Port Augusta Power Stations


Mr VAN HOLST PELLEKAAN (Stuart) (15:20): I rise today to speak about the Port Augusta power stations and the very serious predicament they are in at the moment. As many members would know, Alinta runs these power stations, but management is soon to be handed over to TPG. That is actually not what I want to talk about, other than to highlight that the upcoming issues will undoubtedly be TPG's to deal with.

The two Port Augusta power stations employ about 250 people and closely linked to that employment are approximately 250 people who work at the Leigh Creek coalfields. As people may or may not know, power stations are generally built to burn the fuel that is available; so, they are set up quite specifically. Even when it comes to coal-fired power stations, they are built to burn the coal that is available, and the coal at Leigh Creek is running out.

There are a lot of estimates, and they vary from between five to 15 years before the coal will run out, and, of course, through that period there is likely to be a decline in quality of the coal as well. Suffice to say that the coal that is used at the Port Augusta power stations is not going to be available for much longer. An average estimate of about 10 years is it.

We are going to be forced to do something else, not only in Port Augusta to replace those approximately 500 jobs but also statewide because the electricity that is supplied at the Port Augusta power stations is typically 30 to 40 per cent of our entire state's supply. So, we as South Australians cannot do without the electricity that is generated in Port Augusta. This is a statewide problem, as well as the very, very important issue of employment in Port Augusta.

The Port Augusta power stations, it is no secret, create pollution. All coal-fired power stations create pollution. In fact, all power stations that are not run wholly and solely from renewable sources create pollution, and we all want to reduce that pollution. The federal government's proposed carbon tax is actually going to put even more pressure on the power stations because, of course, there will be a great new big fat tax coming onto the operators of the power stations very shortly care of the federal government.

But the problem exists already, anyway, so what this means is that it is just a little more urgent to resolve this problem. My main message today is to implore the government to focus on this problem. It takes approximately a year to get a regular home built in South Australia. We are not going to get a new power station built quickly. It may well take a decade to solve this problem.

We would all like to think that the Port Augusta coal power stations could be replaced by beautiful clean, green energy production immediately. That would be everyone's wish, no doubt, but we all have to face the fact that it is just not possible. Technology is not available for that; it is not possible to do it.

The resources, such as wind and solar, that we can harness at the moment, (1) cannot supply the volume of electricity that is required, and (2) cannot supply the baseload electricity that is required. We are going to have to use a non-renewable source. We are going to have to use a source that does create some pollution, hopefully far less than the coal that is burnt at the moment.

The options include swapping to gas, although that would be incredibly expensive; some solar or wind component potentially down the track, but certainly not today; geothermal; solar thermal is another option; and nuclear is talked about. However, none of these things is viable or feasible within the time frame that we have to address—within the five to 15 years before the coal runs out—and nothing will be cheap. I really urge the government to focus on this issue, not to sweep it under the carpet, not to just leave it and say, 'Well, look, it won't be our issue. We think we might be able to just sneak through in government before this problem really raises its head.' It is inescapable: we must have electricity.

I want the solution to be based in Port Augusta. I want the solution to be there for the jobs. It is also very sensible that it is there because the transmission lines already run from Port Augusta throughout the state to where the electricity needs to be generated. So, Port Augusta, in my mind, is the logical place for the solution to be placed.

There are other projects proposed, such as Linc Energy's coal to gas and gas to liquid project near Orroroo, which I very much hope gets up, both for the Orroroo and Peterborough district but also because it may be able to contribute to this. Essentially, what is very important for the government, and particularly the Minister for Energy, is that this problem is not ignored. It is not going to go away. We cannot pretend that it does not exist because we are okay now and we are okay next year and we are okay the next year. The reality is that a few years down the track we will need a power station to replace the power that is currently produced in Port Augusta and we will not be able to start creating the solution the day that we have to shut the power station.


No Very

Captcha Image