$75m power station: Alice locked into fossil fuel future

p2142-Jimmy-CockingLETTER TO THE EDITOR

 

Sir – The Arid Lands Environment Centre is greatly disappointed by the recently announced $75m “investment” in new gas fired generators at Owen Springs to secure future energy supply in Alice Springs.

 

At a time when global leaders have recently made a landmark deal to lower global carbon emissions, the Northern Territory Government is locking Alice residents into a previous era of dirty fossil fuel energy supplies.

 

The announced investment in new gas fired generators is not the right direction for the future energy supply of Alice Springs which is well placed to lead the rest of Australia in transitioning to solar power and renewable energy supplies. There is strong support from community members to see this happen.

 

We have been contacted by a number of local residents who have expressed their disappointment in this decision, and this sentiment has been reflected in local news and social media platforms since the announcement.

 

The $75m would be much better distributed between investment in upgrading the network to support hybrid battery and solar energy systems rather than locking Alice Springs for generations to Territory Generation, which essentially would hold a monopoly over power supply and would have no incentives for developing clean energy supplies.

 

ALEC is highly engaged on the issue of ensuring a sustainable energy supply for Alice Springs. We were a driving force behind the bid for and implementation of the highly successful Alice Solar City project. More recently ALEC participated in the Energy Futures Parliamentary Committee proceedings and has made numerous policy submissions related to energy and electricity supply in Alice Springs.

 

ALEC believes a good investment of $75m into the Alice Springs electricity supply would look more like:–

• $20m investment into the grid. Support competition for supply by medium and large-scale electricity providers. Enable distributed supply of solar energy and battery storage.

• $5m to reduce inefficiencies in the system and support energy efficiency programs.

• $50m to support co-investment by local Alice Springs residents and businesses in renewable energy and battery storage. $5000 each for 10000 roof tops, generating $50m in co-investment and growing a local solar and battery storage industry.

 

Not only would this increase the supply of electricity to Alice Springs but it would also improve the stability of the grid. Rather than setting a date for the retirement of the Ron Goodin Power Station, it could be used to support the transition of Alice Springs to being a solar powered town with gas generators as back up.

 

We urge the Treasurer and the Chief Minister to support the co-investment in the future solar energy supply for Alice Springs. We urge them to review the tender process.

 

The opportunity to support co-investment by local residents and businesses while upgrading the grid to do so is compelling, and is something that ALEC and local community members will be lobbying for in coming months.

 

Jimmy Cocking (pictured)

Director of the Arid Lands Environment Centre (ALEC)

 

 

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11 Comments (starting with the most recent)

NB: If you want to reply to a previous comment, start your comment with this notation: @n where n is the number of the comment you want to reply to.
  1. Posted February 19, 2016 at 10:18 am

    Why is the Alice even thinking about fossil fuels? Solar and storage should be more than you need.
    A small population in a huge area with lots of sunshine. You could probably power the Ghan with the surplus.
    It’s the 21st century and temperatures are rising!

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  2. Curious
    Posted February 12, 2016 at 8:42 pm

    @ Phil: In the meantime, regarding Alice’s energy future, what is your alternative policy to the CLP’s $75 million gas technology option?
    If you support a significant solar portion, will you be able to get Labor or 1Territory support?

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  3. Michael Dzamko
    Posted February 12, 2016 at 1:23 pm

    Howdy. Who remembers the floods in 1982-3, not sure of year but Alice lost power for four to five days. The S*it farm could not operate, no refrigeration and dump was full of supermarket goodies.
    The power was turned off because water was leaking into the power station.
    When asked why the pumps were not turned on, the answer was that the pumps were electrical pumps and the station could blow up.
    All because the planners built the power Station below the flood level of the Todd.
    I remember it well as I was the milkman for Malanda and my supply had just rolled into town. I spent my time delivering a few crates of milk at a time to the shops.
    Tills would not operate and some of the shops just let people help themselves.
    Let us hope they get it right this time.
    Cheers, Mick Dzamko.

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  4. Phil Walcott
    Posted February 11, 2016 at 3:14 pm

    If the oil and gas industries were smart, they’d reconstruct their business models to focus on the renewable energy opportunities that are emerging.
    That way, they get to stay in business and the environment is saved from being ravaged and decimated by the toxic fossil-fuel extraction processes. No fracking required.
    People have their power needs satisfied and the country stays intact. Forgive the pun, but it’s not rocket science!
    Phil Walcott
    Independent for Braitling

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  5. Time for Action
    Posted February 11, 2016 at 1:46 pm

