Legislative Council: Wednesday, November 15, 2023



Hydrogen and Renewable Energy Bill

Committee Stage

In committee.

Clause 1.

The Hon. F. PANGALLO: There are issues I wanted to talk about in relation to this bill. They are issues that are not specifically set out here but where the bill nevertheless is likely to have a significant impact. I have a particular interest in the effect of the interaction of this bill with the Electricity Corporations (Restructuring and Disposal) Act 1999 (the ECRD Act). The primary continuing effect of section 3 of schedule 1 of the ECRD Act is to provide a big discount on the rates a council can lawfully levy on land used for electricity generation. The ECRD reduces rates for electricity generators, and that loss in revenue must be made up by charging higher council rates to all other ratepayers.

I refer to the ECRD rates clauses as the clauses which create this effect. The ECRD clauses are a form of corporate welfare for electricity generation companies, which is paid for by home owners, businesses, primary producers and other hardworking Australians. Through my questions today, I hope to help the council understand the impact of the ECRD Act and the larger financial impact, should the ECRD Act operate in conjunction with this bill in its current form.

My understanding of the ECRD Bill is that in the late 1990s the Treasurer of the day, the Hon. Rob Lucas, was trying to maximise the sale price of South Australia's electricity assets. One of the ways he did this was by offering prospective purchasers discount council rates; that is, to raise more money for the state government he gave away an ongoing revenue stream for local government.

We are in the middle of a cost-of-living crisis; inflation is eating at the heart of living standards. Cost of living is one of the biggest issues, if not the biggest issue, we hear about on a daily basis when talking to people in communities all over the state. As lawmakers we need to be alert to the impact our deliberations have on ordinary households.

That is not just with new laws. If it comes to a government's attention that an old law is hurting households, that old law should also be reviewed. In fact, in the state government's own Better Regulation Handbook, government is expected to review regulatory impacts from time to time and to consider whether the regulation is still the most appropriate action.

One of the questions I will be asking, for the minister's consideration, is whether the state government has ever undertaken a review of the ECRD rates clauses—that is, the impact of section 3 of schedule 1 of the ECRD Act, which prevents a council from charging fair rates on land used for electricity generation.

My second question, which is related, is: what is the current policy objective of the ECRD rates clauses? If there is no continuing policy objective, I would appreciate the minister admitting as much. I ask this question because the government's Better Regulation Handbook expects government to be clear about regulatory objectives and to ensure that the regulation is targeted to the problem that the regulation seeks to address.

It seems to me that if the original policy objective was to help privatise the state's electricity assets that objective has long passed. So what is the current policy aim? Why are we still taking money out of the hands of mum-and-dad ratepayers, farmers and small business ratepayers and using this money to give a giant subsidy to the electricity generation industry?

To be clear, I am not anti the electricity generation industry—far from it—and we are not corporate welfare per se. I am saying that good policy and good law should have an objective that is understood, and that governments should not hand out subsidies and discounts without a clear objective in mind.

I can tell you about the two policy objectives that have not been achieved by the ECRD rates clauses. In setting these out, I am grateful for a research paper, prepared in 2019, on the ability of local government to support economic growth. It was prepared by the independent AEC Group, which are experts in the resources industry. I understand that this research report has been provided to the government, the opposition and honourable crossbenchers in this place.

Firstly, the ECRD rates clauses do not impact on the amount of investment in the electricity generation industry. The AEC Group research paper found that electricity companies make investment decisions based on access to sources of power—wind, sun and fossil fuels—and access to the electricity grid. Investment decisions are not made on the basis of where council rates are the cheapest. The research found that the cost of council rates was a negligible component of the annual operating costs of electricity generation companies, so removing the ECRD rates clauses would not impact investment one way or another.

Secondly, the ECRD rates clauses do not impact on electricity prices. At any given minute, there are a large number of companies bidding to supply electricity into the national market. Individual suppliers are price takers, in the sense that they do not have market power. That means that a South Australian electricity supplier cannot pass on cost increases to electricity consumers. In any event, the research found that council rates are already a negligible component of electricity company operating costs. So if electricity companies could pass increased costs, which they cannot, the impact would be negligible.

I now turn to the forecast of the Australian Energy Market Operator in its May 2023 report, titled South Australian Generation Forecasts. AEMO forecasts that total renewable energy generated in South Australia will increase from 9,673 gigawatts per hour in 2021-22 to around 47,373 gigawatts per hour by 2031-32. That is, over the next decade, AEMO predicts a 490 per cent increase in South Australia's renewable energy generation capacity. I note that this is a best-case scenario from AEMO and it assumes that the HRE Bill is passed and enacted.

