Incoming South Australian Premier Steven Marshall has today revealed that the Liberal government will not continue with Jay Weatherill's plan to install batteries in thousands of low-income households. The new government's plan will instead focus on means-tested subsidies for battery systems, and on the grid scale a focus on interconnectivity with NSW.
In a radio interview with ABC RN Breakfast this morning, Marshall talked briefly about his focus for South Australia in the upcoming years, including the direction he was planning to take with Jay Weatherill's many renewable initiatives. Marshall confirmed that the party would be continuing with a $100 million home battery subsidy outlined mid campaign, rather than following through on the Labor campaign that would have installed Tesla batteries in South Australia's Housing Trust homes at no cost to their occupants.
While on the surface Marshall's plan sounds similar, promising batteries in 40,000 homes where Labor had aimed for batteries and rooftop solar on 50,000 houses, the Liberal plan cuts low income earners out of the equation. "[Jay Weatherill] was doing it for Housing Trust homes in South Australia. That’s not part of our agenda," Marshall clarified. "Our agenda is the 40,000 homes and we’re going to do 10,000 a year."
While the grants - around $2,500 per home - will be means tested, they are intended for houses with existing rooftop solar, and still require an upfront payment that low income earners will not be able to afford. The cheapest battery available in Australia is the Ampetus Super Lithium at $2,300 for 2.7kWh of usable storage, but this doesn't include the cost of installation, a separate inverter and the solar panels to go with it.
Marshall cited the Finkel Report a number of times in the ten minute interview, claiming that the Liberals' policies were in line with the recommendations of the Chief Scientist. Yet one of the report's recommendations was to provide access to batteries and solar for the low income households that are currently locked out of that market. This move seems to be shutting down an initiative that would have done just that.
Disappointingly, Marshall has said he will not be upholding Weatherill's promise of a 75 per cent renewable target for South Australia. "We don't believe in state-based renewable energy targets," he explained. "We do support a national approach." Yet experts have said that the federal government's National Energy Guarantee sets too soft a target for the electricity industry to pull its weight on meeting Australia's emission targets under the Paris Agreement, making it all the more disappointing that South Australia will now be doing even less to help.
Marshall's other big focus in the energy sector is a planned $500 million interconnector that would link NSW and SA, allowing both states to import and export electricity to each other. While NSW is a big import market, SA's overall power production is very small compared to Queensland and Victoria, the two states that already export electricity to NSW:
A live view of the electricity being generated in Australia, by state.
South Australia already has two interconnectors with Victoria, both importing from and exporting to its neighbour state, so the concept of trading power with other states isn't quite as novel as Marshall makes it sound.
One silver lining to all this is that Marshall and the South Australian Liberals at least seem to understand how important renewable energy is to the state. Marshall pledged "additional money" to grid-scale battery projects, and implied that this kind of investment would continue.