Federal Treasurer Scott Morrison has ridiculed South Australia’s big battery deal after saying Australians are sick and tired of watching politicians fight over the right energy solution.
Mr Morrison has labelled SA’s deal with billionaire entrepreneur Elon Musk to build the world’s largest lithium-ion battery a “Hollywood solution”, and he doubled down on Thursday.
“By all means, have the world’s biggest battery, have the world’s biggest banana, have the world’s biggest prawn like we have on the roadside along highways around the country but that’s not solving the problem,” he told reporters in Adelaide.
“It is so at the margin it barely is worthy of a mention.
“30,000 South Australian households could not get through watching one episode of Australia’s Ninja Warrior with this big battery.”
The battery is designed to help the electricity network respond within milliseconds to disruptions to ensure there isn’t a wider collapse – and is not necessarily intended to power thousands of houses for long periods.
Earlier, Mr Morrison told the Australian Industry Group: “Australians are sick and tired of watching political parties fight over the right energy solution.”
The government’s most important task in the coming year was to push power prices down, he said.
It is considering Chief Scientist Alan Finkel’s recommendation to establish a clean energy target to encourage more investment in the sector while reducing emissions.
Mr Morrison said people had to be real about investment in new lower-emissions coal plants, noting if the economics did stack up, they would still take a long time to build and wouldn’t fix the power price problem anytime soon.
“When it comes to coal, the best thing we can do is simply ensure the power stations we currently have … stay open, remain economic and work longer into the future,” he said.
Modelling accompanying the Finkel electricity market review shows adopting a clean energy target is the best way to keep coal generators open as long as possible.
The government has also asked the competition watchdog to investigate power prices.
Chairman Rod Sims says the affordability problem has built over the past decade.
“A whole lot of policy changes have been made and people have really had no regard to the affordability of electricity,” he told ABC radio.
“(State governments) chasing the maximum dollar when they privatised has cost electricity consumers, they’re going to have to pay more money.”