    The debate about viability is over!
    Any issues with solar pale into insignificance when you take a look at what this CLP government is trying to do!
    Looking forward to Labor’s alternative to this $75 Million gas industry hand-out!
    Look at this article:
    CONSUMERS ARE SUBSIDISING THE UNPROFITABLE FRACKING GAS INDUSTRY
    http://m.theage.com.au/business/comment-and-analysis/consumers-are-subsidising-the-unprofitable-coal-seam-gas-industry-20160207-gmnmkw.html

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  6. Trevor Shiell
    Posted February 11, 2016 at 1:10 am

    I suggest planners look up the December issue of Australasian Science to see just how short term gas and other fossil fuels are.
    Just this week two major gas explorers in the eastern states are closing their exploration activities and looking elsewhere.
    Solar and wind are much larger than all other energy sources in Australia.
    Morocco has the largest solar installation in the world at the moment and SA gets 40% of its electricity from wind.
    Pt Augusta is in its death throes but we in our infinite wisdom are booting up a gas plant.
    We all know that in the night we have no sun and therefore no power.
    Battery technology is going so fast that self contained storage is no longer a pipe dream, but the go is now pumped hydroelectric energy storage (PHES) where solar electricity is used to pump water to high storage tanks and then allowed to fall at night through turbines to generate hydro.
    Figures suggest that this is around 80% efficient and can be employed away from rivers and other sources of conventional water.
    Here for example it could be used to pump sewerage water onto the holding tanks on the tip and used at night to flow back generating electricity on its way.
    The pressure gradient (head) in this case may not be sufficient but there are many places in the NT that should be looked at.
    The most striking one is Tennant, where water from Mary Anne Dam could be elevated using their abundant solar capability and fed not only to Tennant but to the Eastern States via the proposed rail corridor, using German carbon nano tube transmission lines with electrical resistance a fraction of that of copper.
    This technology is well into the planning stage at Tumut, in NSW, using twin 20 HA storage ponds.
    We have the solar capability, but the thinking of Government is as usual 20 years behind the rest of the country and they are protecting their political backsides in backing gas – a rapidly obsolete technology being phased out in other places.
    I urge your readers (and Government) to read the articles mentioned above.

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  7. David Nixon
    Posted February 10, 2016 at 1:34 pm

    The video mentioned in the article: https://youtu.be/R3VdYRQSsMI
    On a personal note, I’m in favour of developing and maintaining the network so long as it sits within a framework that is geared towards supporting individuals to become energy self reliant and/or energy producers.
    Bugger this investing in legacy industries nonsense, locking us in to one energy provider for the next 20 odd years while they recoup their ROI. Bring forward a more progressive paradigm and give the Alice the means to achieve renewable energy independence.

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  8. Details
    Posted February 10, 2016 at 9:33 am

    @ Jake. The terms of that contract are not some kind of lock in arrangement to support this infrastructure spend!
    Fracking is not going ahead in the NT so use that purchasing contract to prop up the pipeline supply for the CLP’s failed fracking gamble. It can forever remain a CLP legacy to Giles and the lost years.
    NT Taxpayers and voters have every right to ask why this $75m (or a large portion of it) is not a massive solar investment.
    Anyway, where are the details of the gas supply deal? Not in the Power Water annual report!
    Where is the the green paper, the white paper (or just a discussion paper) with some details?
    Who are the major beneficiaries this $75m decision? NT Taxpayers? No! Oh wait – it’s Central Petroleum and the fracking industry.

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  9. David de Vries
    Posted February 10, 2016 at 9:21 am

    Current generators at Owen Springs are sufficient. Keep them running on NT gas for next 20 years.
    Agreed, there is an opportunity not to invest in more fossil infrastructure. The simplest intervention is to make nighttime demand lower.
    Current pricing shifts demand away from the daytime 40.03 cents per kilowatt hour (no minimum) from 6am to 6pm and 22.53 cents per kilowatt hour from 6pm to 6am. (Jacana website). Similarly all load shifting programs over last 10 years have been about moving demand into night.
    Even without incentives, the financial case for solar installations is fuelling increased solar generation.
    The worst case scenario is that NT Government = Power Water Corporation = Jacana ties itself into expensive fossil models that require it to decrease the solar buyback rate in order to make a return.
    This has happened interstate.

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  10. Jake
    Posted February 10, 2016 at 8:09 am

    Unfortunately the NTG locked us into a fossil fuels future in 2013.
    The Power and Water Corporation signed a 20-year deal to buy gas.
    From last year, it started buying up to 31 petajoules of gas, piping it to a treatment plant at the Brewer Industrial Estate, and on to the Owen Springs Power Station.
    19 years to go before we can have solar technology.

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  11. John Dawkins
    Posted February 9, 2016 at 5:48 pm

    Think to the future!

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One Trackback

  1. By From Paris to Alice | echotango on February 18, 2016 at 4:47 pm

    Then just a few days later the NT government approved the tender for a new power station in Alice for $75m. No-one can recall even a murmur about the tender process.

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