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SA faces "big step backwards" on renewable energy

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A visiting American climate campaigner and prominent environmental journalist says South Australia would be making a “big mistake” if it were to remove its renewable energy target.

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Bill McKibben, who founded global climate campaign group 350.org, says he is meeting with the Premier’s Climate Change Council and senior state bureaucrats in Adelaide today to discuss the need to speed up South Australia’s transition to renewable energy.

McKibben told InDaily he wanted to visit Adelaide after learning about the state’s lithium-ion battery – built by tech giant Elon Musk last year – however, he said he is concerned about the renewable energy direction signalled by the new Marshall government.

The Liberal Party entered the March election promising to abolish the state’s renewable energy target – currently set at 50 per cent – in deference to a national policy, largely based on the National Energy Guarantee (NEG).

The guarantee aims to reduce power prices and increase energy reliability using energy produced from coal, gas and pumped hydro. As part of this approach, the Federal Government would also scrap subsidies and incentives for renewables.

“It (the NEG) is highly unambitious and in the case of South Australia it represents a big step backwards,” McKibben said.

“South Australia was moving towards more renewable energy and now it has decided it would like an easier target.

“It’s like a student deciding that they can’t really hack advanced math so they go back to doing simple addition and subtraction because it’s easier.”

Premier Steven Marshall has previously said the NEG would provide more “affordable and reliable power” and that states must stop “going on frolics of their own and experimenting with something as vital as affordable and reliable electricity”.

The Liberal Party’s energy-related policies also include a $200 million interconnector with New South Wales and a $100 million subsidy scheme for home solar batteries.

McKibben said South Australia should look to the Australian Capital Territory, which plans on running on 100 per cent renewable power by 2020.

“The ACT’s target will make it one of the first places in the world to make that leap,” he said.

“That’s the kind of place one wants to be for all kinds of reasons for the climate but also economically because that’s the way the world is headed.

“It’s very clear what direction the world is moving in and it’s very clear that the prize will go to those that move the quickest.”

McKibben said Solar Reserve’s 150-megawatt solar thermal plant near Port Augusta put South Australia in the international spotlight for the right reasons.

“In this world, especially when it comes to government projects, we’re not very good at doing things fast anymore and speed, in this case, is a great virtue.

“The Port Augusta story is an example of this happening and it’s really getting known around the world because it has some of the earmarks of a successful transition for a community that depended on one thing and moved in a new direction.”

McKibben will give a public talk on climate change action at Elder Hall tonight. Event details here.

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