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Tuesday, 1 April 1980
Page: 1244

Senator TEAGUE (SOUTH AUSTRALIA) - My question also is directed to the Minister for National Development and Energy. It concerns whether the amount of funding for solar energy research in Australia is adequate relative to present funding for nuclear energy research. It is true that the Australian Government, through National Energy Research, Development and Demonstration Council grants, currently is providing less than half a million dollars for solar energy research in universities and industry but, through the Australian Atomic Energy Commission, is providing about $20m for nuclear research? Will the Minister place in some perspective the longer term prospects of solar energy applications in Australia? Finally, will the Government give every consideration to increasing substantially research funding for solar energy in the light of claims that Australian solar energy research funding represents only one-fifth of the amount of research funding in the United States of America when a comparison of funding is made on a per capita basis?

Senator CARRICK - An amount of$5.6m has been committed to solar energy research under the NERDDC program, which represents 73 projects covering areas such as solar electric systems, solar collector technology, biomass conversion to liquid fuels and solar heating and cooling of buildings. The funding of the Australian atomic energy research establishment cannot be compared directly with the amount allocated to solar research under the NERDDC program. The funds allocated under the NERDDC program are for direct expenditure on projects undertaken under that program and do not include a component for overheads such as buildings and organisations. Such overheads are extensively funded by the Government through direct funding.

The Government, on the advice of NERDDC and on advice received from my Department, has under constant review the level of funding of solar energy research. The fact is that in Australia Australian scientists are making quite considerable initiatives and frontier advances in solar energy research. We are keeping that in mind. It is fair to say though that within the present knowledge of the technology of solar energy, if used to its full capacity it could not be more than about a 10 per cent supplement or pan of total energy requirements. If we are to do better than that we will need a great breakthrough in research, particularly in photo-voltaic cells. We are contemplating the possibility of setting up in the Northern Territory, possibly at a town like Katherine, a solar energy pilot scheme so that we can learn more from it. We are keeping this in the forefront of our research.

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