not yet done a deal with ARENA to access the $110 million that is on the table as an offer from the federal government for a debt and equity loan. I assume they will now open serious negotiations, but, as I said, I don’t have that information. The $78 per megawatt hour that the Premier announced today as South Australia’s purchase price for electricity is undoubtedly a very good price indeed, but it is fundamental to our understanding of the deal to know whether or not the federal government’s $110 million has been assumed as part of that deal, or whether or not the state government has offered any other side deals. In this area, the state government announced a couple of months ago that they had done a deal with Elon Musk to install the Southern Hemisphere’s biggest battery, but unfortunately, at this stage, we still don’t have the detail on that deal either. It is important if we are to understand the value and the viability of these deals that the Premier does share this information with us. Certainly the deal with South Australia will greatly enhance SolarReserve’s prospects of attracting that support from ARENA-if indeed they need it at all, because that’s something I don’t know either-as I understand there has been considerable interest from other parties in that particular pool of funds.
Let it be said that it is important for these deals, if we are to subsidise renewable energy and this type of project, that they become repeatable projects, not ones that stand as monuments to a subsidy from long ago, if you like. It is very important that the deals become sharp enough that they stand on their own two legs. That’s why we need more understanding. To be fair to the Premier, it’s very early days yet, and I assume and hope that he’ll offer a lot more detail over the next week or two. However, for those potential other investors, for the sake of both federal and state taxpayers, it is imperative that he provide those details in a timely fashion so we can properly analyse the deal. For the people of Port Augusta, it has certainly been a very exciting day, and they can be assured that I will do whatever I can to make sure that the establishment of the solar-thermal concentrator with storage in Port Augusta becomes a reality.
I will continue to talk to the other proponents-one of them I think has a very interesting Australian technology, which would have some benefits if, of course, we could lead the world in that area. Importantly, I have been saying for some time that South Australia should commission no more renewable projects unless they have storage, and, in this particular case, this project does have storage and I think it has great merit. I am just waiting for those figures before I fully come out and say this is a great deal.
House adjourned at 20:00