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National Energy Laws (Wholesale Market Monitoring)

9 April 2024

I rise to speak in favour of the Statutes Amendment (National Energy Laws) (Wholesale Market Monitoring) Bill 2023. This bill improves the transparency of energy contracts between energy wholesalers and retailers by giving the Australian Energy Regulator monitoring powers to analyse the efficacy of competition and to identify features of contracts that are detrimental to energy supply or cost.

The sale of ETSA back in the 1990s was a major blow to South Australia, exposing the vulnerability in our electricity systems. Now we are in a situation as a result of that appalling decision where we are relying on privatised wholesale and retail markets to provide efficient and affordable energy supply. What we are seeing in energy prices is an increase over time, even though renewable energy has dramatically reduced the cost of producing energy in our state. These increased costs are placing a huge burden on household budgets and putting the viability of small businesses at risk. This is simply not a sustainable situation.

It is for this reason that the Greens have been calling for the re-establishment of a new ETSA to bring power back into public hands and address the ongoing issues of our privatised energy market. Indeed, back in 2022 the Labor Party promised during the election that they would establish a commission of inquiry into bringing back public ownership of our trains and trams. They have not needed to proceed with that inquiry, and I recognise the work of the transport minister in that regard, but we could use that same model to examine the issues associated with our energy network, look at what it would take to bring back ETSA and give South Australians control of our electricity once again.

Local government is starting to take the power back into its own hands. Indeed, the City of Mitcham has become a leader in the energy industry, creating a community renewables program that gives local communities agency and control over their power. I understand that over 760 households have signed up to receive solar panels or batteries and their next step is to establish a virtual power plant. For those who may not be aware, a virtual power plant, also known as a VPP, shares renewable energy generated at individual properties across a local network. It helps prevent blackouts, reduces electricity costs and addresses climate change. As more people move towards models like this, we will see a total shift in our energy market. It is the democratisation of energy generation and distribution.

This bill is necessary for the Australian Energy Regulator to address the lack of transparency in contracts with the big retailers and the big wholesalers. If we were to bring back publicly owned electricity to South Australia and establish more local power networks, as could be achieved through virtual power plants, we could entirely change the energy landscape and entirely remove the need for the types of measures included in this bill. The problem here is not simply transparency; the problem is that the Liberals sold off ETSA to private providers who are more interested in making a buck than serving the public good. We need to see that reversed and we need to put the power back into public hands.

I do want to take this opportunity to caution the Liberal Party against ever going down the privatisation path again. I do welcome the fact that the Malinauskas government has worked with the Greens to support a bill that will make it very difficult to sell off key public assets in the future without appropriate parliamentary scrutiny. That is a really good step, and I think it will ensure that this parliament does not repeat the folly of the Liberals in the future.


Energy Retailers Pricing Structure

The Hon. R.A. SIMMS (27 September 2023): Can the Minister for Energy and Mining advise:

1. Are energy retailers in South Australia able to recoup the following from customers through their pricing structure?

(a) Lobbying

(b) Public relations spending

(c) Trade association fees

(d) Political advocacy

2. Are energy retailers in South Australia able to include any of the above costs in their retail allowance?

The Hon. C.M. SCRIVEN (Minister for Primary Industries and Regional Development, Minister for Forest Industries): The Minister for Energy and Mining advises:

Unfortunately, the energy system in South Australia was privatised by the Liberal government of the time. Consequently, the government of South Australia has no oversight of the business decisions made by privately owned energy retailers.

These retailers are subject to the same set of laws and regulations as any other privately owned business selling goods and services to consumers, including but not limited to the Commonwealth's Corporations Act 2001 and the Competition and Consumer Act 2010.

In addition, in the energy market, retailers are obliged to operate under the National Energy Retail Rules. The Australian Energy Regulator is responsible for monitoring and enforcing these rules. Provided they do not breach any applicable laws and regulations, how costs of doing business are recovered are matters for the retailers.


Question: Power Outages

28 November 2023

The Hon. R.A. SIMMS (15:29): I seek leave to make a brief explanation before addressing a question without notice to the Minister for Regional Development on the topic of power outages.

Leave granted.

The Hon. R.A. SIMMS: At the height of the storm that hit South Australia last night, 14,000 people were left without power and over 5,000 South Australians were still without power at 10am this morning, mostly in regional areas. Some of the worst hit regions were the Barossa, the Lower Murraylands, the Mid North and the Flinders. Last year, the secretary of SA Unions, Dale Beasley, wrote an open letter to the Premier, the Hon. Peter Malinauskas, calling for a reversal of the privatisation of our energy network. In the letter he stated that, 'This model has seen under investment in maintenance and replacement of electricity distribution infrastructure.'

I asked the Minister for Regional Development about this matter back in September, and in the response to my question without notice that she has tabled today she stated:

The government believes that privatising the network by the then Liberal administration was a foolish decision which has resulted in sub-optimal outcomes for consumers. However, restoring the electricity network to public ownership would be a complex and expensive undertaking.

She goes on to state:

Any consideration of such a change would require thorough analysis rather than superficial thinking.

My question to the minister therefore is:

1. In light of her remarks, would she consider the Greens' push for a commission of inquiry into bringing electricity back into public hands?

