Port Augusta's solar thermal power plant not at risk

ENERGY: The Aurora solar thermal power plant is scheduled to begin operating in 2021.
ENERGY: The Aurora solar thermal power plant is scheduled to begin operating in 2021.

Minister for Energy and Mining Dan van Holst Pellekaan has strongly denied claims from the Labor party that the future of Port Augusta’s solar thermal power plant could be “at risk”.

Labor leaders questioned whether the Marshall Liberal government was planning to back out of the project after documents revealed state government was reviewing its contracting arrangements with SolarReserve.

However, Mr van Holst Pellekaan said state government remains committed to the project.

“The old government entered into a contract with Solar Reserve which included purchasing electricity for around $75/MWh and I made it very clear that if elected a Marshall government would honour it, which is exactly what we want to do,” he said.

State government has contracted energy consultants CQ Partners to review all of its electricity supply and retail contracts entered into by the previous Weatherill government.

The agreement involves CQ Partners providing a “confidential report” to the Department of Treasury and Finance.

Opposition Leader Peter Malinauskas said the review “raises serious questions about the future of this project”.

Shadow Minister for Energy Tom Koutsantonis reiterated Mr Malinauskas’ comments, questioning the purpose of the review.

“We know the Energy Minister and local member Dan van Holst Pellekaan has previously supported this project,” Mr Koutsantonis said.

“Why is (Treasurer) Rob Lucas moving in on Dan van Holst Pellekaan’s territory, potentially putting a project in his electorate at risk?”

But Mr van Holst Pellekaan insisted the review is nothing out of the ordinary.

“The Treasurer is getting advice on many arrangements entered into by the old government, and this is very normal after a change of government,” the state Member for Stuart said.

In August 2017, SolarReserve was awarded the contract to build a 150MW solar thermal power plant – the largest of its kind in the world – 30 kilometres north-west of Port Augusta.

With construction set to begin in 2019, the Aurora solar thermal power plant is scheduled to be up and running in 2021.

The $650 million facility is expected to create more than 700 construction and operational jobs. 

Mr van Holst Pellekaan said the Marshall government’s highest priority is to deliver “affordable, reliable and clean electricity for all South Australians”.

“I and many other people advocated for clean, reliable and affordable solar thermal electricity in Port Augusta for many years and that hasn’t changed,” he said.