Making Alice all solar would raise costs 300%: Giles


p2331-airport-solarBy ERWIN CHLANDA
Chief Minister Adam Giles says electricity prices would rise 300% if all power for Alice Springs were to be generated by solar systems, which would cost $1.4b.
But he also says the $2000 vouchers under the new Home Improvement Scheme could be used for solar installations, and a massive savings in emissions could be be achieved by shutting down coal fired power stations: “If Labor and the Greens were so keen on protecting the environment, and reducing emissions, they would close every coal fired power station in Australia and use Northern Territory gas. You’d cut Australia’s emissions by 50% over night.”
Mr Giles was responding to questions from the Alice Springs News Online about the push by the environmental organisation RePower Alice Springs to reduce the 10 gas fired generators to be installed in a new power station to eight or six, and spend part the $75m on developing more solar energy.
We asked Mr Giles what cancellation provisions were included in Territory Generation’s contract with the suppliers of the 10 piston engines.
We also put that question to NT Treasurer Dave Tollner, the sole shareholder in the company, but have received no reply.
Territory Generation declined to provide answers because they are “commercial in confidence” – notwithstanding that the money being spent comes from the public purse and the tender is no longer open.
Mr Giles said in Alice Springs on Friday: “Territory Generation is an independent statutory body, a government body, a business entity on its own. Those questions could be answered in Estimates.
“What I will say though is that 23% of Alice Springs power comes from solar generation.
“There is a general rule that says, once you get to 20% you start to have load issues which is why you see blackouts in Alice Springs.
“On a cloudy day such as today you need to get the generators up and running on a speedy basis or you start to see challenges with the load.
“That’s why in the Budget we’ve identified $8.7m to put in place a new computerised network system that helps balance much of the load, so we can keep the solar going and we don’t have to burn as much diesel in particular, but also gas, so we have less emissions and more efficient pricing structures with the way the power is generated.
“I know there are some people saying, let’s go out there and turn the whole of Alice Springs onto solar and batteries.
“This will cost $1.4b to build the solar and the battery technology. It will see a multiplier of electricity prices going up by 300%. At the same time we still have to run the gas fired power units to make sure that we have speedy reserves and back-up capacity.
“The $1.4b will give you a five day back-up storage capability,” said Mr Giles.
“It all sounds very good until Territorians and Central Australians are paying 300% [more] for their electricity. We need to be fair and reasonable in how we get the balance right. 23% is good.
“We’ve just put out a $2000 incentive voucher for tradies and toolies to do renovation works. It’s a good incentive for people to go out there and use that for solar upgrades on their house, supporting our environment.”
Territory homeowner-occupiers can apply for a voucher worth up to $2,000 towards minor improvements, repairs and upgrades to their homes, says the NT Government website.
They can use the voucher for works of up to $20,000 carried out by a Territory small business which is registered with the scheme.
It is only available to Territory homeowner-occupiers and they will need to contribute at least half of the cost of works. Up to 30% of the voucher value can be used towards goods and materials as part of the job.
PHOTO and artist’s impression: Part of the solar plant of the Alice Springs Airport which now generates 50% of its energy needs from the sun.


  1. Clearly systems need upgrading which ever way we go, but one thing is clear, continuing to burn fossil fuels is not the answer.
    We know that there is not domestic gas shortage until 2034, and by this time there will be a clean power solution. Unconventional Fracked gas is destined to be exported, the lights will not go out if we say no to this industry.
    Territorians are not dumb, stop treating them like they are. People don’t want this dirty industry, not now, not ever! Protect our water.

  2. Well, I don’t know where Adam Giles gets his facts from. Solar power and batteries are getting cheaper every day.
    When you speak to people with solar power on their houses and businesses, they are very happy, some don’t even get a bill, and if they do its a very small one.
    Adam Giles would do better to look into the Alice Springs council, shortfall of $600,000.
    One can only question the council’s competencies when they cannot post the correct rates.
    Another $6000 to $7000 wasted. How much more is being wasted that the public do not know about? Well done.

  3. It’s been cloudy for most of June. Solar needs sun.
    I love to live in a modern house with products that use a lot of power such as aircon and a second fridge.
    I don’t need other people to dictate how much I use. If you want a solar powered house all good, but then cut your self from the grid.
    And please stop pushing your choices of life style down my throat. Remember, being a green is a minority.