2. What action has the minister taken to ensure that people in the regions have access to power during this storm?

The Hon. C.M. SCRIVEN (Minister for Primary Industries and Regional Development, Minister for Forest Industries) (15:31): I thank the honourable member for his question. In terms of one part of that question, it is certainly the case that in the answer I provided to the honourable member, where I alluded to the advice received from the Minister for Energy in the other place, I stated there would indeed need to be a thorough analysis of any proposal to bring electricity back into government hands. We all remember of course how many problems have eventuated due to ill-conceived privatisation by a former Liberal government in this state. In terms of those sorts of steps, I am happy to refer that to the Minister for Energy in the other place.

In terms of the storm power outages, I am advised that, as the honourable member referred to, the storms did cause widespread power outages in addition to localised flooding. I am advised that approximately 155,000 lightning strikes were recorded, some 26,000 of those hitting the ground. Some of the lightning strikes hit electrical infrastructure, which caused damage. There was also damage from trees and vegetation falling on powerlines, and I am advised that this led to about 30,000 SA Power Networks customers being affected by an outage.

I am advised that SAPN mobilised additional crews and have been restoring power to most customers, and as of 10am today there remained approximately 5,000 out of those 14,000 customers who were still without power. SAPN prioritises work to protect public safety first, and then targets outages from the biggest through to single affected customers. I am further advised that the storm also affected some ElectraNet assets, but the transmission provider expected all lines to be in service by mid-morning, which is the most up-to-date information I have in that regard. Further, there was no loss of load from the transmission network.

The Hon. R.A. SIMMS (15:33): Supplementary: does the minister accept the analysis of SA Unions that privatisation has seen underinvestment in maintenance and replacement of electricity distribution infrastructure that has contributed to the power failure we have seen overnight?

The Hon. C.M. SCRIVEN (Minister for Primary Industries and Regional Development, Minister for Forest Industries) (15:33): I think the privatisation of the state's electricity assets by a former Liberal government was a disaster.

 

In reply to the Hon. R.A. SIMMS (28 November 2023).

1. In light of her remarks, would she consider the Greens' push for a commission of inquiry into bringing electricity back into public hands?

2. What action has the minister taken to ensure that people in the regions have access to power during this storm?

The Hon. C.M. SCRIVEN (Minister for Primary Industries and Regional Development, Minister for Forest Industries): Response by Hon. A. Koutsantonis:

The record shows that the minister provided a detailed answer to the second of the Hon. Robert Simms' questions at the time it was asked.

In answer to the first question, as previously advised, the Malinauskas Labor government believes that the privatisation of the electricity system by the then Liberal government in 1999 was a mistake which has not delivered optimal outcomes for consumers. However, also as previously advised, to reverse the privatisation would be complex and costly. It would raise issues of sovereign risk which could deter investors from funding projects in South Australia. Reversing privatisation would require compensation to be paid by taxpayers to the companies which now operate the electricity system.

The Australian Energy Regulator (AER) assesses the regulated asset bases of the network businesses in South Australia—distributor SA Power Networks (SAPN) and transmission provider ElectraNet. In the current determination period, the AER estimated SAPN's regulated asset base would be $4.9 billion as at June 2025. For ElectraNet, the AER determined the asset base at $3.9 billion on 1 July 2023, rising to $4.4 billion by June 2028. As well as their asset bases, the network providers might have a claim to other value elements of their businesses in the eventuality of a privatisation reversal.

In generation, any proposed compulsory acquisition would be even more complex. There are more than 40 major generation plants in the state and a significant number more of commercial scale while not being market participants in their own right. These vary in technology, scale, plant age and condition, ownership structure and other factors.

With South Australia already linked to Victoria for transmission and soon to be linked to New South Wales, there would be further complexity as some companies operate portfolio generation across multiple plants, influencing the value of an individual asset.

Generation assets would amount to billions of dollars of invested capital. These identified costs would be the minimum burden on taxpayers from a privatisation reversal.

At this point in time, the Malinauskas government does not agree that a commission of inquiry into returning the electricity system to public hands would be a prudent use of taxpayer funds and government resources. Therefore, we will not be supporting the Greens' proposal.

Rather the Malinauskas government is focused on delivering a state-owned enterprise to run the Hydrogen Jobs Plan assets and business.

We are also developing a comprehensive suite of policies on the energy transition to ensure initiatives act in concert across sectors. The Department for Energy and Mining published a green paper to stimulate discussion, held discussions with stakeholders and invited comment and submissions. That work is well advanced.

The government is focused on regulatory and structural reforms to deliver cleaner, affordable, and reliable energy to all South Australians, including the most financially vulnerable.


Statutes Amendment (National Energy Laws) (Other Gases) Bill

16 November 2023

The Hon. R.A. SIMMS (16:37): I rise to speak on the Statutes Amendment (National Energy Laws) (Other Gases) Bill 2023 in what will be my last speech during state parliament's gas week. This bill refers to the definition of gas in our legislative instruments, as has been noted by the Hon. Heidi Girolamo. Currently, the National Gas (South Australia) Act 2008 refers to natural gas throughout. I have talked a bit this week about greenwashing. That is no more evident than in the use of the term 'natural gas', because we know that natural gas is not really natural. It is a non-renewable fossil fuel. The word 'natural' has been coopted by the gas industry to buy a social licence for this polluting energy source, which mostly comprises methane.

