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Foreign companies in "quest" for SA energy security

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Companies from around the world have put their hands up to build the State Government’s new gas power plant and "Australia's largest battery", Premier Jay Weatherill announced this morning.

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The Government says it has received 31 proposals to construct the power plant in the expressions of interest process, which closed on Tuesday.

“This has become an international quest to grapple with South Australia’s energy future,” Weatherill told a press conference at Parliament House.

“There’s been interest from dozens of countries around the world.

“Those submissions will now be evaluated.”

The Government has received expressions of interest in the project from companies in Australia, China, Malaysia, Singapore, France, Finland, Spain and the United Kingdom.

Weatherill said that a concurrent EOI process, accepting proposals to build “Australia’s largest battery”, received 90 expressions of interest before it closed at the end of last month.

He said several companies that had expressed interest in building the new generator had also submitted a proposal to build the battery.

“The world understands that there is a carbon-constrained future,” he said, adding that the Government had not yet seen the detail of the proposals – to preserve the probity of the process.

Energy Minister Tom Koutsantonis said the new power generator would not be a “competitor” in the energy market, but only be used to stabilise it, and to prevent “load-shedding”.

“We’re not competing with AGL; we’re not competing with Origin,” he said.

“This plant will be owned by South Australians and provide stand-by power for SA in times of emergency.

“The plant will be running all the time to help stabilise the grid.”

Weatherill said the generator would be forced “on pain of penalties” not to produce power except in emergency situations.

However a spokesperson later said that since the plant would be government controlled, penalties would not apply “in the normal course of events”.

The spokesperson said the plant would be providing “inertia” to keep the grid stable – but not generate power, unless it was an emergency, and would therefore not constitute a competitor in the energy market.

Koutsantonis said he was powerless to “stop the weather” from causing power outages next summer.

“I can’t stop the weather… I can’t stop trees calling on power plants,” he said.

“What I can do is make sure that South Australia is in control.”

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