These generators are part of the Government’s plan to prevent blackouts over summer. (Supplied: SA Government)
The South Australian Government is refusing to say how much its new power generators will cost, dodging questions in Parliament about whether the final price tag is more than $400 million.
The Government announced on Monday that nine diesel generators have been installed and tested at Elizabeth and Lonsdale and are ready to provide up to 276 megawatts of power if there was a shortfall over summer.
It plans to eventually bring the generators together at a single site, creating a gas-fired power plant.
At a press conference launching the generators, the Premier and the Energy Minister refused to say how much they cost, only saying they were part of a $550 million power plan.
Premier Jay Weatherill told Parliament that was because of a commercial-in-confidence agreement with the generator’s operators APR Energy.
“Straight after the media conference, where we were pressed to disaggregate the various elements of the energy plan, the representatives from APR came up to both the Minister for Energy and myself and thanked us and expressed their gratitude for not revealing the commercial-in-confidence nature of that material,” Mr Weatherill said.
When the Government first announced that plan, it said the gas power plant would come in under $360 million.
Since then, it has combined plans for back-up generation and its long-term gas-fired power plant.
At a budget and finance committee in October, the head of the Department of Treasury and Finance, David Reynolds, said the cost of the short-term generation was around $108 million, while buying the generators was likely to cost around $300 million.
Opposition Leader Steven Marshall told Parliament that taxpayers deserved to know the final figure.
“Given that the Treasurer has been unable to provide the detail that’s required, can he at least confirm that in fact the under treasurer [David Reynolds], who reports directly to the Treasurer here in South Australia has belled the cat?” he said.
The generators are on a two-year lease and the Opposition has urged the Government not to commit to buying them before the March election.
Energy Minister Tom Koutsantonis told Parliament that was a sign the Liberals planned to sell them if they won government.
“They want to privatise the generators, Mr Speaker. You can see the panic in their eyes,” Mr Koutsantonis said.
“You can see the panic. The costings, Mr Speaker, the costings they’re worried about because they have a secret plan to privatise generators before we’ve even bought them.”
The Opposition would not say what a future Liberal government would do if the Labor government buys the generators.