Gas production and burning gas for energy produces greenhouse gases that are detrimental to our environment and our health and drive climate change. By clarifying the definition of gases, this bill will allow for gases such as green hydrogen to be subject to the same provisions as natural gas was previously. The Greens are supportive of green hydrogen as an alternative fuel source. I have indicated that during the various debates we have had this week.

According to the Climate Council, only green hydrogen—that is, hydrogen produced with renewable energy—belongs in a zero emissions future. South Australia has sufficient renewable energy to lead a green hydrogen industry. In fact, that was the promise of the Malinauskas government at the last election.

It was disappointing for us to see that what became a promise ended up being a non-core commitment when the legislation came before the parliament, and instead we saw the government being agnostic on the question of whether or not they should be using green or blue hydrogen. That certainly was not the proposition they took to the people of South Australia. I will be interested to know what the Premier's Delivery Unit says about that.

However, we would like to once again put on the record that we are opposed to blue hydrogen, in fact to any other colour in the hydrogen rainbow that is not green. Blue hydrogen produced from fossil fuel is not the way forward; it locks us into a non-renewable gas future. We do note, however, that this bill includes a reference to gas blends.

I should note that I am pretty cynical about gas blends, because they are talked about in the South Australian context as being pumped into homes through the existing gas infrastructure and being used for residential use, and the environmental benefits of that are negligible. I think, from memory, the best that you can hope for in terms of a gas blend is about 20 per cent hydrogen with so-called natural gas. That does not deliver demonstrable environmental benefits, I am advised.

There is concern about a lot of emphasis being put on that at a time when we should be focusing on transitioning households away from gas, looking at some of the approaches that have been taken in other states. Obviously, no other party supported the Greens' push to ban gas connections on new homes from 2025. There has not been support for the Greens' push to prevent developers from mandating new gas connections, but there are things the government could do in terms of putting money on the table, as has happened in the ACT and Victoria, to encourage home owners to move away from gas. That would reduce their energy bills and the environmental effect. That is the missing piece in the puzzle in terms of the government's approach.

We recognise there may be some need for gas blending in industrial settings, and therefore we will not oppose the inclusion of that in this bill, but we want to see much more work being done to support these industries to start to move away from methane gas, and we want to see fossil fuel being eliminated.

Changing the definitions for gas in the Gas Act will allow us to become a green hydrogen superpower, if this is the government's ambition, and I sincerely hope that it is. We are ready to support a green hydrogen plan if the Malinauskas government really wants us to be a leader in a zero emissions future. We, of course, welcome any moves away from methane gas, but we want to ensure that we are not just throwing another lifeline to the fossil fuel industry and prolonging the use of gas under another name.

We will continue to monitor this closely, and of course I will continue to ask questions in this place and give speeches outside of our energy week on this topic to ensure that we can keep the issue on the burner, so to speak. With that, I conclude my remarks.


Petroleum and Geothermal Energy (Energy Resources) Amendment Bill

16 November 2023

The Hon. R.A. SIMMS (15:29): I welcome the opportunity to speak again on gas week, or energy week, as it has become. It is the theme of the week.

An honourable member interjecting:

The Hon. R.A. SIMMS: There is a lot of hot air in here, as the honourable member accurately observes. There is a lot of gaslighting that has been happening in this chamber this week and a lot of greenwashing as well.

I welcome the opportunity to speak on the Petroleum and Geothermal Energy (Energy Resources) Amendment Bill. The bill makes amendments to the Petroleum and Geothermal Energy Act 2000. The name of the act will be changed to the energy resources act as I understand it will cover resources such as geothermal resources, naturally forming hydrogen, underground coal gasification, carbon dioxide, and carbon capture and storage.

Produced hydrogen and renewable energy are dealt with under the Hydrogen and Renewable Energy Bill, which we discussed at length into the late hours last night. The bill inserts some provisions that require licensee holders to undertake engagement with stakeholders in preparing environmental impact reports and statements of environmental impacts.

The bill also introduces rent for the use of the state's natural reservoirs to store regulated substances, such as carbon. Under the bill, I understand that rent will only be applicable to imported substances but does not require a rent to be paid for locally produced substances. What we are talking about here is carbon capture storage. Carbon capture occurs when a material, such as methane or hydrogen, is extracted from underground leaving a cavity in its place. The idea is then to replace resultant carbon in the space that is left behind.

The Greens are not supportive of carbon capture storage, as we are concerned that this is a delaying tactic for the coal and gas industry to justify fossil fuel projects. It is a form of greenwashing and it gives a social licence to fossil fuel industries. According to the Climate Council, carbon capture storage is a licence to ramp up emissions. Around the world, carbon capture storage projects are being built to allow for continued oil and gas production.

In Australia, the coal and gas industry is pushing for CCS so it has a licence to keep its polluting project going, not because it wants to cut emissions—that is the view of the Climate Council. Greg Bourne, an energy expert at the Climate Council, has also said:

Carbon capture and storage is not a climate solution but rather an expensive attempt to prolong the role of fossil fuels in the energy system… right now the Government needs to be focused on building a resilient, renewable economy, not throwing taxpayer dollars at fossil fuel producers and failed technology.

