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South Australia's biggest electricity intervention in two decades -

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MARK COLVIN: It's the biggest intervention in South Australia's electricity network since privatisation almost 20 years ago.

The Premier, Jay Weatherill's unveiled a raft of changes aimed at securing and retaking control of the state's energy supply.

The half billion-dollar plan includes a state government-owned gas-fired power station, and incentives for private companies to build battery storage.

Business, industry and welfare groups have shown a range of reactions, from caution to overwhelming support as they digest the detail.

Caroline Winter reports.

CAROLINE WINTER: He promised it would be a dramatic, bold plan to deliver South Australians reliable power and drive down prices, and today South Australian Premier Jay Weatherill unveiled that plan.

JAY WEATHERILL: It's a plan for the 21st Century. It's a plan to take our clean, green, renewable resources and use them to create an energy future for our state, and indeed, for our nation.

CAROLINE WINTER: In shoring up the state's energy supply, South Australia will no longer rely on other states for its energy.

It's going it alone and, in being self-reliant, the Government has outlined a six-point plan.

The centrepiece is a new state government-owned gas-fired power plant at a cost of $360 million; alongside that, Australia's largest battery storage facility, as part of a $150 million new renewable technology fund.

There's also incentives for companies and landowners to tap into gas reserves, and powers will be given to the state's energy minister to override other regulators.

The intervention has a total value of $550 million and will create 630 jobs.

JAY WEATHERILL: All of the policies that we're proposing will be complementary to what we understand will be recommended by the chief scientist in the Finkel Review.

We have no confidence that those changes, at least the fundamental ones, will occur any time soon.

It may well be that there requires a change of government at a national level before we see an emissions intensity scheme.

CAROLINE WINTER: Premier Weatherill says the state couldn't wait any longer and was forced to intervene to stabilise the energy market.

The announcement comes off the back of three weather events and two system failures since September, which cut power repeatedly to homes and businesses, the most recent, last month during load shedding.

The plan has been praised by some quarters and cautiously welcomed by others.

Professor John Spoehr from the Australian Industrial Transformation Institute says intervention had to happen and may only be the start.

JOHN SPOEHR: This may not be the end. It may be necessary to intervene more in the future if it's necessary.

So, I don't think this is the end of the story, but it's the first part of a necessary change in energy policy here in South Australia. And watch this space. I expect other state governments to follow suit.

CAROLINE WINTER: Business SA says it's been a long time coming for the business community, which has been crying out for months.

ANTHONY PENNEY: It's absolutely infuriating and frustrating that it's taken us this long to get to this point.

Businesses have been feeling the affordability side of things 18 months ago. We raised the flag then.

CAROLINE WINTER: Spokesman Anthony Penney says they aren't completely sold yet.

While they support incentives for battery storage, they worry the extra ministerial powers could antagonise other states.

ANTHONY PENNEY: The last thing that we want to have happen is the Victorian Government withhold any energy supply coming across the interconnector, which puts South Australia in a shortfall.

We need to consider everything in the context of a national energy market.

Granted, the NEM as it is right now is not fit for purpose, and because of technological changes, but we still need to consider everything in the future that it will remain a national energy market.

CAROLINE WINTER: BHP has welcomed the State Government's plan, along with AGL, which, via Twitter, labelled it a strong reform package which recognises the role of gas in transition to renewables.

But the Conservation Council's Craig Wilkins says the jury is still out on whether it's the right plan.

CRAIG WILKINS: It's a real tension between gas and renewables.

A lot of the mechanisms in place could be used to help either, and it's really important that the Government actually chooses to vote with a future and go down the path of the cleaner, more reliable, and ultimately cheaper source of power, which is renewables.

CAROLINE WINTER: But with electricity costs on the rise, the big question for residents and businesses is just when will power prices come down? Premier Weatherill can't say.

JAY WEATHERILL: Well, what we have is expert advice that this will reduce the price of electricity absolutely when competitive pressures are returned to the market, which this plan endeavours to achieve.

CAROLINE WINTER: It's that power price drop which welfare groups say will measure the Government's success.

Ross Womersley is from the South Australian Council of Social Service, and says customers have a right to be sceptical.

ROSS WOMERSLY: They will feel somewhat cautious. They will feel probably sceptical about show me the money, really.

And if we come back in 12 months' time, what we would hope is that we would be much clearer and able, the Government would be able to point to the fact that their interventions had in fact resulted in price decreases rather than price increases.

CAROLINE WINTER: The South Australian Opposition Leader, Steven Marshall, claims the half a billion dollar plan will do nothing but increase cost to every energy consumer in the state.

STEVEN MARSHALL: I think over the next five years you can expect downward pressure on energy prices, and that's a good thing.

It's not going to happen straightaway, but the intervention is timed to happen very quickly, so you can expect to see downward pressure on prices within two years.

CAROLINE WINTER: The plan will be in the spotlight for the weeks and months to come as parts of it roll out.

And, if it wasn't before, the energy issue is squarely on the agenda as South Australia counts down to the next state election, next March.

MARK COLVIN: Caroline Winter.