POLITICS

SA's Power Play: Australia's Biggest Battery And A State-Owned Gas Plant On The Way

It is all part of a $500 million energy plan for the state.

14/03/2017 11:56 AM AEDT | Updated 14/03/2017 1:02 PM AEDT
PAUL JONES/Fairfax
The South Australian Government has unveiled a 'dramatic' intervention in the national electricity market.

CANBERRA -- If you think an unprecedented and catastrophic state-wide blackout is dramatic, have a look at what the South Australian Government has just announced in an effort to make sure it never happens again.

After a year of power instability in the state -- for a variety of reasons -- and to address high energy prices, Premier Jay Weatherill and Energy Minister Tom Koutsantonis have announced a $500 million plan which includes a pledge to build Australia's largest battery to store energy from the wind and sun.

A private company would build Australia's biggest battery, but the State Government will provide $150 million to get it started and make it happen by next summer.

"Today, South Australia takes hold of its energy future," Weatherill told reporters in Adelaide.

"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."

But the bulk of the plan depends on South Australia building a $360 million state-owned 250MW gas-fired power plant to provide emergency back-up power while the government continues to procure temporary back-up generation when needed.

"We think that a secure energy system should have multiple sources. It is a question of speed as well," the Premier said.

"A battery could be delivered quickly, we are advised, but we want multiple sources of redundancy, if you like, in our electricity system so that we have got more service efficiency."

Among the other moves, there will be incentives to use local "abundant" gas reserves and a state "Energy Security Target" will be introduced to ensure SA's power system uses more clean local energy.

As well, new ministerial powers are planned which would address last month's load-shedding debacle when the Australian Energy Market Operator failed to call for extra power production during hot weather.

Under the plan, the state energy Minister would be able to direct the market to "operate in the interests of South Australians."

The plan comes a day ahead of a "crisis" meeting between the Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull and gas producers.

In September last year, there were widespread power outages across the entire state during severe storms.



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