Green groups target Adelaide festivals ahead of SA election – and reviews are mixed

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Culture meets politics as environmental groups distribute scorecards rating the major parties’ environment policies

The South Australian party leaders onstage at the leaders debate at the Adelaide festival.
The South Australian party leaders onstage at the leaders debate at the Adelaide festival. Photograph: Morgan Sette/AAP

Renewable energy groups are targeting Adelaide’s festival season ahead of the South Australian election with scorecards rating the major parties’ environmental policies, with the Greens and Labor leading the way.

A scorecard distributed by the Australian Conservation Foundation gives its only five-star rating for renewables to the Greens. Labor gets a glowing four-and-a-half star rating for its heavy investment in renewable energy; Nick Xenophon’s SA Best receives a lukewarm two stars, while the Liberals are panned with a scathing half-star rating.

Gavan McFadzean, the ACF manager of climate change and clean energy, told Australia the organisation was promoting the rating along with a more general environmental scorecard.

“We’ll be distributing it through a range of events in the next week. It’s Adelaide festival season, with Womadelaide and other events, so there will be a lot of people on the streets, a lot of festivals going on, and we’ll have people out amongst the crowds making people aware of the scorecards,” he said.

McFadzean said scores would also be emailed to the 130,000 members of the 33 organisations that contributed to the OurFuture SA analysis, and distributed among polling booths across Adelaide on election day.

The renewables ratings were extracted from an assessment of each party’s environmental platform, based on the answers of an online questionnaire completed by the leaders of the four biggest parties contesting the election.

Labor’s score plummets down to two stars when all environmental issues are considered.

“On the overall scorecard Labor comes back to the field as they weren’t able to commit to half of the ledger; they might be an international leader on clean energy, but they weren’t able to make a strong commitment to rule out fracking in the south east, [or] drilling for fossil fuels in the Simpson Desert and Great Australian Bight,” McFadzean said.

The Greens managed five stars in the overall scorecard too, which McFadzean said might not be surprising but shouldn’t be taken for granted.

He added SA Best moved up to three stars overall due to a solid performance on its fossil fuel extraction policy, natural protection and expenditure in the state budget for environmental issues. “Unlike other major parties who tended to tank in a couple of areas, SA Best were not outstanding but solid across the board,” McFadzean said.

The Liberals rose to one-and-a-half stars partly due to support for a 10-year fracking moratorium in the state’s south-east.

Cory Bernardi’s Australian Conservatives ignored invitations to contribute, which McFadzean said represented the party’s “cavalier” attitude towards the environment.

Another contributor to the analysis, the solar energy advocacy organisation Solar Citizens, is shifting its volunteer door-knocking team to this weekend’s Womadelaide festival to distribute its own version of the scorecard based on the renewable energy target. Solar Citizens highlighted the Greens leading the way with a 100% target for 2025, Labor in second place with a 75% target, SA Best third with a commitment to maintaining the current 50% target, and the Liberals last with their pledge to scrap the state-based goal in favour of federal action.

The Solar Citizens South Australia campaigner Dan Spencer told Australia the organisation, backed by a range of solar energy companies, hoped to pressure the Liberals into abandoning their plans to scrap the target, saying it jeopardised investment.

The rating also factored in each party’s policies needed to realise targets, such as Labor’s Renewable Technology Fund, which has already funded enough projects to go halfway to meeting the party’s new 25% energy storage target.

Spencer pointed to Wednesday’s announcement that Neoen would explore development of a $600m hydrogen storage facility, backed up by a combined $5m in grants from Labor’s Renewable Technology Fund and a further $20m in loans if the project advances beyond feasibility stage.

The fund has invested in a range of projects, including $7m into Tilt Renewables Snowtown North Solar Farm and the Battery Energy Storage System Project.

The Tilt Renewables chief executive, Deion Campbell credited Labor’s “strong support in helping open our facilities and being progressive toward renewables”.

He was unconcerned about the Liberal plan to scrap the state RET because so much renewable infrastructure had already been built, and expressed hope Xenophon’s previous hostility to windfarms had been “put to bed” with SA Best’s interest in expanding storage capacity.

Of course, the opinion of the critics doesn’t always align with that of the general public, who will provide their own review when South Australia goes to the polls on 17 March – one day before the end of festival season.