My third foreshadowed question to the minister is: has the government estimated the increase in land that will be used for electricity generation in South Australia should the HRE Bill pass in this parliament? My fourth question is: has the government's economic impact analysis in relation to the HRE Bill measured the increased amount of council rates that councils will forgo as a result of the interaction of the HRE Bill with the existing ECRD Act?

My fifth and final question, which comes back to cost-of-living issues, is: if the HRE Bill is successful and much more land is used for electricity generation, can the minister give an estimate of the increase in council rates that will be needed to be paid by all other ratepayers to meet the reduction on council rates by the owners of the land used for electricity generation?

In closing, the focus of my contribution and my questions is on the cost of living of South Australians, particularly those living in regional communities where electricity is generated. I support the measures to increase the amount of electricity generation in South Australia. We also agree it is a good thing that the bill promotes the creation of a new renewable energy capacity and that the commonwealth, state and local governments should all be doing their bit for the environment and climate change, and the HRE Bill will make a positive contribution to those objectives.

What I do not support is for the inadvertent interaction of the HRE Bill with the existing ECRD Act and the consequent substantial reduction of revenue to regional councils and their communities. The electricity generation industry are doing alright. They are making record profits and AEMO are predicting huge growth in that industry. I understand that they are all companies with corporate headquarters interstate and overseas.

In a nutshell, the ECRD rates clauses require all of the ratepayers in many regional communities to pay higher rates. This money is taken out of regional South Australia and transferred to the bottom line of interstate and overseas companies. I do not see any continuing policy justification for a subsidy to electricity generators that must be paid for by the ratepayers of regional communities. I look forward to the minister's response to those questions.

The Hon. R.A. SIMMS: Can the government advise whether or not they have struck any side deal with One Nation and SA-Best to kill off a parliamentary committee into this matter?

The Hon. C. BONAROS: I can answer that question for myself, in terms of where I sit, and the answer is: no.

The Hon. F. PANGALLO: I have struck no deals either.

Members interjecting:

The CHAIR: Did you want to make a contribution, the Hon. Ms Game?

The Hon. S.L. GAME: Thank you, Mr President, only to state that no deals have been done.

The Hon. R.A. SIMMS: In the lead-up to the 2022 state election, the government promised green hydrogen; indeed, that is featured in their election platform. This bill allows for both blue and green hydrogen, and you will see in the government's discussion paper that there are references to blue hydrogen and the potential sites. Can the minister advise what the rationale is for including blue hydrogen in this bill?

The Hon. C.M. SCRIVEN: I am advised the Hydrogen and Renewable Energy Bill is agnostic in terms of the technology used to generate hydrogen. This legislation will enable the market to determine commercially viable hydrogen projects based on all technologies available to them, including green hydrogen from the electrolysis of water using renewable energy and blue hydrogen from the reformation of methane combined with carbon capture and storage.

All types of hydrogen generation will contribute to building the necessary infrastructure required in the transition to a future clean hydrogen industry. Allowing all hydrogen types encourages the industry to develop and test economically feasible technologies, which will ultimately bring down the cost of hydrogen production. It is the role of other legislation to determine how South Australia, and the country more broadly, will meet our decarbonisation goals.

The Hon. R.A. SIMMS: Why has the South Australian government adopted a different position to the federal government in relation to blue hydrogen? The federal government has stated in their energy blueprint, I believe, or their energy documents, that they do not see a future for blue hydrogen. Why is the state government going down a different path?

The Hon. C.M. SCRIVEN: I am advised, first of all, that there are no bans in the federal legislation on blue hydrogen. To speak to the point more specifically, blue hydrogen can be part of the transition towards green hydrogen, with obviously the most environmentally responsible and sustainable being the ultimate goal.

The Hon. R.A. SIMMS: What is the urgency in relation to this bill? We have heard many times in the media and in the debate that the government wants this bill dealt with by the end of the year. What precisely is the urgency? Why has the government imposed that time frame, and why has the parliament been denied the opportunity to scrutinise the bill in more detail?

The Hon. C.M. SCRIVEN: First of all, I certainly do not accept the premise of the question in terms of the ability to scrutinise the bill. Through my summing-up I talked about the large amount of consultation that has happened to get us to this stage, and obviously this committee stage is a further part of the scrutiny.

In terms of the reason for wanting to move quickly on this important opportunity, there is significant interest from the market into hydrogen. If we delay, we certainly risk some of that interest potentially moving to other jurisdictions. If we want South Australia to be a leader in this space, then we need to make sure that we are moving quickly and that we are moving with the interest in the market so that we can capitalise on those opportunities.

