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Tuesday, 25 November 2003
Page: 22864

Mr Kelvin Thomson asked the Minister for the Environment and Heritage, upon notice, on 7 October 2003:

(1) Is the Government examining the implementation of a national solar cell policy for the installation of solar cells in all new buildings.

(2) Is the Government aware that the world's largest photovoltaic manufacturing plant has recently been completed in Spain using Australian developed technologies; if so, is he able to say why developers were forced overseas in order to commercialise this product.

(3) Does the Government support the establishment of a photovoltaic manufacturing plant in Australia; if so, what action if any is the Government taking to encourage the mass production of consumer grade solar cells in Australia.

(4) Has the Minister investigated the potential for solar cells to be installed on Australian roofs.

(5) Is it the case that the principal challenges facing traditional solar cell farms are the transportation and storage of electricity and that these issues are overcome by installing solar cells on roofs.

(6) Has the Government conducted any estimates of the amount of greenhouse gas emissions which could be saved in Australia through the widespread installation of solar cells on buildings; if so, what is the amount of greenhouse gas emissions which could be prevented in this way.

Dr Kemp (Minister for the Environment and Heritage) —The answer to the honourable member's question is as follows:

(1) The Australian Government is supporting renewable energy through a combination of incentives, however building regulation is the responsibility of State and Territory Governments.

(2) The Government is aware of BP Solar's facility in Spain that utilizes Saturn photovoltaic cell technology developed by the University of New South Wales. The right to manufacture cells using this technology was purchased by BP Solar, a multinational company, that chose to deploy the technology in their plant in Spain. The Australian Government does not seek to impose restrictions on the sale of Australian-developed photovoltaic technologies.

(3) There is already a photovoltaic manufacturing plant in Australia, and three pilot manufacturing plants have been supported by Government grants. The Australian Government recognizes the importance of building a robust high growth renewable energy technology industry with strong export potential. A number of Australian Government programs support the growth of renewable energy in Australia. The Mandatory Renewable Energy Target (MRET) was introduced in April 2001 requiring electricity retailers to source an additional 9500 Gigawatt hours per year of new renewable energy by 2010. Also over $300 million is being provided through grant programs to support the commercialization of technologies, standards, training and utilization of renewable energy. For example, a remote property can receive up to 50% rebate on the cost of solar power, a suburban home can receive up to $4000. To date $11,222,000 in grants have been approved to commercialize Australian solar photovoltaic technologies.

(4) The Government is supporting the installation of solar power systems on Australian roofs through the range of measures outlined in (3) above.

(5) No. Solar farms are not necessarily located in remote areas where transportation of electricity may be an issue.

(6) No specific study has been undertaken, however, the Renewable Energy Regulator who determines the credits given to renewable energy generators under the Mandatory Renewable Energy Target, has deemed that 1 kilowatt (peak) of solar panels installed on a roof will generate between 1.185 and 1.622 megawatt hours of electricity per year depending on the part of the country where the solar panels are installed. Each kilowatt (peak) photovoltaic system would thus abate up to 2.0 tonnes of greenhouse gas emissions per year, depending on the system's location and the emissions intensity of the electricity it was displacing, with the maximum abatement achieved by displacing brown coal or diesel generated electricity.