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Thursday, 14 November 2002
Page: 6472


Senator Brown asked the Minister representing the Minister for Education, Science and Training, upon notice, on 18 October 2002:

(1) For how long is the Research and Development (R&D) Start Program suspended.

(2) Of the R&D start projects currently funded: (a) can a list be provided of those based on the use of fossil fuels and those based on renewable energy; (b) what is the duration of each project; and (c) how much government funding has been committed.

(3) (a) Is it a fact that the Commonwealth has provided $46.9 million for Cooperative Research Centres (CRC) based on fossil fuels and $10.4 million for CRCs based on renewable energy; and (b) will the funding for the sole renewable energy CRC run out in June 2003.

(4) What additional funding will be provided for renewable energy in the next round of CRCs.

(5) Other than CRCs and R&D start projects, what government programs specifically fund basic research into renewable energy (as distinct from commercialisation).

(6) Other than CRCs and R&D start projects, what government programs specifically fund basic research into fossil fuels (as distinct from commercialisation).

(7) Has the Government effectively abandoned renewable energy as a field of research.

(8) Why is the Government favouring research into fossil fuels at the expense of renewable energy.


Senator Alston (Minister for Communications, Information Technology and the Arts) —The Minister for Education, Science and Training has provided the following answer to the honourable senator's question:

All questions relating to the Research and Development (R&D) START Programme and the Commonwealth's policies and programmes relating to renewable energy and fossil fuels are the responsibility of and should be directed to the Minister for Industry, Tourism and Resources, the Hon Ian Macfarlane MP.

In regard to your questions concerning the Cooperative Research Centres programme, which is managed in the portfolio of the Minister for Education, Science and Training, the following information has been provided.

(3) (a) The Commonwealth has current commitments of $46.9 million in funding to support the activities of the following Cooperative Research Centres that are undertaking research relevant to fossil-fuel based industries. Each of these CRCs has a research component concerned with sustainability and environmental impacts.

CRC

7 Year Funding Amount ($million)

Australian Petroleum CRC (1997-2004)

18.3

CRC for Clean Power from Lignite* (1999-2006)

14.1

CRC for Coal in Sustainable Development (2001-2008)

14.5

Total current commitment to Fossil-fuel based CRCs

46.9

* Lignite is brown coal

(3) (b) The Commonwealth has committed funding of $10.4 million for a seven year period (1996-2003) to the Cooperative Research Centre for Renewable Energy. The Centre has applied for a new round of funding (for a period of seven years) in the 2002 CRC selection round.

(4) An application with a focus on renewable energy was received in the 2002 CRC selection round from the existing CRC for Renewable Energy. This application progressed through the eligibility and comprehensive assessment phases of the selection process in July and September respectively. It underwent the third phase of the selection process (an interview by an expert panel) on 30 October 2002.

The CRC Committee will shortly make recommendations to the Minster for Science on the applications to be funded. It is expected that successful applications will be announced in December 2002.

It may also be of relevant interest that the CRC for Greenhouse Accounting seeks to enhance management of greenhouse emissions through improved methodologies for measuring carbon in terrestrial ecosystems. This information will assist stakeholders, including those in the energy sector, to explore available options for better management of carbon sequestration. This Centre commenced operations in 1999 and will receive $15.4 million over the seven year life of the CRC.