New six-point plan to enhance South Australian power system

On 14 March, South Australian Premier Jay Weatherill presented a new six-point plan by the SA government to enhance the South Australian power system. Announcement of the plan follows intense debate as to the causes of electricity system failures in South Australia over recent months, a debate that has brought to a head longstanding fears that National Electricity Market rules have failed to keep pace with rapid technology changes.

Importantly, South Australia’s circumstances have focused national attention on the vital role that energy storage must play as Australia moves to a modern, more decentralised electricity system increasingly reliant on renewable energy sources.

As part of the plan, the government intends to build a new 250 MW gas-fired back-up power plant, to incentivise gas exploration in SA, and to build a new 100 MW battery storage to provide for grid integration of wind and solar power. The plan also includes a previously announced tender for new, privately-owned, power generation to supply power to public services. This tender includes a 25% share of dispatchable renewable energy.

An aspect of the plan that has received little media attention but is possibly of the greatest significance for CSP is the announcement of an “Energy Security Target” for the state. This will be an obligation on retailers to source around 30% of purchased electricity from ‘synchronous’ generators located within South Australia.  Gas plants, concentrating solar power with thermal energy storage, and pumped hydro systems are all specified as eligible.

The new plan was announced after the SA government recently granted planning approval for a 375 MW solar and wind park near Port Augusta. In parallel, discussions about a new solar thermal power station with up to 6 x 110 MW capacity and 880 MWh thermal energy storage continue. The new plan developed by the SA government has fuelled optimism that solar thermal power with storage will finally be developed as one of the cornerstones of South Australia’s energy system reliability and security.

Most recently, this prospect received a major boost on 31 March, with independent SA senator Nick Xenophon negotiating a package of energy measures including a commitment to support a CSP plant with $110m of concessional finance as a condition of support for the government’s business tax cut legislation.

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Australian Solar Thermal Energy Association Ltd
ACN: 149 005 210
PO Box 6127
ACT 2602, Australia