Mr PEDERICK (Hammond) (16:25): I rise to make a contribution in regard to the Hydrogen and Renewable Energy Bill and note that this is a bill that seeks to regulate these projects under a one-stop shop system, and that is the very short version.
We are in a changing world, we are in a transitioning world, and we are in a world where coal has been demonised, yet we see in Victoria the Loy Yang coal plant near Traralgon lacking maintenance. I note the other day that plant had a big steel beam fall on a walkway because coal has been demonised so much that either people are not making the investment or the financiers are not backing it in. Yet we are a substantial coalmining country, a substantial exporter of coal across the world, and we still need it into the future, and they are talking about this plant having an extended life because we are not quite there with renewables.
ln regard to renewables, I have had solar panels on my farmhouse for many years now, and they are a great thing to export energy and keep the power bills down at home, but we still need base load power. Certainly, part of that still at the moment is coal and there is still a lot of gas in the system. As we transition, because gas is 50 per cent cleaner than coal gas it will be part of the system, some people say, for at least another 30 years. Gas is very much part of our life and part of our energy mix.
As we move forward, there are more and more solar projects coming on. Around Tailem Bend, there are at least 200 megawatts; there were 100 megawatts in already, and another 100 is not far off coming online next to the powerline that links South Australia through to Victoria and through to the rest of South Australia. These projects are going on around the state.
We have seen the work we did trying to get carbon neutral on our SA Water pump projects off the River Murray, pumping towards Adelaide, and I see those solar farms throughout my electorate at Mannum, Murray Bridge and other places. There are also wind farms around the place. There have been many debates in this house about wind farms and whether you can sleep, whether they cause problems or whether they cause health issues. That debate goes on.
There is a company called Tilt Renewables that is close—very close—after around 15 years to getting a project up around Palmer and Tungkillo and towards Mount Pleasant. This wind farm will traverse both my electorate and the member for Schubert's electorate. It was a project that initially had something like 100 turbines but now is being cut back to about 43, I think. I might have these numbers wrong, because I am speaking freestyle a bit, but the turbines were going to be about 160 metres high and now I think they are going to be about 240 metres high and they will cover about 5,000 hectares less.
With all these projects, it is a bit similar to mining proposals. Sometimes it is because people do not get the opportunity to utilise the payback period from having turbines on their property, because there is a lease that is a bit like a phone tag. You have a leaseback system every year that can be quite lucrative. Certainly, we have to take heed of the genuine concerns that I have had put to me by local constituents from across both my electorate and the member for Schubert's electorate.
I have met with Tilt and I have had ongoing conversations with them. They are based in Melbourne. I have been getting responses from them around the specific queries from constituents in regard to these wind turbines. Other people are quite happy that they are getting the opportunity to, I guess, partially droughtproof their properties through getting that leaseback plan on some wind turbines on their property.
Renewables will become bigger and bigger as we transition, and they are going to cover a lot more of the landscape, whether it be on freehold land, pastoral land or even offshore. We note already that there is significant opposition to the proposals in the South-East, with offshore turbines, and there is different opposition to various projects around the place.
Certainly, some of that opposition we see in the Eastern States is where there are transmission lines, like the project that we have built, most of it on our side of the border, EnergyConnect, the link through to New South Wales so that we can link our 70 per cent renewable power generation and the other power generation we have in this state if it is needed.
Essentially, the 70 per cent power generation we have in this state from renewables can be linked through to the Eastern States so that we can pump that excess power when we have it through to the Eastern States grid that we are linked to, right through New South Wales, Queensland, Victoria and Tasmania. Also, it is there to pull power back, if we need to, from gas-fired generation in the east, or Snowy Hydro or coal, because coal will play a part for a little while longer.
Also as part of the mix, we see the state government proposing the hydrogen sector at Whyalla and Port Bonython. I was looking at something the other day. It was the same year I started up at Moomba in the Cooper Basin in 1982 when the Port Bonython gas line went into play. It was interesting looking at those old photos and remembering the sidearms on the bulldozer, the track vehicles for laying pipe and welders out in the desert, essentially. They did some fantastic work those people—it was pretty well all blokes—working out in the sun and just getting those gas lines built.
I do have some concerns about hydrogen. We are told that the government has put up $593 million. I think it will need a lot more than that to get it going. We have already seen pullback from some of the storage that was going to be installed. I just wonder how much energy will be used from other forms—whether it is gas or something else—to develop the hydrogen. What did alarm me was we had a night here with some academics (and this is no reflection on them at all) and I was asking them about how this would function, and there were no clear answers. There were no clear answers, which shows how new this technology is.
As we move forward, there will be different rules and different regulations about putting these plants in place with release areas and prescribed areas. One thing that does interest me is the special enterprise licence, where there is a project of major significance and there cannot be agreement over whether the land can be purchased for whatever area is needed, whether it is for plant, transmission lines, etc.
I know that Minister Koutsantonis, the member for West Torrens, when he is talking about other projects does not like talking about compulsory acquisition. He is quite happy to acquire 540 homes for the Torrens to Darlington project, but then he does not like the idea of acquiring a bit of land to sort out the Hahndorf bypass properly. What this special enterprise licence will be is exactly that: it is compulsory acquisition dressed up as something else. Let's call it out for what it is. We will need to make sure that the appropriate regulations are in place.
