When it comes to baseload renewables, concentrated solar power power is the number one draft pick.

Australia has a new Premier. Now it’s a good time to talk about a different type of power – the power that turns your lights on. The Playford B coal power plant in Port Augusta has been operating since the early 1960s. Having been a key part of the state’s electricity system for decades, its retirement is imminent.

Playford B’s owner Alinta is seeking federal funding to shut it down, finally putting an end to a major source of climate-changing carbon emissions and the pollution that afflicts the local community.

Research by the Climate Group confirms the ageing coal plant is the nation’s most emissions intensive. The Government’s own figures show that Playford B spews out mercury, lead and particulate matter all over the township of Port Augusta each year, materials which are known to cause health problems. We know for certain that Playford B will close. The question now is what to replace it with?

The independent energy think tank Beyond Zero Emissions has looked at the options. Our new report, Repowering Port Augusta, presents concentrating solar thermal power towers as the best replacement for Playford B, and while we’re at it, its bigger neighbour the Northern power plant, which actually emits four times the amount of dangerous ultra fine particles as the Playford plant.

A packed town hall meeting in Port Augusta late last year signified strong support for the plan to power South Australia’s economy without the unwanted climate change or public health impacts.

Solar thermal power plants work to the same fundamental principle as a coal thermal plants, but use the sun and a field of mirrors rather than polluting fossil fuels to generate the heat needed to power a steam turbine.

The solar thermal "power towers" we recommend generate electricity day or night. The sun’s heat is stored in tanks, much like a thermos, and released to create electricity whenever it’s needed.

Mayor Joy Baluch and even the owner of Playford and Northern Jeff Dimery support solar thermal in Port Augusta.

Now is the time for the Government and Opposition to get serious about the future of the SA’s electricity supply and support the proposal to build baseload solar power in Port Augusta. Strong support at this critical stage will ensure the state is home to Australia’s first solar power towers.

Leadership from South Australian politicians can make Playford B a serious contender for the federal investment needed to fund a replacement. Your elected representatives can send a powerful signal to Australia’s new green bank, the Clean Energy Finance Corporation, that SA is ripe for solar thermal investment.

The strategic adoption of solar thermal power will deliver multiple benefits for the state. SA can capitalise on its rich solar resource to become a world leader in large-scale baseload solar technology – a rapidly growing industry with excellent export potential.

The switch from coal to solar thermal in Port Augusta will keep electricity generation in the region. Beyond Zero Emissions estimate building a solar thermal plant would create around 1300 construction and 250 permanent operations and maintenance jobs.

Closing down the Playford B and Northern smokestacks would put an end to the pollution that results in increased rates of asthma and respiratory illness in Port Augusta.

Those who want SA to be a world leader in renewable energy will support concentrated solar thermal. Those who want jobs, investment and advanced manufacturing in the state will get behind this proposal. And those who want clean air and good health in Port Augusta will too.

SA can be the first state to replace coal smoke with mirrors. Now is the time for the State Government and Opposition to get behind a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.

The choice for SA is crystal clear. It must step into the 21st Century and invest in clean, renewable energy infrastructure.

And when it comes to baseload renewables, concentrating solar thermal power is the number one draft pick.

Mark Ogge is Strategic Director for Beyond Zero Emissions