So Who is doing What?

Nuclear Fission

Conservatives support it but no one else in SA. It is not a short term solution and highly likely to be a lot more expensive than other generation or superseded by nuclear fusion.

Oil

No specific policies from any party regarding electric / hydrogen cars over petrol or diesel despite many cities around the world preparing to ban diesel vehicles. We seem to be behind the 8 ball on this one, but with no more car manufacture here we will just be led where others go!

Greens, SA Best and Dignity are against drilling for oil offshore in SA (under Federal Government control). These parties also want to remove subsidies to fossil fuels which could mean farmers and miners losing their fuel / road tax credits.

Pretty much all of our oil (Diesel, petrol, Avgas etc)  is imported, with tankers steaming through the Bight waters to bring it here.

Coal

No proposals for any new coal mines or power stations in SA and no support from any party. In SA it is just too expensive for any new coal, especially with environmental and safety precautions.

There is a proposal to produce gas from Leigh Creek using the UCG process with little support from any party. Labor approve gas projects on a case by case basis and the Liberal party supported legislation to this effect for UCG last year (Greens proposed banning it), so we will have to wait and see if it gets approved (not if SA-Best hold a balance I would imagine.)

Gas

Conventional. All parties appear OK with onshore, conventional gas in SA (not so in neighbouring Victoria which has a current onshore gas ban).  Greens and SA-Best oppose offshore drilling (perfectly OK in Victoria).

Shale. No current proposals or plans from any company to proceed with shale gas anywhere in SA.  Would not be approved by Greens, SA Best or Dignity nor Liberals and Independent Troy Bell in the SE.  All potential shales in SA are probably too deep and too expensive to develop in the near term.

There is a possibility of shallow shale oil development near Coober Pedy.

CSG. There are no shallow CSG proposals by any company in SA and probably never will be.  We simply don’t have the shallow coals of suitable quality and extent.  There is a project to develop deep coal seam gas in the Cooper Basin.  My opinion is that it will be difficult to produce enough economic gas, but if it does work it may unlock vast gas reserves.

Fraccing. Producing oil, water or gas from any underground situation often requires some sort of stimulation or clean-up. This process is fracture stimulation or fraccing (fracking to those outside the business).  In SA the process is highly regulated for oil and gas wells (less so for water bores), requiring specific approval and publishing of all materials used.

While horizontal shale wells will always require stimulation, CSG and conventional wells may not if flow rates are good. Coal mines on the other hand totally fracture the coal to mine it, as do quarries and any mine where ore is dug out.  So when people suggest we should ban fraccing, I am never quite sure what it is that they want banned.

And yet we have the Greens, SA-Best, Liberals, Dignity and some Independents saying that they want a moratorium on fraccing in some areas, but not necessarily others.  I imagine that they do not want to ban the fracturing of rocks or stimulating water wells, so I guess that they are after a moratorium on shale gas or CSG in particular areas.  As there are no current proposals for these activities (and probably unlikely in the near future), it seems a little strange.

Renewables

It appears that all parties are now on board with photovoltaic (PV)solar, solar thermal and wind in SA, but perhaps at different levels of support. Conservatives and Liberals want to take things slowly and emphasise security of supply while the Greens, SA-Best and Dignity want to go all out for 100% renewables ASAP.  Labor are in the middle and want 75% renewables (up from 50%) and 25% storage targets over the next eight years.

Hydro and geothermal are great options in other jurisdictions, but SA does not have any suitable sites for these.

Storage

All parties realise that we need storage to go along with our renewables, but the level of support seems to be variable and is generally not defined. Companies are now building battery storage into their own schemes to go along with the government supported Tesla Big Battery.  The solar thermal plant at Port Augusta will have a mixture of superheated salts and 1414 Degrees have molten silica storage units going in.

A number of pumped hydro schemes have been proposed by private ventures including salt water and fresh water setups. There is probably not a lot to choose between support from any political party.

Backup

Backup is required, as well as short term storage and this is a point of difference between the parties. Labor want local backup from a secure gas supply plus diesel / gas generators for emergencies in hospitals, major towns and businesses.  Emergency diesel generators are in place in northern Adelaide and Labor will connect these up to the gas supply this year.  They are against an interconnector at this stage (due to cost).

The Greens are for a new Interconnector to NSW, so that we can sell renewables to them. Liberals are for an interconnector so that we can buy cheap coal fired backup from NSW. Liberals will sell off the backup diesel generators.

The Federal Liberal Government has bought out NSW and Vic interests in the Snowy Mountains hydro supply and plan to build a pumped hydro storage system to go along with it. This will cost the Feds around $10 Billion all up and will make them the third largest electricity supplier in the country.  Yes, the Feds are nationalising electricity to some extent.  It is my contention that the Feds should include the Interconnector to NSW (and Snowy Mountains) as part of this scheme.

Reducing Cost

Current Financial Year average wholesale generation costs are between 8-9 c / kWh across the Eastern States and futures markets have them at about this level (slowly decreasing) for the next ten years. This is about 6-7 c US and is similar to most western countries.  It is about a quarter of our electricity bill, with the rest made up from poles and wires (half) and retail (quarter).

We don’t have any cheap energy to import from elsewhere and with NSW coal power slowly shutting down as power stations pass their use by date, interstate electricity is likely to increase in price.

The best way to reduce prices is more competition to reduce retail cost and for the state or federal governments to help out with pole and wires costs (as happens in other jurisdictions).

All parties have complex new policies to increase security, reduce environmental harm and costs. The three are mutually exclusive to a large degree.  Lower costs are likely to mean more environmental and health damage or loss of security for example.

In SA, poles and wires (ETSA) have been sold off to private owners, SA Power Networks (local distribution previously called ETSA Utilities) and ElecraNet (high voltage system).

The Answer

Have the Federal Government sell its interest in generation and storage and use that money to buy back poles and wires. If they provided poles and wires as free infrastructure to the consumer (as other countries do) then power prices would instantly be halved.  Where governments play in the wholesale market, prices often go up (eg Queensland Electricity is still publically owned and is regularly the highest priced generation).

Just a thought!

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