Secondly, currently there is no framework for these renewable energy projects on Crown land. What we want to do is ensure that there are frameworks in place that make it clear and simple for those who have rights, either as leaseholders or landholders, to be able to actually get the best benefit for any agreements that they enter into. Some agreements are being entered into already, but in the absence of a framework. This is about providing that clear framework, which will protect the rights of those landholders and leaseholders.

The Hon. R.A. SIMMS: But why precisely does that need to be done by Christmas? Why the urgency?

The Hon. C.M. SCRIVEN: As I mentioned, there is a lot of market interest and we do not want that interest to move into other jurisdictions.

The Hon. R.A. SIMMS: Just so I am clear: the government is concerned that if it did not pass a bill in haste it would lose that market interest in the space of a few weeks; is that the concern?

The Hon. C.M. SCRIVEN: The issues paper was issued in 2022. There have been ongoing discussions and consultation throughout this year.

The Hon. R.A. SIMMS: There are some concerns that burning hydrogen produces nitrogen oxide, which can cause damage to the human respiratory tract and increase a person's vulnerability to asthma. It is also potentially damaging to vegetation and crops. Is the government concerned about the increase in nitrogen oxide pollution as a result of the hydrogen industry, and what steps will it take to mitigate that risk?

The Hon. C.M. SCRIVEN: Any potential risks to health are covered through the environmental assessment, with health aspects being considered as part of that environmental assessment, and that would apply to any risks, not just the one potential alleged risk the honourable member has referred to.

The Hon. T.A. FRANKS: Could the minister provide a list of those members of the Conservation Council who support the bill in its final form—to be clear, in its final form without amendment?

The Hon. C.M. SCRIVEN: I am advised that we do not have the level of detail of individual members, but I can certainly take it on notice to see whether there is additional information that I can bring back to the chamber.

The Hon. R.A. SIMMS: Can the government advise of any environmental organisations that support the bill in its current form, even one?

The Hon. C.M. SCRIVEN: I am advised that various conservation and environmental groups were consulted. Some of those groups have provided feedback, which they were not necessary expecting would be provided publicly. That is the information I have to hand at present.

The Hon. T.A. FRANKS: To be clear, the minister cannot provide a single environmental group that supports the bill in its current form in this state, despite the government's extensive consultation, which apparently according to the minister was the most extensive consultation he has had to do on any bill ever. So not a single environmental group supports the bill in its final form here as we are debating today. We are waiting for that list as well; you have said that you will take it on notice. We would like to see the list, because when we the Greens did our consultation there was general support for the bill.

Certainly, from many groups and stakeholders there was a discussion that a small committee and a short time frame to make improvements to the bill, to put some of the protections that we are told will be in regulations into the actual bill to become part of the act, rather than delegated legislation, would be preferred by the environmental movement and that they had some concerns that this process was being rushed and that their concerns had not been addressed or listened to in the final form of the bill.

The Greens have come, having done that work talking to our stakeholders, to find that the government does not have a single environmental group they can point to that supports the bill in its final form. When we are in the committee stage—not the second reading speech of the minister, but in the nitty-gritty, in the clauses of this bill—to not have information for the parliament does ring alarm bells. Can you provide us with at least one group that supports this bill in its final form, as we are debating it here right now on 15 November?

The Hon. C.M. SCRIVEN: I am advised that there is a variety of views from various stakeholders, but all feedback that has been received has informed the current version of the bill.

The Hon. T.A. FRANKS: Does this bill allow for pink and brown hydrogen?

The Hon. C.M. SCRIVEN: As I mentioned in an earlier response, I am advised that the bill is agnostic in terms of technology.

The Hon. N.J. CENTOFANTI: Can the minister provide a list of pastoralists who support the bill in its current form?

The Hon. C.M. SCRIVEN: I am advised that both the Pastoral Board and individual pastoralists were consulted, and I did mention that in my summing-up. As one would expect, there is always a variety of views.

Members interjecting:

The CHAIR: Order!

The Hon. C. BONAROS: Can the minister advise how the bill will avoid issues seen interstate regarding opposition to transmission infrastructure?

The Hon. C.M. SCRIVEN: I am advised that the licensing arrangements that will be in place require environmental assessment and consultation with affected landowners and landholders, and that that will be a robust system that should be able to address many concerns.

The Hon. C. BONAROS: Just on from that, can the minister also confirm that the bill finally addresses the very archaic legislation we have in this state regarding wind farm proposal approvals, which has failed to keep up with technology in that space?

