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Speech to the Australian Solar Institute: inspection of Silanna Research and Development Project, Olympic Park Sydney



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Minister for Resources and Energy, Minister for Tourism

Australian Solar Institute: Inspection of Silanna Research and Development Project 23 March 2012

Silanna Semiconductor Pty Ltd, Olympic Park Sydney

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Good morning ladies and gentlemen.

It is great to be here at Silanna’s facilities.

In particular, thank you to CEO Rob Lobban and Chief Technology Officer Dr Steven Duvall for their presentation.

Silanna’s project

Silanna has a proud history in manufacturing technology, having produced medical devices and defence equipment.

I am pleased to see that, with the support of Australian Solar Institute’s Round One Research and Development funding, Silanna is now able to apply that know-how to the solar industry.

Silanna’s high efficiency, integrated solar module is exactly the kind of innovation that makes Australia a world class act when it comes to solar research.

And higher efficiencies could lead to lower costs - which is what it is all about when it comes to commercialising renewable technologies.

It is a great example of why the government set up the Australian Solar Institute—to identify solar research excellence, leverage funding from the private sector and to work closely with organisations to take projects through to a successful completion.

And by successful, we mean positioning projects so that they are ready for the market.

It is also a great example of how existing manufacturing businesses can identify new opportunities in the market and transform themselves to meet them.

Our energy mix, which is dominated by fossil fuels, is fundamental to our economy and national prosperity.

However, as the Commonwealth Government has made clear, to meet the challenge of reducing our carbon emissions we need to increase the uptake of clean energy in Australia.

That’s why we pursue the development of solar and other renewable energy technologies.

And that’s why the Government, through the Australian Solar Institute, is supporting the research of solar technologies at companies like Silanna.

The Government recognises the development of renewables is a long-term task that involves learning lessons to help future commercial deployment and drive down costs.

We will continue to drive this investment in innovation through the Clean Energy Future package, which will see the introduction of a $23 price on carbon on 1 July of this year.

Importantly, the Clean Energy Future package will see the establishment of the Australian Renewable Energy Agency (ARENA) and the Clean Energy Finance Corporation (CEFC).

ARENA will manage $3.2 billion in funding to support the research and development, demonstration, commercialisation and deployment of renewable energy.

The ASI will be incorporated into ARENA by 1 January 2013, where its projects and funding will continue to support solar technology in Australia.

The Clean Energy Finance Corporation will complement ARENA by driving innovation in clean energy through a potential range of financial measures such as commercial loans, loan guarantees and equity investments.

Round 3

Of course, carefully targeting Australian Government investment in solar R&D is necessary if we are going to drive further innovation in solar technology.

I am therefore pleased to announce today the allocation of almost $12 million of Australian Government funding under ASI's Round 3 Research and Development (R&D) program.

This particular round will see a focus on investment in the development of concentrating solar power technology, and will support both photovoltaic and solar thermal technology.

An example of the projects we are funding is CSIRO research into a ‘Solar energy management system for utilities’

We know there are strains on the electricity grid, particularly during the hottest days in summer when air conditioners are running.

This project will help to alleviate the strain by “turning on” a solar system to power a home’s air-conditioning, reducing the peak demand that is a factor driving up electricity costs.

Another example is a project by Chromasun to develop a pilot rooftop product to simultaneously provide electricity and hot water.

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Importantly, the majority of these projects are being led by industry, meaning that any advances can be leveraged by these companies directly into the marketplace.

And leveraging is something the Australian Solar Institute does well with the total value of Round 3 projects worth over $33 million collectively.

I congratulate the Australian Solar Institute for the work it has done in assessing and selecting these projects.

PhD Scholarships and Postdoctoral Fellowships

Today I am also pleased to make a number of announcements that are supporting research and development at our tertiary institutions.

In the transition towards a clean economy, it makes sense to focus our efforts where Australia has a competitive advantage: our highly educated people.

We must exploit our advantages in education by exporting and licensing the technologies we develop at home.

We have world-class researchers and a record of successfully commercialising solar technologies—like ANU’s SLIVER solar cell technology, UNSW’s Pluto technology, and CSIRO’s Redflow battery technology.

To ensure this continues, we are supporting the next generation of leading researchers through ASI's Skills and Development Program.

Today I’m pleased to announce just over $3 million of ASI funding for eleven additional PhD Scholarships and seven Postdoctoral Fellowships.

This provides Australian scholars with the financial freedom to dedicate themselves to their solar research pursuits, and Postdoctoral students with the necessary independence to drive their own specialty research program.

Through this funding, we are unlocking the potential of some of the world’s best, early career solar researchers and supporting the growth of skills and capacity in the Australian solar sector.

I note that ASI is continuing to accept PhD Scholarship and Postdoctoral applications on an ongoing basis until 29 August this year.

I encourage researchers across the country to apply to the ASI if they want to gain access to this useful funding.

Australia-Germany Collaborative Solar R&D Program

Of course, in working to our strengths as an educated country, we have much to gain by sharing knowledge and collaborating with our friends across the globe.

As a global leader in solar research and development, Australia considers Germany an important partner—as reflected in the ASI Memorandums of Understanding (MoU) with the Fraunhofer Institute and Germany’s Aerospace Centre (DLR).

Building on these MOUs, I’m pleased to announce today that ASI is contributing $2 million of funding under the Australia-Germany Collaborative Solar R&D Program.

This investment will fund four R&D programs across three Australian universities and one project at Bluescope Steel.

The Program is designed to support solar R&D projects that are technically “excellent” and recognises the synergies between leading Australian and German solar research.

The goal of the Program is to increase the commercial deployment of PV and CSP technologies, which links in with the Round 3 R&D announcements I have also made today.

As with the PhD Scholarship and Postdoctoral program, ASI will continue to receive applications for this Australia-Germany Collaborative Solar R&D Program until 29 August 2012.

I look forward to seeing both countries working closely together to make advances that will benefit all of us.

Conclusion

In closing, today has been a terrific day for solar innovation in Australia.

The three announcements that I have made bring the ASI portfolio to over a quarter of a billion dollars in investment.

And we have seen right here at Silanna the fruits of Government support for research and development in cutting edge technologies.

Importantly, in pursuing high end research and development, together our investment is creating the highly-skilled jobs of Australia’s future.

Thank you.

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