Australia has earmarked A$4.5bn ($3.5bn) in its new budget to help the country become a global leader in solar-power and carbon capture and storage (CCS) technologies. Some A$1.5bn of the ‘Clean Energy Initiative’ is new money, with the rest being redirected from existing programmes.The largest slice of the money is A$1.35bn for a ‘Solar Flagships’ programme that will develop four utility-scale, grid-linked solar arrays over the next eight years with a combined generation capacity of 1,000 megawatts (MW). The government says the programme will embrace both solar thermal and photovoltaic (PV) technologies.
A new governmental body, Renewables Australia, will also be set up to support cutting-edge renewables and CCS research and bring new technologies to market. The group will operate inside the Department of Resources, Energy and Tourism.
Renewables Australia will receive A$100m in new funding, and will be given control over A$365m of the existing Renewable Energy Fund (REF). The remaining A$135m of the REF has been committed towards the Solar Flagships programme.
The government also announced it will extend its support for an A$8,000 rebate on domestic solar modules until the subsidy is replaced later this year.
The rest of the money earmarked under the Clean Energy Initiative, most of if siphoned from existing programmes, will be spent on transforming Australia into a CCS powerhouse, with a goal to be exporting technology and expertise by 2020.
The Australian government, under Prime Minster Kevin Rudd, says the initiative will support thousands of new green jobs, stimulate industrial-scale economic activity and reduce the country’s deep carbon footprint.