Mr PEDERICK (Hammond) (15:48): I want to raise some points today in regard to the Statutes Amendment (Electricity and Gas) (Energy Productivity) Bill 2020. The Statutes Amendment (Electricity and Gas) (Energy Productivity) Bill 2020 amends the Electricity Act 1996 and the Gas Act 1997 to enable implementation of a new retailer energy productivity scheme (REPS).
The Retailer Energy Efficiency Scheme (REES) is a South Australian government energy efficiency scheme that provides incentives for South Australian households and businesses to save energy by establishing energy efficiency targets to be met by electricity and gas retailers. The retailers meet these targets by delivering eligible energy efficiency activities to households and businesses.
The Retailer Energy Efficiency Scheme was established by the Electricity Act 1996 and the Gas Act 1997, and associated regulations—the Electricity (General) Regulations 2012 and the Gas Regulations 2012. The REES underwent a review in 2019 and the review recommended that the scheme be expanded from 2021 to include energy demand management and energy demand response activities.
The proposed new retailer energy productivity scheme (REPS) will include activities that reduce household or business end-use energy consumption, reduce household or business end-use energy costs for the same household or business outcome, and/or provide broader energy market benefits, such as reduced wholesale electricity prices, reduced electricity network costs and improved energy system security.
Amendments must be made to the Electricity Act 1996 and the Gas Act 1997 to ensure all energy productivity activities can be supported in the scheme, particularly energy demand management and energy demand response of the kind outlined above. The final REPS design will be contained within regulations consistent with existing practice for the scheme.
I think it is absolutely vital that we make things more efficient in regard to energy in this state, especially when we look back and see what happened before we came to power. We saw the former government rush headlong into renewables. There is no problem with transitioning to renewables as such but, when you do it far too quickly, you see situations like we had on 28 September 2016, when the lights went out right across South Australia, affecting 850,000 households and businesses.
It is outrageous that something like that could happen in this day and age—it was only about four years ago. We were actually sitting in this chamber on that day. It was sometime after 4pm when things shut down. We were fortunate, in this place, that our emergency generators kicked in and kept the place alive. We still hosted some meetings that night, but obviously the dinner service was scrapped.
It was extremely difficult, not just here in the city but right across the regions in South Australia. In fact, I think the only place that had any lights on was Kangaroo Island, because they had a generator system to keep them going. Why did we have such a cascading failure? It was because of this headlong rush into renewables and not transitioning sensibly by taking up more use of gas and just transitioning steadily.
We as a state have picked up the use of solar energy and wind energy and embraced that. I certainly have installed solar panels on my properties and they do a great job in reducing power costs, which was the main reason I did it. Many thousands of South Australians have done the same thing. We also have a massive number of wind farms, wind turbine technology and wind turbine generated power across the state.
What we saw in this headlong rush by the former government was that the coal-fired power station at Port Augusta shut down and the Leigh Creek coalmine shut down. They employed something like over 600 people between them. Not only did we lose a lot of that surety for keeping the lights on and keeping business functioning but we also lost that sustainability of the grid.
My father-in-law, Richard Abernethy, used to work at the Port Augusta power station. This is what happens when you rush headlong without taking a good look at what is going on. That is why it is so good that we as a government and the Liberal Party are looking with the regulators at the interconnector through to New South Wales, which will be about a $1½ billion dollar project. Obviously, we have the Heywood interconnector and we have the interconnector that runs through the Riverland as well, connecting South Australia to Victoria, which then, through a backhanded way, connects us into New South Wales and Queensland.
The sooner we get interconnection built through to New South Wales, the sooner we can utilise the assets that we have here in solar generation and wind generation, so that when the sun is shining and the wind is blowing—obviously both of those things do not happen all the time—and we have an abundance of those two sources of power, we can be connected through to New South Wales, apart from the two interconnectors we have through to Victoria, and share that power far more efficiently with the grid. In saying that, when we are short on those sources of power—and obviously we have gas generators here as well—we can import power from New South Wales. There is still a significant amount of that generated by coal.
These productivity arrangements are where we need to go and the Retailer Energy Efficiency Scheme will put those incentives in place for South Australian households and businesses to make sure they save energy costs. To save energy costs, it is pretty simple: you save what energy you need to use and give people those incentives and that helps everyone on a collective basis.
We have seen what has happened in the past when the former government had to rely on diesel generation. This is the government that was racing headlong into renewables and next thing there are hundreds of millions of dollars spent on diesel generators that would burn 80,000 litres of diesel an hour. You would not need a truck servicing these generators. I think that you would want to have access to a ship. To my knowledge, we have not had to utilise these generators.
I must commend our government and the direction that the minister, the member for Stuart, has taken in regard to managing energy in this state. They are obviously cognisant of the fact that we are connected into the grid with Victoria but that into the future we need that vital interconnection into New South Wales that will give much more productivity and reliability and will reduce costs to South Australian electricity users.
It is interesting that in the past the former government were big fans of more interconnection, but all of a sudden when it became our policy coming into government they decided they did not like it. It is interesting to note that. Efficiencies that can be brought right across the state will assist household and business end-use energy costs. It will provide broader energy market benefits, such as reduced wholesale electricity prices, reduced electricity network costs and improved energy system security.
All those things are vital as we move into the future to make sure we have the most efficient network that we can have, the most reliable network that we can have and the most cost-efficient network that we can have for our households and businesses in this state. I commend the bill.