Australian Solar sector held back by foggy energy policy  

Posted by Big Gav in , , ,

The Australian reports that the local solar power industry is in a state of confusion about government policy regarding the sector, with the solar thermal power plant proposed for Queensland considered unlikely to go ahead - Solar sector held back by foggy energy policy.

The government is driving the solar industry to the point of exasperation because of the lack of clarity, constant changes, and delays in its policy for supporting large-scale solar development. The industry has already urged the government to rework its Solar Flagships program, after pointing out that the $1.5 billion scheme unveiled in May was ill-conceived, unworkable and simply wasn't enough to fund the 1000MW target.

That program, proudly unveiled by Rudd, was for four large-scale solar thermal and solar PV installations located in a single project that would be the largest in the world. But as this column pointed out in July, the idea of creating four 250MW projects was strategically suspect, locating them in a single location was technically impossible, and there was simply not enough money to match the megawatts. ...

The conference was addressed by Resources Minister Martin Ferguson, who again rejected feed-in tariffs. He pointed to the experience in Germany, where he said feed-in tariffs to support rooftop solar and the like had cost the country $1bn a year for less than 1 per cent of its energy needs. But the solar industry points out that was never the point of the scheme in a country with such lousy solar conditions. Germany now possesses the intellectual property and the manufacturing and export capacity that is expected to make it one of the three dominant global players in an industry that will be worth tens of billion dollars a year. It now has 50,000 employees in the solar industry. Australia, with the best solar conditions in the world, and the home of some of its best technological developments, has little more than 1000, and no manufacturing capacity to speak of. ...

Grimes says Australia had the chance to be a global leader in roof-top and small-scale solar photovoltaics, but lost it. "We are now a consumer of those products from Germany and China. Solar thermal is our one remaining opportunity for industry leadership. It's ours to capture or lose. Let's see if we can learn from history and do better."

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