The Hon. C.M. SCRIVEN: I am advised that yes, that is the case. Wind farm approvals now will be under this piece of legislation rather than under the planning act and that is expected to have positive benefits for all involved.

The Hon. C. BONAROS: In terms of the positive benefits, can the minister confirm that there is some futureproofing in terms of keeping up with technology in that space?

The Hon. C.M. SCRIVEN: I thank the honourable member for her question. The answer is that yes, the intent is that it will futureproof in many ways, because the act will be objectives based, therefore proponents will need to demonstrate how the technology they are proposing meets the expectations and objectives, positive environmental outcomes and so on. The act will be reviewed every five years, which will also give that additional opportunity for review.

The Hon. T.A. FRANKS: The minister in her second reading summing-up noted the extensive First Nations engagement on this bill, and I know that there was a forum in March and a forum in, I believe, April. Could she just clarify the dates of those two forums, and when the final bill was released, and whether every member of that forum was then sent a copy of the bill and allowed to provide documented feedback in the same way that the two blue-sky thinking forums were held?

The Hon. C.M. SCRIVEN: In terms of engagement with First Nations, I can provide the following additional information: South Australian Aboriginal Renewable Energy Forums were held in Port Augusta in November 2022 and March 2023, and they brought together Aboriginal groups from across the state to strengthen relationships, understand the issues and challenges impacting on Aboriginal groups, and to discuss opportunities for Aboriginal people and government to work together on the development of renewable energy in South Australia.

All discussions and feedback from the fora were documented, collated into reports and distributed to participants and their organisations. Additionally, individual meetings, presentations and discussions were held on request. I am advised that feedback provided the Department for Energy and Mining with clear support for regulatory and policy actions that embed early engagement, improved communication, early identification of significant cultural and ecological values, and free, prior and informed decision-making into the bill and regulations, with a particular focus on Aboriginal engagement throughout the release area process. Confirmation also confirmed the importance of capacity building and partnering between native title groups, renewable energy companies and government.

The Hon. T.A. FRANKS: To clarify, I have the March energy forum in front of me, and the forum report was in April. There was a previous one in November 2022, and I did ask the minister: when was the bill was released for consultation?

The Hon. C.M. SCRIVEN: I am advised the issues paper was released in late 2022 and the draft bill was released in May 2023. I was further advised that all attendees were sent a copy of the bill.

The Hon. T.A. FRANKS: So the bill was not released until after the two consultation forums, just to be clear. Sure, there was an issues paper, but the draft bill prior to this final bill was not released until after the conclusion of those two forums. That is not necessarily a question because that is actually what the minister has just confirmed, which I was keen for her to confirm. I am now told by the minister that the attendees have received a copy of the bill. I would hope so. What was their response to the draft bill, and what incorporated changes were made in the bill that we debate today from that response?

The Hon. C.M. SCRIVEN: I am advised, in reference to the honourable member's first part of that last question, that, yes, the draft bill was provided after those two forums because obviously those forums were providing input into that draft. Secondly, in the current bill the requirement for native title agreement is essential before any licence can be granted, and, thirdly, as with all feedback that was provided, it has all been taken on board and considered in the process to date.

The Hon. T.A. FRANKS: Having read the feedback, and I alluded to some of it yesterday in my second reading contribution around the Aboriginal Heritage Act, I will point to the one that the minister has just mentioned, which is free, prior and informed consent. How come the government did not have a third forum where attendees were able to see the exposure bill, and if they were not given that third forum, how on earth do we have free, prior and informed consent even in the consultation process here?

The Hon. C.M. SCRIVEN: I am advised that quite a large amount of additional feedback was received following the release of the draft bill. There were obviously numerous ways to provide that feedback.

The Hon. T.A. FRANKS: What work has been done on the RARBs?

The Hon. C.M. SCRIVEN: I am advised the bill requires early consultation on proposed release areas. In terms of reconciliation action plans, that is outside of the scope directly of this bill.

The Hon. T.A. FRANKS: How many RARBs or RARB applicants were consulted with regard to this bill?

The Hon. C.M. SCRIVEN: My advice is that all native title groups for South Australia were represented at the forum—sorry, in that region were represented at the forum.

The Hon. T.A. FRANKS: Can the minister explain the difference between a RARB and a native title group for the council, because she does not seem to think that there is a difference?

The Hon. C.M. SCRIVEN: I am advised that native title groups and representatives of Aboriginal heritage corporations were all consulted. In terms of additional detail, my advice is it would not be appropriate to provide that without consent from those concerned.

