SA Water's $300 million solar energy project must maximise use of local businesses and workers: SA-BEST

22 February 2019

SA-BEST today called on the South Australian Government and SA Water to guarantee that local businesses are given preference for SA Water’s ambitious $300 million solar energy project.

SA-BEST MLC and Industry, Skills and Employment spokesperson, Frank Pangallo, said today he will write to Premier Steven Marshall and Minister for Environment and Water, David Speirs, requesting that they direct SA Water to seek assurances from the company which won the contract – Enerven – that South Australians are not overlooked for interstate or overseas contractors and suppliers.

He is also contacting Enerven, and the two companies which co-own it - SA Power Networks and Spark Infrastructure – seeking the same assurances.

SA Water announced earlier this week that it will spend more than $300 million installing more than 500,000 storage panels and storage infrastructure across 70 of its sites in South Australia.

The project is expected to create about 250 jobs and cut the organisation’s power bill to zero by 2020.

“While I am pleased this significant contract has been awarded to a South Australian-based business, I want assurances that the maximum amount of work possible is awarded to local businesses and workers,” Frank said.

“Enerven is co-owned by large companies that themselves are majority owned by Chinese interests and they may want to import materials and product that could be cheaper,” he said.

“We are all aware there have been products imported from China – including solar panels and battery storage units – that didn’t meet Australian regulations and high design standards.

“I want assurances from all parties involved in this exciting project, that it not only maximises the use of local businesses and workers, but the products used also meet all the normal manufacturing, quality and safety regulations.”

Frank said SA Power Networks – the sole electricity distributor in South Australia - is owned by one of China’s richest industrialists, the Hong Kong-based Li Ka-shing.

ASX-listed Spark Infrastructure’s principal investment is its 49 per cent holding in SA Power Networks, and also CitiPower and Powercor – both based in Victoria, with the remaining 51 per cent ownership in all three businesses owned by the Cheung Kong group.

Being a state-owned asset, SA Water must follow the State Government’s Industry Participation Policy which is designed to deliver economic benefits to South Australia through jobs, investment and the use of businesses in the supply chain.

This requires a minimum weighting to the tender process of at least 15 per cent, going up to 20 per cent for steel and structural work.

“I hope Enerven gives preference to sourcing its solar panels and storage batteries that may be needed from South Australian companies already manufacturing them,” Frank said.

“Tindo is the sole Australian manufacturer of solar photovoltaic panels while Sonnen is producing storage batteries at the old Holden’s factory at Elizabeth,” he said.

“After a spike in the SA jobless rate this week, the local economy needs an injection of good news.”

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