South Australian Premier Jay Weatherill has brushed aside federal government disinterest in the state’s plan to build the world’s biggest battery to help stabilise its energy network and bring down electricity prices.
Billionaire entrepreneur Elon Musk’s company Tesla will build the 100 megawatt lithium ion battery within 100 days or deliver it for free.
But acting Prime Minister Barnaby Joyce has dismissed the project as a nice idea but too small to make much difference. “It’s a good idea but the capacity is not there,” Mr Joyce told ABC TV on Sunday.
“You know, a grain of sugar is an advantage to a teaspoon, but it doesn’t make a hell of a lot of difference.”
Mr Weatherill, who went to see the site for the battery on Sunday, described the federal reaction as negative and opportunistic.
“Don’t say anything if you can’t say something positive,” the premier told reporters.
“I think anybody who was actually looking at this objectively would say it was a great idea.”
Mr Weatherill said the battery project would also create jobs in the local area in tourism and other sectors and would help unlock other renewable energy projects, now that storage was a viable option.
SA also expects to cash in on the star power of Mr Musk with the announcement already gaining global attention.
“At many levels, this represents a massive job creation opportunity for this state,” the premier said.
The battery is just one part of South Australia’s $550 million energy plan which was developed in response to last year’s statewide blackout. Other elements include attracting new gas-fired generation into the market, increased gas exploration and the construction of a new government-owned, gas-fired power station.
“There’s lots of moving parts to our plan. What you’re seeing is it being implemented and it’s very exciting,” Mr Weatherill said.
“You’ll see a direct benefit in terms of the price of electricity. (But) We need every element of our six-point plan, they all work together.
The battery will be built near Jamestown, in SA’s mid-north and paired to a wind farm operated by French utility company Neoen.
Director of operations Laurent Francisei said he was confident the project would be delivered on time and be operating this summer thanks to the support of government and the local community.
“The 100 days (commitment) has become famous,” he said.