The Hon. T.A. FRANKS: Could the minister please take on notice then to provide that information to the council?

The Hon. C.M. SCRIVEN: I am advised that due to privacy concerns that would not be appropriate.

The Hon. T.A. FRANKS: Could the minister outline what the privacy concerns are about which native title or Aboriginal representative bodies were consulted with regard to this bill?

The Hon. C.M. SCRIVEN: I think there has been a misunderstanding between the question being asked. I thought the honourable member was asking for details of the individuals. I am advised that we can provide a list of those organisations that have been consulted. Could I also ask the honourable member if she could speak up, because a few of us are having difficulty in hearing the exact questions. Thank you.

The Hon. C. BONAROS: Can I just ask the minister if and what consultation is intended to take place on draft regulations and when?

The Hon. C.M. SCRIVEN: I am advised that there will be discussion papers released in regard to potential regulations and that will be consulted on. The goal of that, depending when of course this bill passes—if indeed it does—that will hopefully be either late this year or early next year. There will then be consultation on the drafted regulations and that consultation will be for a six-week period, with the hope that that would be in the first half of next year.

The Hon. N.J. CENTOFANTI: There have been some major concerns raised with the opposition regarding landholder rights in this bill. What feedback did the government receive in regard to this balance and how does the bill address or achieve that balance? Just to clarify, I am talking about the balance between the landholder or lessee and the licensee.

The Hon. C.M. SCRIVEN: My advice is that on freehold land the owner of the land has the right to determine who comes onto that land. For Crown land, which is called designated land and includes pastoral land, there will be a competitive bidding process to gain a licence, which would provide access to that land.

The Hon. N.J. CENTOFANTI: In regard to freehold and land access, can the minister outline the role of a special enterprise agreement and what that will mean for the landholder rights in the case of freehold land in that situation?

The Hon. C.M. SCRIVEN: I am advised, in terms of the special enterprise licence, it allows for a freehold landowner to retain ownership and receive appropriate compensation from the proponent, ongoing, for the use of the land. Therefore, it is not compulsory acquisition. The landowner will receive compensation from the proponent plus any other negotiated benefits, just as they would with any other licence type. This is the case even if they object to the project taking place on their freehold or licensed land.

Further, a freehold landowner can opt to sell the land to the proponent, and the act provides that the proponent must purchase the land if the landowner chooses to sell. What is particularly important is that this is essentially a power of last resort. A special enterprise licence therefore is less likely to be frequently used. Also, it is a lesser intervention than is currently provided for under other legislation such as the Electricity Act 1996.

The Hon. N.J. CENTOFANTI: Can the minister explain what she means by 'last resort'?

The Hon. C.M. SCRIVEN: My advice is that for something to be granted a special enterprise licence it will need to meet the major economic significance threshold. Whether a project is of major significance to the economy of the state will depend on the nature and scope of the specific project and the value and benefits that it will provide to South Australia. The threshold assessment will take into account multiple factors, which may include considerations otherwise outside the HRE Act's scope, and then the Governor will decide whether an activity proceeds, on advice from cabinet.

The Hon. N.J. CENTOFANTI: Just to confirm: the minister is saying it will be cabinet that makes that decision in regard to the economic threshold of what is deemed of state significance?

The Hon. C.M. SCRIVEN: No, the cabinet will provide advice, and the Governor will make that decision.

The Hon. N.J. CENTOFANTI: So the minister is confirming that it is the Governor who makes the final decision. Is that normal practice?

The Hon. C.M. SCRIVEN: I am advised that that provision is modelled on the Mining Act, which, according to my advice, has a similar provision where cabinet provides advice for the Governor's final decision.

The Hon. R.A. SIMMS: I want to refer the minister to a submission from SACOSS. One of the issues that they flag is about ensuring community and consumer benefit and, in particular, the importance of lowering power prices for South Australians. Can the government talk about how they intend for this legislation to reduce power prices and deliver community benefit, or are they agnostic on that question as well?

The Hon. C.M. SCRIVEN: My advice is: given that the bill will help to unlock the state's pipeline of renewable energy projects—which has a current estimated capital development investment of approximately $21 billion as at June of this year—the bill is designed, along with the government's Hydrogen Jobs Plan, to deliver increased supplies of reliable, affordable and clean energy, with the hydrogen power plant enabling lower power prices for industry, which should in turn help bring down cost-of-living pressures.

The Hon. R.A. SIMMS: Why is reducing power prices not listed as one of the objects of the act?

The Hon. C.M. SCRIVEN: It is expected that lowering the cost of production will have a flow-on effect to bring down cost-of-living pressures.

