Bureaucrats’ evasion of responsibility taken to a new low in Australian solar scheme fiasco

AUSTRALIAN solar has just a five-year window of opportunity to strengthen its  position, a conference in Melbourne was told  yesterday, otherwise it will miss out.

A number of large-scale Australian solar electricity projects are to be built with $1.5  billion of federal government funding at a time when there is record spending  globally on solar energy.

In the US, the government is spending $US12 billion ($11.3 billion) across 12  projects in the second quarter of 2011.

”Once again, we are not at risk of leading the pack, but of falling behind.  We need to put an end to the brain drain and keep our brightest solar minds  delivering local innovations,” Matthew Warren, from the Clean Energy Council,  told a solar industry conference yesterday.

”The critical thing is to get projects built so that we can develop local  skills and expertise. This will enable us to learn and innovate, identifying  ways to bring the technology down in cost while increasing its  effectiveness.”

Government needs to create a stable policy environment to facilitate  investment in large-scale Australian solar projects, he said, with a clear pipeline of  large-scale solar projects required by 2020, 2030 and 2050, which will help  build local capacity and help achieve cost reductions.

Mark Twidell, from the Australian Solar Institute, said the cost of  photovoltaic cells is declining around 20 per cent annually, as the efficiency  of converting light into electricity rises towards 20 per cent, which is near   the anticipated peak of 25 per cent with existing technology.

”The capital costs with large-scale solar is huge,” he said. ”Even if they  are halved, which would make solar competitive with gas, the upfront capital  investment is still very large.

”Without financial sector support, large-scale solar is not going to take  off. The technology needed to lower the capital cost is yet to be proven, and  that research is needed to win the backing of the banks and financiers.”

The  Minister for  Energy, Martin Ferguson, said a carbon price would  spur  investment in renewable energy. The proposed $10 billion Clean Energy Finance  Corporation would  assist solar overcome this handicap.

by Brian Robins, SMH

The Author

I took an interest in the Australian energy sector close to ten years ago and since then have monitored the trends, technologies and direction of the Australian Energy Market. I was drawn to the Australian solar market in 2008 and since then have worked heavily in the field. I am partnered with national and international solar energy companies, from manufacturers of solar panel and inverter technology, online software developers that introduce tools to quote, monitor and manage solar power systems and media organisations who like myself, closely monitor the solar and renewable energy sector.

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