In our briefing on this bill, we were advised that Japan and Korea are looking for places to store their carbon. This bill proposes to charge those places rent for disposing of polluting by-products, but it exempts local producers who are doing the same thing. Therefore, I will be moving amendments to ensure that local companies have to pay for the storage as well as any imported carbon. It is important that we put a price on the storage of carbon that comes as a result of extractive industries.

It is the Greens' policy to stop using fossil fuels, stop the greenwashing that we see from the coal and gas industry, and stop the continuation of non-renewable energy. It is appropriate to charge a levy for storage of carbon, even though we are not supportive of carbon capture itself as a technology.

Indeed, as I speak today, I know that there are students sitting on the steps of this place calling on the government to take action on climate, and I had the opportunity to meet with them earlier today and earlier in the week. These young people know that we need to do better for our environment. We need to stop using fossil fuels as a way to power South Australia. We need to commit to renewable energy for the future and we do not want to see the prolonged use of technologies that rely on fossil fuels.

Whilst we will be supporting this bill, we will be moving amendments to ensure that any carbon capture has a price tag applied to it at a local level as well as at an international level, and the Greens of course will continue to campaign for action on this important area. I do urge the government to give favourable consideration to this amendment. We know that they are in the pocket of the gas industry. We know that they are the political arm of the gas industry in this place. They are absolutely in their pocket.

I urge them to show some leadership when it comes to addressing the climate crisis, not to simply do as the Minister for Energy, Tom Koutsantonis, has said, 'Roll out the red carpet for gas. Come on down. Whatever you want, we're here to help you.' Show some leadership and let's start cracking down on these dirty polluting industries.


Gas (Ban on New Connections) Amendment Bill

15 November 2023

The Hon. R.A. SIMMS (20:11): I think Socrates would not be able to turn this one around, based on the feedback I have heard from my colleagues. It is a shame we cannot make renewable energy from the hot air that I have heard in the chamber tonight during this debate. It is disappointing to hear once again the Labor and Liberal parties clambering over themselves to support gas and dirty fossil fuels. One of the most erroneous arguments that we have heard I think during this debate is the ongoing suggestion that gas is somehow cheaper. We know, of course, that that is simply not the case.

I want to refer the chamber to a report that was released just a few days ago by the Monash Climate Change Communication Research Hub, which reviewed and brought together leading electrification research and looked at the impacts of electrifying the residential sector with more affordable energy efficient appliances. As part of that, the report found that in almost all contexts, electricity would cut household energy bills and that electrifying Australia's entire residential sector would save households $4.9 billion in total annual energy costs.

The author, whose name is Amelia Pearson, said that there was a time not long ago that using gas to heat our rooms, water and stovetops was the cheaper choice. Those days are now behind us and electric appliances are both more efficient and cost effective. As gas prices continue to overtake the cost of electrification, electrification only makes more financial sense for Australian households, she says. The report looked at the yearly energy savings that could come from four primary sources: gas network connection fees, electrifying hot water systems, electrifying heating and induction cooking appliances.

What the report found was that on average wholesale gas prices increased by 234 per cent over the past decade compared to 137 per cent for electricity. Gas rose an average of 6.37 per cent a year compared to 3.77 per cent for electricity, so the constant refrain made by the Labor and Liberal parties that banning gas connections for new homes is going to hike up energy prices is a pure fiction. It is not supported by the evidence.

It is disappointing that the two major parties in our state are hooked on gas, because it is bad for carbon emissions and it is bad for community health and wellbeing. A few weeks ago, we saw the universities of Adelaide and South Australia merge; now we are seeing the Labor and Liberal parties merge on this question and it is very, very disappointing.

You have other jurisdictions around the world, other states around the world, that are showing leadership on this and banning new gas connections. The ACT has done it and Victoria has done it—another Labor government—but here in South Australia you have the Labor government in the arms of the gas companies and in the arms of the fossil fuel industry and it is profoundly disappointing. The Labor Party needs to do a lot better. I will call a division so you can all justify your position to your constituents in the middle of a climate emergency.

The council divided on the second reading:

Ayes 2

Noes 15

Majority 13

AYES

Franks, T.A. Simms, R.A. (teller)  

NOES

Bourke, E.S. Centofanti, N.J. El Dannawi, M.
Girolamo, H.M. Hanson, J.E. Henderson, L.A.
Hood, B.R. Hunter, I.K. Lee, J.S.
Maher, K.J. Martin, R.B. Ngo, T.T.
Pangallo, F. Scriven, C.M. (teller) Wortley, R.P.

Second reading thus negatived.


Motion: Referring the Hydrogen & Renewable Energy Bill to a Select Committee

15 November 2023

The Hon. R.A. SIMMS (11:13): By leave, I move contingent notice of motion No. 3 in an amended form:

1. That the bill be referred to a select committee of the Legislative Council for inquiry and report.

2. That the committee consist of six members and that the quorum of members necessary to be present at all meetings of the committee be fixed at four members.

