Renewable Energy Forum

In Parliament - Thursday, 10 September 2015

Mr DULUK (Davenport) (15:29:05): One thing I would like to do as the new member for Davenport is to host regular community forums to raise matters of interest to my community. On 18 August I hosted one such forum on the topic of renewable energy in South Australia. Held at the Blackwood centre, we were fortunate to have Adjunct Professor Monica Oliphant AO as our guest speaker.

Concerns about climate change and energy security have encouraged the development of renewable energy technologies, especially solar and wind technologies. Ms Oliphant, who has given long and distinguished service as a research scientist in the renewables sector, presented at this forum. The list of recognition in terms of Ms Oliphant's work includes being president of the International Solar Energy Society and patron of Citizens Own Renewable Energy Network Australia. She is adjunct professor at Flinders University and the University of South Australia, and her current work includes developing community-owned solar and energy efficiency projects with local governments and leading a feasibility study to establish a United Nations University in Renewable Energy in China.A little over 30 years ago, solar was for water heaters, solar cells were for satellites and wind was used by farmers to pump water and run small electricity generators. Today, the power generation capacity of solar and wind technologies is driving a shift in solar thermal collectors and integration in building design and construction.

My community forum was really to provide the residents of Davenport with an opportunity for them, the community and myself to learn more about renewable energy developments from one of Australia's leading experts on that topic. We had about 85 people at this forum, and I think everyone left the forum with the benefit of the presentation and Ms Oliphant's experience and knowledge in the area.

As with many aspects of modern life, technology is driving dramatic and rapid change in renewable energy. Today, large-scale solar energy projects are creating huge power generating capabilities with significant capacity to deliver reliable, clean, non-intermittent base load power to consumers off the central grid. These projects include the solar power facility in California's Mojave Desert, which is one of the largest solar thermal installations in the US. It has come online in the last couple of years and is supported by Google.

The Crescent Dunes Solar Energy Project in Nevada includes 17,500 heliostat mirrors that collect and focus the sun's thermal energy to heat molten salt and produce steam to generate electricity. The solar energy project in Chile, the Copiapó Solar Energy Project, is scheduled to reach commercial operation by 2019, and 560,000 homes will be powered 24/7 by this grid.

A common theme of these large-scale power projects is government support to a certain extent. Spain was the leader in these initiatives in solar approaches with commercial activity taking off in about 2008, but of course this was driven by government incentives, and a decline in those incentives saw a decline in that production. Ideally, if we are going to get to where we want to be in terms of solar energy in the world and indeed in South Australia, this is something that needs to be generated by private investment. Political and policy stability to encourage and retain investment in renewable energy is crucial.

Of course, one example of where things are gangbusters at the moment, and something for us perhaps to learn from in South Australia, is what is happening in China. China continues to invest in renewables. They are the world's largest manufacturer and user of solar water heaters, the world's largest manufacturer and user of wind generators and the world's largest manufacturer and soon-to-be user of solar PV power systems. In 2013, there were 2.64 million renewable energy jobs created in China. In that field, wind has overtaken nuclear as the third-largest source of electricity after coal and large hydro in China. There are plenty of opportunities for us to learn from the Chinese and for us to certainly get on board with the manufacture and export of products to the renewable energy sector.

At the forum, I was fortunate enough to meet Mr Rob Paterson, Director of Product Development at Heliostat in South Australia. Based in Beverley, Heliostat are at the cutting edge of CSP and CSPV technology in South Australia. Heliostat helps companies and nations worldwide produce renewable, uninterrupted and utility grade power. It is certainly something great for our industry in South Australia. Developments in renewable energy markets are fast moving and fluid. I would like to thank Ms Oliphant for her time in delivering an interesting and informative presentation to my community.