What I see right through the briefing notes I have from the shadow minister, and he has done an excellent job going through the bill, is that there will be a lot of regulation put into this and not legislation. Obviously regulation comes in when we do not see it all. We can obviously do the legislation in this house and in the other place, so we need to be very mindful of how that goes about. As the member for Narungga stated the other day, he has had his concerns with mining land access, and he is having concerns with this, with the access for hydrogen and renewable projects.
I would just about guarantee that over time these projects will dwarf the amount of land impacted by mining in South Australia, and they are probably already heading there in a big way. That is the way of the world, that is the way we are going. We need to make sure that in regard to getting agreement with landholders, getting agreement on whether they are freehold landholders, and certainly in the pastoral lands, where there is a shared purpose between the government and pastoral lessees, getting agreement about how much rent will actually go to the lessees' pocket or whether it will just be a transfer from whoever the company is with this energy project going just straight to government, there is fairness and equity.
Obviously, these proposals are only going to go near the big transmission lines, so for anyone with a property of any size—it does not even need to be a huge property—next to a transmission line is the obvious place where these projects could go. We do have abundant sun and wind in this state, as we have proven with the rollout of the technology over time.
The thing that concerns me from everything I am hearing and seeing about the hydrogen project is that it will not bring down power prices in this state. We have recently seen power prices go up by about 30 per cent. I notice my new bill recently, notwithstanding having solar panels, has gone up significantly. That is hurting South Australians. With the cost of living and the cost of supplying power, everything is getting more and more expensive day by day.
We have issues with the network. We saw during the River Murray floods—from up in the Riverland around some of the bigger grape-growing areas, right through to my electorate to more horticulture, down to dairies and other farming down towards the mouth of the Murray near Goolwa—issues with powerline operation, powerlines being switched off and people having to find a way to generate electricity to keep their businesses going.
At times, we are told that this is a gold-plated network. Well, I can assure you it is not a gold-plated network. We saw that come into play the other day when 1,300 properties were switched off, in September around Ceduna and the West Coast. Yes, it was a nasty, hot, blowy, dry day, but what concerns me about this is that it was a proactive approach by SA Power Networks in case of a fire being lit.
The simple fact was that the green crop land was not going to burn anyway. As it was, and as the member for Flinders indicated on radio, there was a scrub fire that did get going, but as soon as it reached the edge that was the end of it. If that is going to be the way we manage our power systems into the future, that it is all about the perceived risk, these lines are not gold-plated.
SA Power Networks need to up their inspection—more accurate inspection—and I know they have indicated that they do more of that since it was privatised. I am not going to hear the argument from anyone saying, 'This has all gone bad since the electricity services were privatised decades ago.' But it needs to be a lot better than what it is. The simple fact is it has happened at Nangwarry in the member for MacKillop's electorate and, in the same electorate, the Yumali-Netherton fire started from dropped powerlines. There needs to be a better system in place, better inspection, better insulators and better systems put in to make sure that we can keep the lights on and the power on to make this state run.
We saw the recent conversation around the Country Fire Service—of which I am a proud member, and other members in this house are as well—looking at reducing the fire danger index which would take away hours of viable harvest time. That just hits farmers' pockets. I indicated earlier today that farmers are going through a tough time with stock prices dropping and they need every opportunity to get these valuable crops off. The harvest has started. A couple of loads have come in at Thevenard and Port Pirie in the last couple of days, so harvest is on, hay season is on, and farmers need the opportunity to get those crops off.
There is a perception that farmers are not prepared for fire. They have better equipment than they have ever had for fighting fires. They have chaser bins with up to 4,000 litres of water in a machine that is following the harvest—it could be 30 seconds behind. They have ex-CFS trucks in the paddock. They have big ex-military trucks in the paddock. They have 10,000 litre tankers, etc., standing in the corner ready to go, because those of us who live in the bush know that we have to hit it alongside the CFS to make sure we get the right outcome. Most of the time we do. Yes, there are some losses, but the idea is to obviously minimise the losses and minimise the loss of assets.
There will be a lot of questions asked in the committee stage of this bill about how the different licence forms are going to play out. I will be interested to see what the conversation is around the compulsory acquisition powers and that kind of thing. Even though some of this looks like it has been modelled on the Mining Act to a degree, we do not have compulsory acquisition in the Mining Act. It will be interesting to see where that conversation goes.
As I said earlier in my contribution, there is no doubt that we are in a time of transition, but it needs to be managed. We saw the chaos in this state when over 500 megawatts of coal-fired power got knocked down too early at Port Augusta. On 28 September 2016, we were sitting, working in this very place, and the whole state went out. We should never, ever see that again. In the management of power supplies across the state, not only do we have to get the generation mix right but we need to make sure that we can get that transmission to people's places right, because we would not expect 1,300 homes, or 20,000 homes in the urban area, to be happy about having their power switched off just because people thought the risk was too high. It just would not happen.
Yes, I do note there are some shocking days, but we need to find a better way to make sure that we can keep the electricity supplies running through the state. I will be very interested to see how the committee stage of this bill progresses into the future.