3. That this council permits the select committee to authorise the disclosure or publication, as it sees fit, of any evidence or documents presented to the committee prior to such evidence being presented to the council.

I have already outlined in my second reading speech the rationale for this committee, but to make it very clear to this council, the Greens have always been open-minded on the proposal that the government has put. Indeed, my default position when it was canvassed during the election was to be supportive in principle of the proposal, but we always said we wanted to see the detail. We did try over many months to get briefings with the government. We did eventually secure one and that was a welcome breakthrough for us, but it would have been good to have had the opportunity to dive into this bill in more detail.

That is why I will be moving to refer this on to a committee, so that there is an opportunity for the parliament to scrutinise in greater detail the implications of this bill. What are the implications for the environment? What are the potential implications for native title? What are the implications for our economy and do the benefits stack up? What do the individual provisions of the bill mean? How do they interact?

I think there is a dangerous precedent being established in this parliament; that is, when the government has big picture projects, they seek to rush them through with limited scrutiny. I really urge crossbenchers in considering this proposal to consider their role in this place. It is not the role of the crossbench to acquiesce to the government of the day. People do not vote for crossbench members because they want them to simply wave through the legislation the government presents. They vote for a crossbench because they want bills scrutinised.

This is not about trying to delay or stymie the government; it is about ensuring that we do our due diligence as a parliament and consider a significant proposal, so I urge crossbenchers in particular to turn their minds to their role when they consider this question.


Hydrogen & Renewable Energy Bill

14 November 2023

The Hon. R.A. SIMMS (16:51): I rise to speak on the Hydrogen and Renewable Energy Bill on behalf of the Greens. I should note that I am the spokesperson for energy for our party, so I will speak about the implications for energy policy and my colleague the Hon. Tammy Franks will address the environmental considerations and the impacts for First Nations communities in her second reading speech.

I also indicate, as was alluded to by the Leader of the Opposition, that contingent on the second reading stage I will move to refer this bill onto a select committee for an inquiry. We believe that is a really important step in ensuring that we have a bill, a reform piece, that actually delivers good environmental outcomes for the people of South Australia.

By way of background, when the Labor Party announced their powering new jobs and industry for the future plan, their green hydrogen plan, in the lead-up to the last election, my response at the time—on behalf of the Greens—was to indicate that we were supportive in principle of the concept. Indeed, that has always been our view, but we wanted to see the detail of the legislation and to understand, to make sure, that the government had the energy mix right.

It was with that intention that I reached out to the government on several occasions to seek to understand what they were proposing, even before legislation was brought to the parliament, so that the Greens could be in a position to work constructively with the Malinauskas government and to get a reform piece through this chamber. It is why on 8 June I reached out to the minister directly and requested a meeting with him to discuss the plan.

My office then reached out again on 14 June via email, again on 7 August, again on 21 August, again on 23 August, and then, when we finally got a briefing with staffers, I reiterated on 20 October that I wanted to meet with the minister to discuss the plan. We finally got an audience with the minister last week and I expressed some of the concerns that the Greens had, and we have never received a response to those concerns.

So it is clear that we are a long way off being able to support this legislation. It does not mean that we are opposed to it, but it does mean that we need to apply some rigour, some scrutiny to the government's proposal to ensure that it does not have adverse consequences for our environment, and to ensure that it actually sets our state on the right path in terms of renewables.

For us, there are some significant concerns that we have with the legislation. I will talk you through those. To begin with, I think it is really important that this chamber understands the distinction between green and blue hydrogen. There is indeed a cross-section of hydrogen colours: pink hydrogen, which comes from nuclear sources, or brown hydrogen, which comes from coal. Green hydrogen—that is the form the Labor Party campaigned on in the lead-up to the last election—is derived from renewable energy sources such as wind and solar power and it is made through a process called electrolysis. It is this that the Labor Party allude to in its election manifesto, where the then Labor leader stated in his foreword:

A Malinauskas government will build a 250 megawatt of hydrogen electrolysers, one of the world's largest hydrogen electrolyser facilities.

That is a bit of a tongue twister. It continues:

These electrolysers will create hydrogen from water using green power.

It is this proposition that holds immense promise in the transition away from fossil fuels, particularly in terms of its industrial use, as in the production of green steel in Whyalla. The Greens are attracted to that. I have some knowledge of that issue from when I was involved in a Senate inquiry during my time in federal parliament. I am attracted to that proposition.

Creating a green hydrogen industry in South Australia can accelerate our transition to a sustainable future. The Greens are deeply committed to environmental sustainability and climate action, and we have stated publicly that we are supportive of green hydrogen in terms of reducing our reliance on methane gas in industrial settings. There is the potential for Australia to become a renewable superpower if we focus on green hydrogen and start to build an industry around it.

Certainly, green hydrogen aligns with our goals of reducing greenhouse gas emissions, promoting clean energy and building a greener and healthier future for the community. But there is an important distinction that needs to be drawn between that and blue hydrogen. Blue hydrogen is the cuckoo in the nest of the Labor Party's proposal because it was not part of what they took to the people of South Australia at the last election, but it is part of the proposal for which they are seeking this parliament's support now.

