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  • Rikki Lambert

Hydrogen versus stadium energy - major parties trade policy blows 1 year out from SA election

With one year to go until the South Australian state election, the Liberal and Labor parties have marked the start of the countdown with expensive signature policy announcements designed to capture different types of energy.

On Friday the Marshall Liberal government announced it would build a $700 million city 'Riverbank' stadium in the rapidly redeveloped health and entertainment precinct on the Adelaide railyards.

The announcement harks back to former Liberal opposition leader Martin Hamilton-Smith's signature policy moves for a city stadium and a desalination plant. Both concepts were gazumped by the then Rann Labor government adopting the initiatives in form of the Port Stanvac desal plant and a redevelopment of Adelaide Oval.

The Marshall government hopes to generate some electoral energy with this announcement, albeit restricted by the sizing of the stadium limited to 15,000 people as the plan is primarily designed to replace the Adelaide Entertainment Centre for major events.

The government policy's $700 million pricetag could at least be offset by an anticipated sale of the Entertainment Centre site on prime real estate on the edge of the Adelaide Parklands, adjacent to a tram stop installed by the Labor government to encourage near-city living at Bowden-Brompton. With a cloud over both Coca-Cola and the West End brewery's futures across the Torrens from the Entertainment Centre site, the next government will be licking their lips at the investment boom that could occur in the city's formerly industrial (and potentially contaminated) inner-southwest.

Labor marked its starters' pistol moment for the election with a signature $590 million hydrogen energy policy, including a proposed 200 megawatt capacity hydrogen electricity plant. Hydrogen energy is an embryonic concept attracting bipartisan support for research and development in Australia.

Labor says their plan will deliver:

  • Up to 300 jobs during the construction of the power station

  • At least 10,000 jobs unlocked from the $20 billion pipeline of renewable energy projects in South Australia.

  • More than 900 jobs created through developing a hydrogen export industry.

Labor opposition leader Peter Malinauskas said in a statement on Tuesday morning:

Hydrogen is central to the world’s energy future – it’s cleaner, it’s cheaper and South Australia is uniquely positioned to become a world leader, with our abundant wind and solar resources.
South Australia has a proud legacy of leading Australia and the world on renewable energy and this is our next leap forward. We have all the ingredients; we just need a vision.

The announcement caught the Marshall government on the back foot, with Minister for Innovation David Pisoni grabbing some recent research promoted by the state government to suggest it too is working hard on embracing a hydrogen energy future:

The Marshall government and the Port of Rotterdam Authority sign Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) to study feasibility of exporting green South Australian hydrogen to Rotterdam, Europe’s largest port. This MoU connects some of the world’s most ambitious players in the hydrogen economy.

The Conservation Council of SA was quick to share its praise of Labor's policy, with chief executive Craig Wilkins saying in a statement:

“An excess of wind and solar power in the middle of the day is an exciting opportunity for our state to attract industry and jobs.
“Using renewable hydrogen alongside batteries is a far better grid stability option than fossil gas. It’s also a smarter use of hydrogen than pumping it through the domestic gas network.
“Labor’s proposal will reduce the challenge of a peaky generation cycle and help set us up to export hydrogen.

Labor's proposed 200 megawatt capacity falls short of the 240 megawatt capacity of the Playford B coal-fired power plant that Labor symbolically demolished late in its time in office, and Labor has not yet stated where it anticipates such a power plant might be located.

The summer of 2020-21 has been fortunate for the Marshall government, lacking the extreme heat that causes peak demand (largely from air conditioners) and in turn brownouts and blackouts that become a hot political topic. The same heat often brings a new round of climate prophecies that see 'inaction on climate change' coupled with energy debates centering on adding renewable energy capacity rather than baseload capacity.

With the current flood-inducing La Niña weather system expected to fade and the dreaded heat and drought-inducing El Niño potentially forming next summer, Labor will be banking on its hydrogen energy plant policy being a hot topic in the summer months leading into the March election.


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