  4. There is nothing but rhetoric in this article quoting the Chief Minister. The figures quoted are not based on fact and nor do they reflect the exponential decline in costs for both solar and storage that the world is currently experiencing.
    More than 1100 households in Alice Springs have solar on their roof – that’s more than 10% and many more want solar on their roof. A growing number of households want solar, this is not a passive minority of people. People investing in solar understand that harvesting the sun makes economic sense.
    Territory Generation would be better to plan for a 100% renewable future rather than embedding dependence on fossil fuel technologies that will become stranded assets within the next 10 to 15 years.
    The grid needs to be developed to support household, commercial and utility scale solar, not just the one way flow of electrons from a central generator. Installing battery storage systems within the network will also stabilise and strengthen the resilience of the system.
    Solar is not the reason for blackouts. The transformer assets and generators caused the problem last time. A Smart Grid Trial may come some of the way, but we wait and see how this Budget announcement will unfold and be delivered. I am hopeful … but only if Power and Water engages widely and considers the growing uptake of solar in its development.
    The cost curve for solar PV and storage is only a few years away from out-competing grid connected power.
    Solar power as a service rather than an asset will break the business models of Territory Generation and Power Water Corporation and contribute to the “death spiral” where the costs of production will exceed their revenue as more and more people get off the grid.
    The Giles Government seems like they’re only open to certain businesses and business models but not to others. Science and evidence-based decision-making is also something that has been lacking. If we are to grow the economy, we need to ensure we don’t overdraw on our natural capital.
    The CLP is currently pushing a broken business model that puts our groundwater and climate at risk for the benefit of very few people.
    All candidates for our NT Parliament must open their eyes to the global economic disruption that is already happening – solar is it!
    Let’s support a renewal of our energy assets with existing solar technologies to ensure we are ready to power on beyond the age of fossil fuels.
    We cannot afford elected representatives who are willing to gamble our collective wealth on risky gas fracking when we all know the power of the sun will continue to shine on forever (at least another few billion years).
    Time to choose … broken business models or a new way of doing things.
    We have two elections this year – I’ll be choosing those who are going to invest in a renewable energy future and cut fossil fuel pollution.

  5. Territory Generation, PWC and Jacana – do any of them have any claim to independence?
    Gilesy is right on the money that coal and 100% solar are both unworkable. The trick is going from 25% solar to 75%. Fancy load forecasting and management is part of the solution (big tick).
    The simple approach of spacing out solar installations will permit another 10 MW
    Blowing the budget on a bunch of gas engines is regressive and a waste of money on unneeded capacity.

  6. Fred, Dr Wrongo is very happy with his solar system. In summer it makes twice as much as I use.
    Winter it’s still more than I use. And I crank up the electric heater much cheaper (free) than the gas one I used to use. Instead of a bill I get a cheque which pays the water bill. Awesome!

  7. Is it too much to ask for a balanced journalism? It should be common practice to cross check politicians opinions with statements from experts in that particular field – then report the facts. That’s balance.
    The Chief Minister’s statements are based on assumptions, lack of research and straight up deception.
    Please take more responsibility over what is presented to the general public. Let’s get the economic and scientific facts straight, it’s better for all of us.

  8. Hi Miranda, you’re most welcome to share your researched facts with us in this space.
    We have put tens of thousands of words on the subject into the public arena. Feel free to google our site.
    In the next few days we will publish a report containing further facts and figures – dollars, degrees, time frames – from one of the region’s top experts in this field.
    Erwin Chlanda, Editor.

  9. Where is the dedicated breakdown on these figures?
    They look like so many of the other figures that are postulated by this incumbent government without any reference to a breakdown (e.g. $5.5 billion in projected [???] debt). Scare tactic politics not reinforced by evidence are merely conjecture.
    Jimmy Cocking and Marli Banks make excellent points. Creating Alice Springs as The Solar Centre makes absolute sense. Employment in the renewable energy sector is ripe for the taking in our town.
    VET programs conducted through Charles Darwin University as well as research opportunities afforded by academics wishing to investigate further in this field will provide our current and future workforce with added possibilities. Jobs in the renewable energy sector is a way of the future.
    We can be smarter if we seek to find the answers. The will of the people is an important ingredient.
    Phil Walcott
    Independent candidate for Braitling

  10. $1.4 billion??
    Solar costs about $1500 per installed kW on a large scale.
    Alice Springs uses about 40 MW (40,000 kW)
    My maths says this equals about $60 million.
    The reputed cost of Owen Springs power station $250 million.
    Cost of power generation once the system is installed is very low.
    Even taking into account the need to provide for times when the sun doesn’t shine it seems we have a lot of room to move.
    Hey Jim. Renewable (green) power isn’t about forcing you to change anything. It’s about giving you cheaper power without harming the environment.

  11. @ Dr Wrongo: I totally agree. I have never heard anyone complain about their solar power. The ones who remain with gas or electricity are going to find they are going to have a very large bill around their neck. Why are we rushing this?
    If you want to see solar power at its best, go and see the solar panels on Double Tree Hilton.
    It obviously means that the local electricity is too expensive.
    In Alice Springs, there are hundreds of happy solar panel owners. The gas power station would have been better built at the gas well head. Hence no expense of a gas line.


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