23 February, 2017
Courtesy of the Australian
Jay Weatherill has rejected concerns from South Australia’s biggest employer, BHP Billiton, about its ongoing viability in the state, dismissing the miner as just another coal company.
BHP Billiton, the state’s biggest energy user that operates the massive Olympic Dam copper, uranium and gold mine in the far north, warned a long-term expansion may not go ahead if power security and costs are not addressed.
The miner lost $137 million because of the September statewide blackout and has suffered further losses in several other blackouts, due in part to South Australia’s wind-reliant grid.
But the Labor Premier today poured scorn on BHP Billiton chief executive Andrew Mackenzie’s warnings,
“It’s a coal company,” he said when asked about BHP’s concerns on Adelaide radio station FIVEaa today.
“Of course he would say that … see the point here is, you’ve got to remember, that BHP also happens to be one of the largest coal mining companies in the world.
“So let’s put this in context, they do have a dog in this fight — they have an interest in protecting the coal industry.
“There is no future in coal.”
The Premier, who on Tuesday recommitted the state to a 50 per cent renewable energy target because he claimed it was good for business and jobs, also today rejected findings that during load-shedding outages earlier this month a decline in wind power generation around 5pm contributed to demand outstripping capacity.
“The wind performed exactly as it was expected to perform — wind always drops off at that time of the day,” he claimed.
The Premier conceded that “there is no doubt that there are reliability issues that need to be addressed” with the electricity system but that “none of them have been responsible for any of the blackouts”.
“This is a long-term issue that we’ve known has been coming and the so-called reliability or frequency issues have not been the responsibility for any of the blackouts that have occurred up to this point,” he said, although this appears to contradict the expert findings in some reports.
“Let’s be absolutely clear about this — South Australia’s leadership role in renewable energy is going to be good for the state in the future,” he said.
“Clean renewable energy is going to be the future; it will lead to lower prices not higher prices and in the future this will be seen as a competitive advantage for our state and the jobs that it creates through these new renewable energy projects.”
Mr Weatherill still though was unable to detail his “dramatic intervention” in the national electricity market promised weeks ago, saying only that it was “well underway”.
“It is complex and that’s why I’m not going to rush it, but it’ll be ready very soon,” he said.
And despite Engie, the owner of the Pelican Point gas-fired power station, saying the Adelaide plant was not for sale, the Premier said he had still not ruled out trying to buy it.
“I haven’t ruled that out but look I’m not going to speculate about what’s in and out, but look the only thing I will say about that is that it is complex to be owning only part of the system; you either have to own the whole of the system or you have to own none of the system,” Mr Weatherill said.
“It is difficult for the government to be a non-market player in what is a private sector market. I’ve said that they are the constraints on what we do -. buying back the whole system is obviously incredibly expensive.”
The Premier also claimed the state had only suffered “three blackouts”. There have been at least eight major outages since July.