It is really important that this parliament is cognisant of the risks associated with blue hydrogen. Blue hydrogen is produced from methane gas. It is referred to as natural gas, but we know of course that it is not natural in terms of its impact on the environment. The process reforms methane gas to hydrogen, with the carbon waste product being sequestered into the cavity created from extracting the methane gas.

To be clear, it is gas, it is blue hydrogen made out of fossil fuels. It should hardly be surprising then to anybody that the Greens are concerned about blue hydrogen as it locks us into a future reliance on fossil fuels. Furthermore, carbon capture storage could have detrimental environmental impacts, and that is an area of significant concern for us.

On 12 August 2021, The Guardian reported a study, which found that the emissions from producing blue hydrogen are significantly high. Rupert Howarth, a scientist from Cornell University, who authored the paper said:

It's pretty striking, I was surprised by the results. Blue hydrogen is a nice marketing term that the oil and gas industry is keen to push, but it's far from carbon free. I don't think we should be spending our funds this way on these sorts of false solutions.

The Labor Party talks a lot about this being the next gold rush. We want to make sure they are not going after fool's gold, that they are not going to be spending a huge amount of taxpayer money in propping up the gas industry and in doing something that will not actually deliver demonstrable environmental outcomes.

There is no need for blue hydrogen in our state. We have abundant renewable energy resources. Renewable energy is currently meeting approximately 70 per cent of South Australia's total electricity consumption. Green hydrogen can play a role in stabilising the network and reducing industrial reliance on methane gas. However, we do not need to turn to hydrogen produced from fossil fuels to do that.

Over the last six years, South Australian energy ministers have been talking up hydrogen, and as early as 2017 the Weatherill government was touting hydrogen as a key part of its energy plan, particularly for energy storage. Since then the rhetoric has always been around green hydrogen. The Marshall government described hydrogen development as a greenhouse gas free fuel.

In the 2022 election, the Labor Party's policy document, titled the 'Hydrogen jobs plan', committed to building green hydrogen infrastructure. Nowhere in that document is there any reference to any type of hydrogen other than green hydrogen. It was not until late 2022, when the Malinauskas government first started talking about blue hydrogen in their issues paper, that this appeared. Since then, the government has referred to blue hydrogen in 'South Australia's Green Paper on the energy transition', where it states:

As we transition to a net-zero emissions future, the oil and gas industry will continue to play a critical role for South Australia—particularly in the short-to-medium term.

There was a map contained in Labor's election policy, and I will seek leave to table that document.

Leave granted.

The Hon. R.A. SIMMS: The map that was in the election policy document shows the potential for green hydrogen was reproduced in the green paper. However, this time the map identified locations for blue hydrogen in Leigh Creek, Cooper Basin and the Greater Adelaide region. I seek leave to table this document, 'South Australia's Green Paper on the energy transition'.

Leave granted.

The Hon. R.A. SIMMS: The federal energy minister, the Hon. Chris Bowen MP, stated his intentions to support green hydrogen. To quote from the minister in federal parliament, he said, 'The road to green hydrogen does not necessarily go through blue hydrogen.' This is in contrast to the state government's position, where it states:

Blue hydrogen is a potential route for large scale hydrogen production for domestic use or export that is cost competitive using currently available technologies.

There is a clear discrepancy between the positioning of the federal Labor Party and the positioning of Malinauskas Labor here.

We welcome the regulation of the renewable energy industry in South Australia. However, the Greens do not see blue hydrogen as the way forward for our state. We do have sufficient access to wind and sun in South Australia, and we should limit technology to green hydrogen to ensure that we have a clean energy future. There is no need to legislate to allow for blue hydrogen when we could be global leaders in clean energy. Taking a strong position to exclude blue hydrogen would show a clear commitment to our state addressing climate change.

We have declared a climate emergency. What you do when you declare a climate emergency? You do not continue with business as usual. You do not continue propping up the gas industry. Instead, you take dramatic action. I am concerned that what the government is doing here is engaging in a greenwashing exercise.

I am concerned that what the government is doing here is gaslighting the people of South Australia into thinking that this plan is something that it is not. That is why my colleague and I are committed to referring this bill on to a committee inquiry so that we can go through the bill and consider its implications in more detail. Should we be unsuccessful in that endeavour, we will be moving a series of amendments. I will leave the Hon. Tammy Franks to outline the nature of the amendments that she will move, but I will speak briefly to those that I am going to be initiating.

In addition to amendments to remove blue hydrogen from the bill, we will also move to ensure that gas cannot be used for residential purposes. Members will know I have talked a lot about this over the time that I have been in this parliament. It is concerning to us in the Greens that, in contrast to other states and other jurisdictions, South Australia under this government has no plan to move away from gas. Indeed, this is an issue that I have raised with the government. Whenever the minister cares to pick up the phone and take one of my calls, I would make him aware of that, because we are concerned about the fact that South Australia is at risk of becoming the odd man out when it comes to reliance on gas.

Why is it that Victoria has a plan to move away from gas on residential properties, the ACT has a plan to move away from gas on residential properties, but in South Australia there is no such plan, and that is absent in this bill. There is a risk that this bill commits South Australian households to a reliance on gas in the long term, which is totally the opposite to what the Greens have been seeking to achieve. Indeed, it is diametrically opposed to what I had expected the Labor Party would put forward.

