Country MP says Alinta wanted less than $55 million to keep Port Augusta Power Station Running

POWER:  The state opposition believes the new energy policies have left Port Augusta in the dark.
POWER: The state opposition believes the new energy policies have left Port Augusta in the dark.

The Port Augusta Power Station may have been operating beyond 2016 if its owners Alinta Energy received ‘significantly less’ than $55 million in support from the state government, according to state Member for Stuart Dan van Holst Pellekaan.

And he wants the state government to let Port Augusta residents know why they didn’t choose that option, and instead embark on a $550 million state based energy plan.

“ … I’m lead to believe what Alinta (Energy) requested was significantly less than one tenth of the $550 million bill the state government wants the tax payers to fund,” he said.

“Local people from Port Augusta to Leigh Creek deserve to know what the cost was of the initial opportunity was compared to the $550 million bill they’re getting now.” The coal-fired power station ceased operations on May 9, 2016, due to economic challenges in a competitive energy market.

A recent freedom of information request by Mr van Holst Pellekaan revealed that in January 2015, Alinta CEO Jeff Dimery sent a letter to state Energy Minister Tom Koutsantonis.

Mr Dimery wrote that despite Alinta’s previous investments of $150 million since taking ownership in March 2011, the Wholesale Electricity Market in South Australia had ‘deteriorated’, and asked the government to work to secure a commercial future for the Power Station and Leigh Creek Coal Mine.

On Tuesday, March 14, SA Premier Jay Weatherill announced the state government’s new $550 million energy plan.

The $550 million plan includes a new $360 million emergency gas-fired power plant and building Australia’s ‘largest battery’.

State Treasurer Tom Koutsantonis said the discussions between the state government and Alinta remain commercial in confidence, however Alinta were not able to guarantee the generators would continue to operate for any period of time.

“In fact, Alinta CEO Jeff Dimery recently said on radio that their proposition was only temporary,” Mr Koutsantonis said.

“It's a bit like comparing apples with oranges; what the state are looking is for a permanent solution at this point. What Alinta could only offer at the time was a temporary solution.”​

Alinta Energy was contacted but unavailable for comment.