The Hon. N.J. CENTOFANTI: Why does this bill address freehold land when the main intention of the bill is to unlock Crown and pastoral land for renewable energy projects?

The Hon. C.M. SCRIVEN: The intent is to provide a consistent and complete regulatory framework that would apply to freehold land as well as to other land types.

The Hon. T.A. FRANKS: If the intent is to provide such completion, why is so much being put into delegated legislation in the regulations?

The Hon. C.M. SCRIVEN: It is a very large bill. It is not possible or appropriate to put all detail in the actual lead legislation.

The Hon. C. BONAROS: Following on from some of the questions that were just asked, can the minister elaborate on and confirm the potential that this bill has in terms of being a world-first model, and international investment in South Australia?

The Hon. C.M. SCRIVEN: I am advised that it is a world-first model in terms of having a specific bill for renewable and hydrogen energy combined, and it is designed to provide certainty for investment—which, obviously, will be a benefit—as well as certainty for landowners and landholders.

The Hon. T.A. FRANKS: Is that because other legislation across the country is not technology agnostic on what they would call renewable energy and would not, therefore, support blue, pink or brown hydrogen in their legislation?

The Hon. C.M. SCRIVEN: My advice is that this is about having the regulatory framework in place to provide that certainty. It is not about choosing one technology over another.

The Hon. N.J. CENTOFANTI: Does the minister have any concerns that this is a world-first model and that the South Australian community might be seen as test subjects, and that the risk is great?

The Hon. C.M. SCRIVEN: I am advised that they have been modelled on the petroleum and mining act, which is recognised globally as being leading in terms of its consultation and regulatory framework.

The Hon. F. PANGALLO: I will go back to the questions I asked in my speech beforehand, which have not been answered by the minister, and I will ask them again. Has the government estimated the increase in land that will be used for electricity generation?

The Hon. C.M. SCRIVEN: I can probably respond to each of the questions that the honourable member asked in his original contribution at clause 1. My advice is that the ECRD Act and rates associated are outside of the scope of this bill.

The Hon. F. PANGALLO: Will this bill, and the addition of land that will be required for this project, have an impact on council rates and the rates that are paid by the owners of the land that is used for electricity generation?

The Hon. C.M. SCRIVEN: I am advised that because it is outside the scope of this bill, there is no information that I can provide on that particular matter.

The Hon. T.A. FRANKS: The minister, in the previous answer before the Hon. Frank Pangallo's contribution, noted—in fact, it was a little self-congratulatory—'we do this the best, that's why we're doing it this way'. Is the minister aware that in the consultation on 19 March 2023 with First Nations groups, and I will read verbatim:

It was acknowledged that government has not worked with Aboriginal people appropriately in the past and DEM is working to address this by engaging with Aboriginal people throughout the development of the HRE Act.

The concept of 'just transition' is a global movement for greening the economy in a way that is as fair and inclusive as possible to everyone concerned, creating decent work opportunities, minimising environmental impacts and leaving no one behind.

Companies need to meet environmental, social and governance (ESG) principles, including those of free, prior, informed consent (FPIC), to receive funding nationally and internationally. Poor performers do not get funding.

So by the government's very own admission, in their consultation they admit that they have not done it that well to date and that they have pledged to do better. They have also promised free prior and informed consent, and to be guided by ESG principles. My question to the minister is: in the First Nations consultation, was it made clear that we were not just talking about green hydrogen and renewables with this piece of legislation but, indeed, it was technology agnostic on hydrogen?

The Hon. C.M. SCRIVEN: My advice is that all parties were advised that this bill is technology agnostic and, secondly, that renewable energy approvals previously—until this bill passes, if it does—were under the planning act. They were not under the leading frameworks that we are seeking to have here. I also note that we can always improve our consultation. Even if we have world-leading and first-class regulatory frameworks, we should always be looking at continuous improvement in terms of consultation.

The Hon. T.A. FRANKS: How were participants at a forum before the bill was released told that the bill was technology agnostic? Did you also have time travel incorporated into this bill? The bill did not even exist at the time.

The Hon. C.M. SCRIVEN: I am advised that the issues paper that was released, prior to the forums to which the honourable member refers, referred to it being—I am not sure if it was by name or not, using these words—technology agnostic. The draft bill, of course, was then structured on that.

The Hon. T.A. FRANKS: So weasel words, basically. Can the minister provide that list of the environmental groups that support the current incarnation of this bill in its current form, as she took on notice well over half an hour ago now?