The government has also stated their intention to blend hydrogen with methane gas and pump this into homes. While this has been tried in other countries, South Australia's renewable energy abundance means that we are in a better position to electrify our residential energy needs, rather than maintain a residential gas network into the future.

This discussion around hydrogen blend through gas pipelines really requires further explanation because it is a pipedream. It does not deliver environmental outcomes. Indeed, the best that one can hope for, I am advised, is about a 20 per cent hydrogen blend that has negligible environmental impacts. Why on earth would we be spending huge amounts of taxpayer money to potentially deliver hydrogen blend technology to households when we could be ramping up renewables and we could be spending government money on alternatives to gas?

Another concern we have with the bill as it currently stands is that those who are granted a special enterprise licence can be made exempt from any other part of this act at the discretion of the minister. This is an extraordinary power that the Greens are not comfortable with. The submission dated 23 June 2023 from the Law Society highlights their concerns. I quote from that document:

Finally, and of most concern, is the Minister's ability in proposed section 23 to exempt a special enterprise licence from compliance with a provision of the proposed Act. The Society opposes this provision which grates uneasily against the Rule of Law and may give rise to circumstances where a landowner is not given notice and is therefore unable to challenge any decision made.

This is a serious matter that the Law Society have raised, and the Greens share their concern about giving the minister this excessive power.

The final amendment I will move is to ensure that owners of adjoining properties will also need to be notified in accordance with the notice of entry provisions that exist under section 76. The Law Society's submission touches on this point and addresses the rights of adjoining landowners whose neighbouring properties may be impacted by proposed developments. Their submission states:

As a minimum, provision should be made for those adjoining landowners to be notified and consulted. For example, in respect of a windfarm, it is easy to contemplate a proposal where individual towers are placed on the boundary of land far from the owner's dwelling or habitable areas, but directly adjacent to their neighbour's dwelling or habitable area.

Communities can be divided over issues like this, especially in regional areas. The Greens believe that ensuring neighbours are notified is a simple measure that would open up channels of communication and ensure people in the vicinity of a new hydrogen or renewable energy facility are given this information. We want renewable energy to be viewed positively in the community, and a key way to do that is to build community consensus and ensure that people are kept in the loop about what is happening in their neighbourhood.

To be very clear, the Greens are committed to renewable energy. We are committed to ending the reliance on gas across the country. We are supportive of the role of green hydrogen; however, we are concerned about this bill's capacity to fast-track blue hydrogen production. It is vital for us that the future of our planet is protected and that we do not see more fossil fuel projects.

The Greens have been open-minded on this plan. As I indicated in my opening remarks, we were open-minded when the Labor Party announced it during the election. Indeed, I made it very clear that my party was supportive of this proposal in principle, and it is for that reason that we reached out to the minister responsible on 8 June, 14 June, 7 August, 21 August and 23 August and I indicated that I wanted another meeting on 20 October. We have tried to reach out to the government and to work with them on this.

The reality is that they have not been willing to do so. I do not know why, but we now find ourselves in a position where we are not able to support the bill in its current form and where we will be moving to refer it to an inquiry so all the issues that have been raised with us by stakeholders can be ventilated. I hope the parliament will support this sensible proposal from the Greens.

We cannot allow the Malinauskas government to continue to steamroll this chamber to push ahead with significant reforms like this without appropriate parliamentary scrutiny and we cannot allow them through sleight of hand to potentially gaslight the people of South Australia to embark on what could be a smoke and mirrors campaign for a continuation of the gas industry.


Gas Industry Consultation

18 October 2023

In reply to the Hon. R.A. SIMMS (15 June 2023):

My question to the Attorney-General therefore is:

Did the Attorney-General receive any representations from the Minister for Energy and Mining on behalf of Santos or any organisation involved in the Australian Petroleum Production and Exploration Association conference regarding potential amendments to the Summary Offences Act, and what does the government have in mind when it talks about 'offering to help' the gas industry?

 

The Hon. K.J. MAHER (Minister for Aboriginal Affairs, Attorney-General, Minister for Industrial Relations and Public Sector): The Minister for Energy and Mining has advised:

He did address a conference of the Australian Petroleum Production and Exploration Association (APPEA) in Adelaide in May this year and that he is aware of a report in The Guardian about his comments.

The minister advises that he told the APPEA conference that the government of South Australia is committed to decarbonising the economy as soon and as efficiently as possible.

The minister spoke of this state's leading role in the energy transition including:

  • Achieving more than 70 per cent of electricity generation from renewable sources, a world-first for a grid of more than one gigawatt without hydroelectricity.
  • Pioneering grid-scale batteries.
  • Investing $593 million in the Hydrogen Jobs Plan.

The minister spoke of hydrogen and its trajectory to deliver multiple benefits—creating value for excess renewably generated electricity; long duration firming to facilitate more investment in renewables; and decarbonising hard-to-abate heavy industries.

Hydrogen is the only known, commercially viable alternative to using coal to transform iron ore and the most prospective alternative to natural gas in cement manufacture. We face a choice between continuing to pollute the world, ceasing production of steel and cement, or employing hydrogen.

