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  VANGUARD  
 
Re-Power Port Augusta Campaign Full Of People Power Optimism
 
 

Ned K.

On Sunday 30 April, about 500 people held a community event on the steps of Parliament House in Adelaide as another step towards winning a solar thermal power station at Port Augusta following the closure of the coal fired power station last year.

The event was organised by the community group Re-power Port Augusta and there were many people from Port Augusta who came down to Adelaide to attend.

Speakers included a power station worker from Port Augusta who lost his job last year with the closure. Although he worked in a coal fired power station for over 15 years, he was not looking backwards but focusing all his efforts in to changing government policy to force them to support renewable energy and break with fossil fuel. He said that the sunny weather in Port Augusta most of the year round combined with the threat of global warming made the building of a solar thermal power station at Port Augusta a no brainer.

Two young women who have been involved in the campaign for five years and who completed a 300 km plus walk from Port Augusta to Adelaide as part of the campaign, also spoke at the rally. They said that Turnbull government had been forced by public pressure to make some financial commitment to a solar thermal plant in Port Augusta. State Premier Jay Weatherill was quoted by the two women as having said, "I'd love for a solar thermal project to get up".

Speaker after speaker said that the state ALP government now had to "put its money where its mouth is" and provide the financial support to make the solar thermal plant a reality.

An announcement by the state government is likely in June this year as renewable energy and gas extraction companies compete for finance from both state and federal governments.

The state government has to decide to put money towards a solar thermal plant at Port Augusta or a new gas fired power plant located elsewhere or both. SA Labor must be ruing its privatisation and sale of the SA Gas Company (SAGASCO) in 1993 to help pay off the State Bank debt.

In a state election year in 2018, the Premier Weatherill will be tempted to put more money in to a gas fired power station at Port Adelaide and market it as job creating for workers who lose their jobs in nearby suburbs as a result of the closure of the car industry in October this year.

A smarter option would be to finance both with strings attached for any privately owned corporation that is involved.

There was a feeling of both optimism and determination at the event in Adelaide. Prominent in the event were the Australian Services Union who have members in the power industry at Port Augusta. Their members spoke out today in what was a good example of working class leadership by rank and file ASU members uniting with Port Augusta community and a diverse range of people form Adelaide who support renewable energy and the ASU's placards which read "Climate Jobs Justice".