The Hon. C.M. SCRIVEN: I am advised that the following groups were consulted: the Australian Marine Conservation Society, AP4CA in New South Wales, the Conservation Council of South Australia, the Native Vegetation Council, PEW Charitable Trusts, the South Australian Nature Alliance, the Coast Protection Board, and Friends of the Earth. I do not have any further updated information other than that they were involved in the consultation.

The Hon. T.A. FRANKS: With respect, the question was: which of the environmental groups that the government consulted support the bill in its current form? The minister did not answer that question.

The CHAIR: That question has already been asked.

The Hon. C.M. SCRIVEN: I did answer the question a moment ago. I said I do not have any further updated information other than that these other groups were involved in consultation.

The Hon. R.A. SIMMS: I am advised that in the other place a bill from the Hon. Sarah Game relating to ministerial travel has now been moved up for debate for the next sitting week. Earlier, the government advised that there had been no deal done with the Hon. Sarah Game. Is that still the government's position?

The Hon. C.M. SCRIVEN: Each of the crossbench in this place made statements to the effect that they had not engaged in any deals. I think the line of questioning is quite offensive.

The Hon. N.J. CENTOFANTI: In the committee stage of this bill in the other place, the minister spoke about one rule book. Is that the case in other jurisdictions? In other words, do other states have a consistent framework for both leasehold and freehold land?

The Hon. C.M. SCRIVEN: My advice is that other states do not have purpose-built legislation for renewable and hydrogen, and therefore that answers that question.

The Hon. N.J. CENTOFANTI: Has the department undertaken any modelling on how many renewable energy projects will be constructed as a result of this legislation, both on designated land and on freehold land?

The Hon. C.M. SCRIVEN: I am advised that we have the total estimated capital development investment, and that is the figure I mentioned earlier of $21 billion. That is obviously dependent on which specific proponents come forward, but that is the total estimated pipeline of renewable energy projects.

The Hon. N.J. CENTOFANTI: But has there been any modelling as to which areas the government would be looking at to place these projects?

The Hon. C.M. SCRIVEN: My advice is that, yes, modelling has been done. There is consultation on study areas at present with native title holders, but in terms of formal consultation obviously that cannot occur unless and until this bill is passed.

The Hon. N.J. CENTOFANTI: The minister mentioned that consultation is being done on various study areas. What stakeholders exactly form part of that consultation process?

The Hon. C.M. SCRIVEN: My advice is that informal consultation is happening at this stage. As I mentioned, the formal process could not commence unless and until the bill is passed. To provide the information on who that informal consultation is occurring with would be commercial-in-confidence, because obviously it would identify the potential areas and provide commercial information.

The Hon. N.J. CENTOFANTI: Can the minister outline what she means by informal? Is it a tap on the shoulder? Is it phone conversations? Is the informal consultation documented or is it just a handshake?

The Hon. C.M. SCRIVEN: My advice is that the use of the word informal relates to the fact that it is not forming part of a formal consultation process as outlined in this bill. In that sense it does not have that level of formality. I am advised that the focus is on building relationships with landholders and that those interactions would be documented by the department but, as I mentioned, have a commercial confidentiality attached to them.

The Hon. N.J. CENTOFANTI: I ask the minister again, because she has not answered my question: what actually makes up that informal consultation process on those study areas?

The Hon. C.M. SCRIVEN: I am advised that it would be a variety of interactions.

The Hon. T.A. FRANKS: The minister previously noted that the government had consulted with the Nature Conservation Society of South Australia. I have a copy of their correspondence of Thursday 29 June, and I note that four paragraphs in it says, 'The bill as drafted will not provide adequate protection for South Australia's biodiversity.' What updates have been made to the bill since that time to respond to those concerns raised by the Nature Conservation Society of South Australia?

The Hon. C.M. SCRIVEN: I am advised that the role of a statement of environmental objectives is to outline the obligations for a specified activity and area and will establish particular objectives regarding the management and prevention of biosecurity risks, to ensure landholders are protected from any incursion. In addition to that, whilst mentioning biosecurity, biodiversity would also be covered. A statement of environmental objectives is developed through an open consultative process, including with affected pastoralists.

The Hon. T.A. FRANKS: My question again is: how did the government address the Nature Conservation Society of South Australia's concern that the bill as drafted will not provide adequate protection for South Australia's biodiversity? I note that the minister referred to biosecurity. That is a different portfolio.

The Hon. C.M. SCRIVEN: Perhaps I am not speaking loudly enough today. I mentioned biosecurity, and then I also mentioned biodiversity and that all of those things will be covered under that statement of environmental objectives.

The Hon. T.A. FRANKS: What changes were made between the correspondence of 29 June and the bill that we have before us currently?

