Upper Spencer Gulf renewables a focus at state conference

Port Augusta Mayor Brett Benbow made a presentation at the conference in Adelaide.
Port Augusta Mayor Brett Benbow made a presentation at the conference in Adelaide.

Transformation of the Upper Spencer Gulf as a renewable energy powerhouse has taken centre stage at a major conference in Adelaide.

The Spencer Gulf Renewable Energy Conference showcases the wide range of renewable energy technologies emerging in the region.

The two day program featured presentations from market analysts, renewable energy companies, local council delegates and state government representatives.

Chair of the Spencer Gulf Cities Association and Port Pirie Mayor Leon Stephens said the conference provided a great opportunity to showcase the region and its potential, but also reinforced the importance of gaining good community support.

"Genuine engagement with Council and the community is really important - you don't get a social licence by ticking a box. You have to earn it," he said.

"We also need to be a bit more sensible about where some of this large visual development happens. It's really important that we have the right development in the right location. We don't want to see negative impact on local residents or existing industries like tourism.

"Make no mistake - renewable energy is our future and we are really keen to make the most of this potential in the Upper Spencer Gulf

"But in doing so, we want government and developers to work with us more closely and make sure we have the right legislation, the right policy framework and the right attitude moving forward, so that we all win."

Port Augusta Mayor Brett Benbow presented at the conference.

He highlighted how the wide range of renewable energy technologies in the region made it an attractive location for further investment and research opportunities.

"We want to develop a really strong local workforce in this industry and gain the benefit of having the education, training and research opportunities also delivered locally, through initiatives like our Uni Hub," Mr Benbow said.

Mr Benbow also said whilst there are positives, there also needs to be much stronger local input and control over renewable energy development.

"We really want renewable energy companies to work more closely with us to contribute to local community development and amenity in a more strategic, coordinated and meaningful way," he said.

"At the moment local Councils often have a limited role as many renewable energy development approvals are taken out of our hands and dealt with directly by the state government."

Port Augusta and the other Spencer Gulf cities have also joined the call from many neighbouring councils in the Mid North who want the South Australian government to amend legislation and allow councils to collect rates from renewable energy companies.

"These large renewable energy developments are exempt from valuation for rating purposes, despite there being an impact on ratepayers and Council infrastructure," Mr Benbow said.

"We don't think it's fair that our local residents and other businesses in our district all contribute to helping to grow and maintain our communities, but a multi-million dollar renewable energy company does not."