Port Augusta mayor calls on Frydenberg to stop NEGging on renewables

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There are 11 renewable energy projects valued at $5 billion on the go in what's becoming the "renewables capital of Australia". The Turnbull Governments energy policy, such as it is, is putting them at risk. 

What should we make of the Turnbull Government’s National Energy Guarantee?

Nothing, because there is still no policy for the public to pore over, said the mayor of a South Australian town that’s become a renewable energy hub.

“There’s no definitive, real answer,” said Port Augusta Mayor Sam Johnson.

“It’s seems to be in limbo, in nowhere land.”

Port Augusta Mayor Sam Johnson believes the future of his town lies in renewable energy projects. Source: Facebook/Sam Johnson

Mayor Johnson was speaking about the ongoing lack of certainty and detail around Federal Energy Minister Josh Frydenberg’s master plan, despite energy ministers agreeing to continue negotiations on the NEG.

“We’re still waiting for the government to come out with a broad policy,” he said. “[Frydenberg] had everyone at the table but still has no energy policy.” 

In April Cr Johnson ripped into the Turnbull Government’s contradictory stance on calling for the Liddell power station in NSW to be kept open – and subsidised if necessary – while Port Augusta and other towns across Australia have lost local plants with little notice or care shown by the Liberal Government.

“Despite missing out on a smooth transition, Port Augusta is now creating a new future in renewable energy and storage,” the mayor wrote in Fairfax at the time.

Cr Johnson and Whetherill Government treasurer, Tom Koutsantonis. Source: Facebook/Sam Johnson

“That’s why it’s maddening to watch politicians scramble over the Liddell coal-fired power station in NSW – putting at risk a fair transition for working families who deserve better.”

As it stands, Cr Johnson said the NEG was a big negative when it came to current and future investments in renewable technology and projects.

“It could risk investment in energy projects,” said the former bank manager who ran on a Nick Xenophon SA Best ticket in the state election.

The former bank manager said investment dollars were moving away from coal into renewables.

In his town 300km north of Adelaide which he pushing to become the “renewable energy capital of Australia”, Cr Johnson said there were 11 renewable energy projects on the go, valued at more than $5 billion.

South Australian Secretary of the Communications, Electrical and Plumbing Union John Adley there was much need for job opportunities in the state's regional areas, “the very areas where renewable energy projects such as wind generation, solar generation, battery energy storage and hydro energy are best suited.

Harnessing the abundant non-polluting renewable energy resources available in SA does more than create direct jobs in regional SA. 

'Australia’s largest solar PV farm is taking shape in Port Augusta - the renewable capital of Australia.' Source: Facebook/Sam Johnson

Increased generation and storage reduces electricity prices and increases reliability helping our states capacity to compete and provide jobs across a wide range of industries across the state, whist reducing carbon emissions,” Adley said, adding the projects would increase SA's ability to sell clean, green energy to other states through the national grid, which will drive down prices and emissions across the country. 

Renewable energy projects are good for jobs, good for electricity consumers, good for the environment, good for the stability of the national electricity grid. A no brainer, really.

The works are a mix of wind, solar PV and solar thermal energy plants, but Cr Johnson said Frydenberg was putting the projects and jobs at risk.

“Maybe there is an energy policy they’ve got but they are not going to release it until we get closer to an election and they can pork barrel,” he said.

The bank manager called on the state’s new Liberal energy minister, Dan Van Holst Pellekaan (who also happens to be his local member) to represent his constituents and back the clean-energy and jobs in the area. 

“I would like to think [Van Holst Pellekaan] has the ability as minister, and a guide for Frydenberg who’s in the coal fields,” Cr Johnson said of Van Holst Pellekaan.

“Hopefully he can provide leadership and guidance.”  

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