The Hon. C.M. SCRIVEN: My advice is that that was always covered under the proposed bill.

The Hon. T.A. FRANKS: To be clear, when the government has finally come up with a few environmental groups that they have actually spoken to, they have cited this one, the Nature Conservation Society of South Australia, as one of the ones that has been consulted and then they have provided in an answer that they made no change in response to their serious concerns about a lack of adequate protections for biodiversity. Is that the case?

The Hon. C.M. SCRIVEN: I am advised that their view was that adequate protections are in place under the bill.

The Hon. T.A. FRANKS: That certainly was not necessarily the environmental stakeholders' view. It might be the government's view, but for the government to present that they have properly consulted I find a little dubious right now, given they have not taken on board quite reasonable suggestions.

The Hon. C. BONAROS: We have had reference to the various types of hydrogen, and in response to some of the questions already asked the minister has confirmed, obviously, that the bill covers these. Can the minister also confirm that this extends to gold hydrogen, which has a smaller footprint compared to other exploration activities and does not necessarily require fracking and hydraulic stimulation to be produced?

The Hon. C.M. SCRIVEN: My advice is that gold hydrogen is naturally occurring, and therefore is under the scope of the Petroleum and Geothermal Energy Act.

The Hon. C. BONAROS: Can the minister just confirm, when it comes to green hydrogen, where will the water come from to produce green hydrogen?

The Hon. C.M. SCRIVEN: I am advised that the source of water to be used would depend on the location of the projects, the environmental practices, the commerciality of those projects, and so could come from any number of sources, whether that be desalinated sea water, whether it be groundwater subject to the water allocation plans of the location, or SA Water types of provision.

The Hon. N.J. CENTOFANTI: The minister spoke earlier about the statement of environmental objectives in regard to biosecurity and biodiversity. What protections are in place for landholders if a statement of environmental objectives is not adhered to by the licensee?

The Hon. C.M. SCRIVEN: I am advised that there are escalating levels of compliance, starting with directives, going through to fines, and going through to the removal of licence, which would mean that the operator would be unable to continue with their enterprise.

The Hon. N.J. CENTOFANTI: Can the minister give any indication, perhaps from other areas, where certainly fines and, more specifically, the removal of licence has occurred from licensees under these circumstances?

The Hon. C.M. SCRIVEN: Was it petroleum or—

The Hon. N.J. CENTOFANTI: Mining.

The Hon. C.M. SCRIVEN: I am advised we do not have that information to hand and will need to take it on notice.

The Hon. F. PANGALLO: Can the minister tell me what the storage capacity will be once the project is completed?

The Hon. C.M. SCRIVEN: That would need to be a specific question about a specific project.

The Hon. F. PANGALLO: What I mean is, once the hydrogen plant is completed what will be the storage capacity?

The Hon. C.M. SCRIVEN: I am advised that, assuming the honourable member is referring to the Hydrogen Jobs Plan and the project that has been announced there, the storage capacity would be sufficient to come on when electricity being produced by wind and solar has dropped to insufficient levels. To my understanding, there is not a figure that has been publicly released.

The Hon. F. PANGALLO: Are you saying that you cannot say how much is actually going to be stored on site? How is that going to work?

The Hon. C.M. SCRIVEN: I am advised that there are a number of project partners who would be involved with that project, and they may either provide storage on site or via a pipeline or potentially a combination, so until that is finalised, that is as much information as I can provide.

The Hon. F. PANGALLO: Is there any intent to transport or export hydrogen to other markets overseas and how will that be done?

The Hon. C.M. SCRIVEN: I am advised that this bill provides the opportunity to set criteria. For example, criteria could be set in regard to the benefits to South Australia directly, but all of that will be subject to commercial negotiation.

The Hon. F. PANGALLO: I guess this is something that may have to be answered further down the track, but I am wondering what type of security arrangements will be undertaken when the projects are underway and when they are completed?

The Hon. C.M. SCRIVEN: Could I clarify? Is the honourable member referring to security such as holding a bond, or the other meaning of security?

The Hon. F. PANGALLO: To secure the sites.

The Hon. C.M. SCRIVEN: So physical security. In terms of security for individual licences, I am advised that would be considered under the statement of environmental impact. If there were going to be, for example, people who would normally come onto that piece of land who would no longer be able to do so, that would come under the statement of environmental impact. If the honourable member is referring to physical security around the plant that has been announced as a government project, that is the sort of thing that would be worked out closer to the time.

Clause passed.

Progress reported; committee to sit again.

Sitting suspended from 12:52 to 14:16.