The minister advises that the Malinauskas government will not accept either of the first two options. We must stop pollution, but we cannot condemn future generations—including billions of people in developing countries—to enduring and worsening poverty because they cannot build homes and cities of cement and steel. That is why this government has chosen to develop a hydrogen industry.

That industry will depend on people who have the skills and experience of workers in the petroleum sector. That was the minister's message to the APPEA delegates: We cannot decarbonise the economy without them. Indeed, the theme of the APPEA conference was 'Lead, Shape, Innovate—Accelerating to Net Zero'.

As representative of the host jurisdiction, the minister told delegates that the Department for Energy and Mining was available to help them hold a successful conference. Unfortunately, those quite ordinary words from a host city were interpreted as an open invitation for the unbridled exploitation of the state. Nothing could have been further from the truth.

Unfortunately, not only was that misleading report published but the honourable member has repeated it in this place.


Opposing One Nation's Energy Motion

27 September 2023

The Hon. R.A. SIMMS (17:23): I rise to speak against this motion on behalf of the Greens. In so doing I want to debunk some of the, quite frankly, ridiculous claims that have been made by the One Nation political party in relation to energy policy over the years. Taking advice on energy policy from One Nation is like getting empathy lessons from Scott Morrison. They have no idea.

Let's actually listen to what they have had to say, let's take a look at some of the things that the One Nation Party has had to say on energy policy. I read through some news reports with great interest heading into this debate; I thought, 'What has the One Nation Party had to say?' Some of the things they have come up with are really worth putting on the Hansard, because I think they should inform consideration of this motion.

Let's look first at Senator Malcolm Roberts. In his first speech to parliament, Mr Roberts made some claims about climate change. He said 'there is no data proving human use of hydro-carbon fuels affects climate'. Well, we know that is false. He also went on to say:

[the] 1930s and 40s were warmer than the current decades…The original records are…first of all, that the data has been corrupted…

'By whom?' he was asked. 'By NASA,' he replied. NASA, of course, have corrupted the data. Of course; why did we not think of that? He says these models are 'hopelessly wrong'.

What did NASA I have to say about that? Well, a senior NASA official took the extraordinary step of personally rejecting the claims of One Nation where he claimed the agency had falsified data to exaggerate warming in the Arctic. Gavin Schmidt, Director of NASA's Goddard Institute for Space Studies, said Senator Roberts was mistaken in his assertion that the US agency had removed Arctic data to mask warming in the 1940s. A news report quoted him:

'You…hold a number of misconceptions which I am happy to clarify at this time,' Dr Schmidt told Senator Roberts in letters and emails obtained by Fairfax Media. 'The claim that [NASA] has "removed the 1940s warmth" in the Arctic is not correct.'

Dr Schmidt refers to data available on their website. Interesting. These are the people we are meant to take lessons on energy policy from. Senator Roberts went on to refer to climate change as being 'a conspiracy of the United Nations.' Wow.

He made some other really unusual claims here too. This is really worth noting. He wrote a letter to the then Australian Prime Minister, Julia Gillard, in relation to the carbon tax. This is a good one, and I think it's worth putting on the public record. The letter he sent in 2011 was addressed to—and I quote from his letter—'The Woman, Julia-Eileen:Gillard' and contained a 28-point affidavit that sought to establish Mr Roberts' exemption from the need to follow the rules of the Australian government. He referred to himself as 'Malcolm-Ieuan: Roberts., the living soul' and identified himself as the 'beneficiary, administrator' for a corporate entity called Malcolm Ieuan Roberts. He went on to say:

…Malcolm-Ieuan: Roberts., the living soul has not…been presented with any…facts or evidence that I, Malcolm-Ieuan: Roberts., the living soul am not a beneficiary of the public trust, or evidence that the Australian Government is not a trustee in the public trust and believe that none exist.

This is interesting stuff.

It is worth clarifying for the One Nation party that Elvis has actually left the building, COVID was not a made-up conspiracy, climate change does exist and the world is not flat. There are a range of other strange and nutty views the One Nation party has, and I will not bother to put all of them on the public record. We know they peddle lies and misinformation not only in relation to energy policy but in relation to vulnerable people, queer people, people of colour and a range of other groups. That is the One Nation party's MO in our parliament.

On this particular issue, I think it is worth noting that the One Nation party really have picked the wrong target here. They say that the Malinauskas Labor government continues to mismanage energy policy and imply that renewable energy is the cause of high energy prices. That is not true, and the evidence paints a very different story.

If you want to know why energy prices have gone up in this state, take a look at this side of the chamber. They have gone up because the Liberals privatised and sold off ETSA back in the 1990s. That is what has driven up energy prices. Why is not the Hon. Ms Game going after her mates in the Liberal Party for the position they have taken on privatisation and the terrible effect that that has had on energy prices in our state?

That is the cause of the problem we find ourselves in. That is the problem we face in our state but, for reasons unbeknownst to me, One Nation is running a protection racket for the Liberal Party on that issue. They are not to be believed on energy policy. They peddle lies and misinformation and this motion should be dismissed.

Debate adjourned on motion of Hon. I.K. Hunter.