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Coal companies investing in solar thermal are well ahead of Rudd and Wong.

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Christine Milne

Australian Senate Australian Greens Senators for Tasmania

media release

Coal companies investing in solar thermal are well ahead of Rudd and Wong

Sydney, Tuesday 12 August 2008 The announcement by several major global coal corporations of significant plans to invest in solar thermal power stations should lead the Rudd Government to shift its focus from coal to renewable energy, Australian Greens climate change

spokesperson, Senator Christine Milne, said today.

Engineering company WorleyParsons today announced that it was investigating building an array of large-scale solar thermal power plants across Australia, starting with a 250 MW plant to be operational within 3 years. The project depends on the cooperation of major coal

corporations including BHP Billiton, Rio Tinto, Wesfarmers and others.

Senator Milne said, “It is no surprise that major global companies that are seriously exposed to carbon liability are recognising the need to diversify. In today’s world, a heavy reliance on coal is a tremendous risk, so it makes perfect sense that these players are turning to an obvious mature alternative such as solar thermal power.

“It is hardly surprising that coal companies, like tobacco and asbestos before them, are still lobbying to protect their past while putting an eye to the future with a diversification strategy. The challenge for the Rudd Government is to invest in the future, not protect the past.

“It is becoming ever clearer that, as the pipedream of ‘clean coal’ fades into the future, large scale renewable energy technologies like solar thermal will leapfrog into the lead. This conservative estimate would see solar power pumping the equivalent of 8 large coal-fired power stations into the grid before even the more bullish industry projections have a single commercial geosequestration plant coming online.

“The exciting vision of a solar power boom across Australia will not happen unless the Rudd Government steps up to the plate with the right incentives, starting with immediately increasing the mandatory renewable energy target and supplementing it with comprehensive renewable

energy feed-in tariffs.

“An emissions trading scheme design which protects existing coal investments, as Rudd and Wong’s proposal would do, will not make this completely achievable vision become a reality.

“Instead of frittering away ETS revenue on protecting the coal sector, we should be investing those funds in the infrastructure and training that we will need in order to make the transition to a zero carbon energy grid.

“The Greens have proposed a scheme to help drought-stricken regional Australia by diversifying income streams for farmers. ‘Farming Renewable Energy’ would take the transmission lines out to where the solar resources are best and facilitate the consultations necessary to pre-permit large areas for renewable energy to enable the solar boom. Such a scheme would make this proposal happen many times over.

“Australia can be the Saudi Arabia of solar. These companies are demonstrating that they are prepared to look at it. Is the Rudd Government prepared to make it happen?”

Contact: Tim Hollo on 0437 587 562