STATE ELECTRICITY NETWORK

Mr PEDERICK (Hammond) (12:10): I rise to speak to this motion that was introduced by the member for Flinders:

That this house—

(a) recognises that 28 September 2020 marks four years since the statewide blackout in which almost all of South Australia lost power;

(b) acknowledges the failure of the former Labor government to secure the state’s electricity network, resulting in the loss of power to over 850,000 customers, including to hospitals, and

(c) highlights the commitment by the state Liberal government to build a new high-capacity interconnector, connecting South Australia and the National Electricity Market.

It is interesting because we were here on that day in September 2016 when the lights literally went out on South Australia. Forever after that, we were the butt of jokes not just interstate but internationally: a whole state lost power. The reason we lost power was the former Labor government's headlong rush into renewables without making sure the necessary interim power supply, the transition power between coal and renewables, was in place. We already know that gas supplies a lot of power in this state. A lot of gas comes from the Cooper Basin and some of it obviously comes from the South-East and interstate. It is a great source of power, and gas is a fantastic transition fuel.

I note what the minister said about Alinta's deal in regard to the $24 million. If that had been put up by the previous government, it would have kept Port Augusta going for three years. What you have to understand is coal-fired power was up against heavily subsidised renewables. This is one of the main reasons that it could not compete. What happened with that sudden closure of Port Augusta, alongside the coalmine at Leigh Creek, was that around 650 jobs disappeared virtually overnight. A lot of those workers who lost their jobs would have been union members. These are the unions that support the labour movement. I would have loved to have heard the conversations in the smoko rooms when this decision was made.

As I have said in the past in this house on this issue, my father-in-law, Richard Abernethy, used to work at the Port Augusta power station. It was a disgrace to see this headlong rush, based on pure ideology, into renewables and starve the state of a stable base load power source. I do love going up north regularly. I try to do at least one trip a year, and I see Leigh Creek most of those years. Sadly, it is a shadow of its former self. Leigh Creek is a town that had to be moved because of the expansion of the coalmine decades ago, yet we see that that coalmine still would have had probably enough coal for at least 10 years to supply Port Augusta with more interim, transition fuel. Base load power gas stations could have been implemented for the future transition to renewables.

This is where we get to the interconnectors in this state. We already have Murraylink, which heads up through the Riverland, and the Heywood interconnector, which interconnects with Victoria with hundreds of megawatts of interconnection capacity. This is absolutely vital so that we can trade what is essentially a lot of our renewable power, whether that be solar or wind, to go to Victoria. That connects up through Victoria, New South Wales and Queensland, and we can bring back other generation, including coal, as it is still part of the vital mix to keep Australia fired up.

We have seen what has happened in recent times and with policy changes. South Australians have been smart: they have looked to the future and installed solar panels on their houses, whether they are doing it to feel good about being green or they are doing it for their wallet. It might be a bit of both. I have 14.1 kilowatts of solar panels on both of my houses, generating power at home and at the farm. I could only have five kilowatts of power on a single wire return generation because that was the maximum limit.

Into the future, we need this interconnector with New South Wales. The Australian Energy Regulator rates it as a No Regrets policy. It is a No Regrets policy to build this interconnector into New South Wales because it will stabilise the grid. We have had a lot of rooftop solar put in on properties—whether on commercial warehouses or private homes—and a lot of commercial solar farms are rising up throughout our electorates. I have had a couple of big ones up around $100 million and I have another big one, which is likely to be put together very shortly, for several hundreds of millions of dollars.

We need to balance that input. That is why there was a recent policy change on new solar installations on homes. They may—and I stress 'may'—have to be switched off for very limited amounts of time when there is too much solar power going into the grid. This is for the simple reason that we need to have stability in the grid. I commend the Minister for Energy (member for Stuart) because we are putting stability in the grid, which is what Labor did not do and subsequently caused the blackout four years ago.

It was disgraceful; we had one incident and the power dropped out for the whole state. Back in the day, from what I understand, it was set up in five segments so that you would not lose the whole state. We did not have that base load power generating in the background so that did not happen, and as soon as there was a slight hiccup everything fell over. Adelaide was gridlocked. You could not get across the mile of the city in under an hour because obviously the lights were out. It was like a scene from Apocalypse Now or something. If people did not have backup generators, it was black. It was black not just across the City of Adelaide—and we were here because we were sitting—but across the state.

Apart from costing nearly than $400 million—that is one figure—to business in this state, it put lives at risk, it cost embryos when there was a generator failure at one of our hospitals and it caused a lot of distress. I note that in the member for Flinders' electorate it took days and days to get power restored in that area.

What we are doing is delivering this interconnector to New South Wales, rolling out the largest per capita Home Battery Scheme, delivering $50 million of grid-scale storage and delivering $30 million for demand management. The interconnector, Project EnergyConnect, is that vital link so that we can deliver on the expert way in which we deliver power from this side of the house.

As the minister said, the lights have not gone out under a managed situation ever since we have been in government, whereas all that the Labor government delivered was darkness to this state, and I say that not just in regard to power. I commend the motion.