Mr RAMSEY (Grey–Government Whip) (12:50): I’m very pleased to speak on the motion today. I think that renewables are all but certain to become the major supplier of electricity in Australia over the next two or three decades. It’s just a matter of when and at what cost. It was interesting-I actually referred to the motion from the member where it quotes the Australia Institute’s survey that said that 67 per cent of Australia is moving to renewable energy too slowly and that 73 per cent report the new renewable energy target for 2030.
I have spent a considerable amount of my time studying energy in Australia, particularly in South Australia, over the past five years or so. It is one of the most complex subjects you could possibly hope to cover. And I’m always wary of surveys like that because, of course, the people that are asked to make an answer are not in possession of many of those facts. Just how we transition, I think, is the big question for Australia.
South Australia is the perfect example of how we-and I say ‘we’ in a collective manner, being the state of South Australia-got it wrong. The consequences of getting it wrong are costing us jobs and investment on a daily basis. I’ve seen that effect in my electorate. Businesses that were planning to invest have delisted that investment, and others, in fact, have closed up and gone.
The South Australian government vigorously pursued the renewable energy target, which was originally set at 20 per cent by 2020. It became obvious that because of the mechanism used to set the target was a fixed number-which was no more than an estimate on the day-we were actually heading for around 28 per cent of our electricity market being renewable. After a long negotiation, the parliament finally, eventually, settled on a figure of around 23. The perfect example of how we got it wrong in South Australia was the ‘when’. We-and I say ‘we’ being the state government-vigorously pursued the renewable energy target. As a result, we got close to 50 per cent of our energy now coming from renewable sources. On the face of it, that’s a good thing. But what it did-because we got there prematurely and because the South Australian government chose to allow the Alinta Northern Power Station to shut 15 years early-was drive the economic case for baseload generation to the point of closure. That meant a virtual doubling of South Australia’s wholesale electricity prices overnight. This has wreaked havoc through the state, it must be said.
Both levels of government-the federal and state levels-are desperately trying to do something about this in the remedial sense at the moment. The state is doing so, of course, with a very expensive battery. Once again, the devil lies in the detail. The possession of knowledge is very powerful. The Elon Musk battery will provide electricity for South Australia on a hot day for about 2.5 minutes at a cost of between $50 million and $100 million. If you were to extrapolate that across the electricity system, you would see that, at this stage, is not an economical way to provide backup. It may well come into its own in the near future-let’s hope it does. But, at this stage, it is too expensive to entertain on a broad scale.
I have for some time been saying that South Australia should not authorise any new renewable intermittent power sources unless they have storage. The storage is the most important factor for South Australia now. That is for South Australia because we are so far in advance of the rest of Australia in this matter.
The federal government, for its effort, is investing in a pumped-hydro project in my electorate on the Cultana defence range at Port Augusta. We are doing a feasibility study on a pumped-hydro project with EnergyAustralia. I anticipate that this will come about. There are another two companies in the area, without government assistance, looking at the same thing-if you like, retrofitting storage to the system that has an over-preponderance of wind at this stage because it’s become uneconomical. To the member that proposed this motion: we’re also investing $110 million-through ARENA, interestingly-to build a solar thermal-concentrated power station with storage. And that is the most important thing: with storage. (Time expired)