The Hon Greg Combet MP’s address to 49th Annual AuSUS Solar 2011 Conference


Well, thank you for the opportunity to address the Australian Solar Energy Society’s Solar 2011 Conference. And I apologize I can’t be there today, but the Labor Party National Conference is on. So, thanks for giving me this opportunity to speak to you by video. I’d like to start by acknowledging he important role of the Australian Solar Energy Society, not only in bringing this conference together, but for the many vital contributions that it has made to the development of solar energy in Australia. This is the 49th Annual Australian Solar Energy Society Conference. And, very few renewable energy organizations, I think, can boast such a long history. For over 50 years the society and it’s predecessor, the Australian New Zealand Solar Energy Society, have made very important contributions to the development of solar energy in this country.

This year is a landmark in the history of renewable energy in Australia. I’m sure you’ll agree, because, as you’d be aware, last month the Parliament past the Government’s Clean Energy future legislation. This legislative package implements one of the most important environmental and economic reforms in our history. So, I’d like to take the opportunity to outline what the clean energy future reforms will mean for Australia’s solar and water renewable energy industry. The legislative package will give the renewable energy sector a major boost. It will deliver the right combination of economic incentives, business certainty, and government support needed to drive new investment which will help reduce the costs of renewables. Now, that investment will not only cut Australia’s greenhouse emissions, it will also support skills development and create jobs to position Australia for the low carbon global economy of the future. The government’s package is a very comprehensive and integrated suite of policies for delivering that transformation.

We’re introducing a carbon process, as you’d be well aware, from the first of July next year. This will create powerful incentives for further growth in renewable energy. Putting a price on carbon pollution will increase demand for alternative energy sources such as a small-scale solar for homes and businesses. The carbon price will be complemented by our existing renewable energy target which is already supported over 1,000 megawatts of small-scale solar PV capacity in over half a million households and over half a million solar water heaters. The renewable energy target provides, of course, additional support for both small and large-scale solar installations. The small-scale scheme will continue to provide assistance to households installing solar panels when they need it most when they’re paying for the upfront cost of installation. The government, of course, is also creating a new statuary body, The Australian Renewable Energy Agency, or ARENA. ARENA will administer 3.2 billion dollars in government support for research and development demonstration and commercialization of renewable energy technologies. The government is also establishing a new commercially oriented clean energy finance corporation. The clean energy finance corporation will have 10 billion dollars in funds available to invest in businesses seeking to get in to the clean energy project off of the ground and I’m sure you’ll agree that will be a significant boost to the industry.

The government’s confidence in large-scale solar energy is reflected in the commitment of more than 3/4 of the billion dollars under the solar flagship program to help build two of the world’s largest solar power stations at Chincilla in Queensland and Moray in New South Wales. Now, to get up, those two projects are expected to generate enough power to support the electricity needs of more than 115,000 Australian homes each year. The Solar Dawn Consortium, led by Orela Solar, will build a 250 megawatt solar thermal gas hybrid power plant near Chincilla. That will be one of the largest power plants of it’s kind in the world, as well as one of the most environmentally responsible. At least 85 percent of Solar Dawn power generation will be entirely emissions free. During construction, Solar Dawn estimates the project will generate 570 million dollars in economic activity in the region and create 300 jobs on average. The Moree Solar Consortium, which is led by BP Solar, will build a 150 megawatt photovoltaic power plant near Moree. This is nearly twice the size of any PV power plant operating in the world today. And, it’s estimated, that the Moree Solar fund project will create, on average, around 300 jobs during construction. Now, work will commence next year and the plants are expected to be completed and commission by the end of 2015. And this, I’m sure you’ll all agree, is a major breakthrough. The government is also committed to supporting Australian industry and business to find innovative means to reduce their carbon footprint. And, to support this, the government has established the Clean Technology Innovation Program, which will provide grants of up to 200 million dollars over five years to support business investment in renewable energy, lower emissions technology, and energy efficiency.

The Remote Indigenous Energy Program will also help indigenous communities access clean, affordable, and reliable 24 hour power supplies. It will also help those communities to manage their energy efficiently and use it to contribute to improvement in health, education, and long-term economic viability. Over four years, this 40 million dollar program will build on the success of a former renewable, remote power generation program. It’ll provide additional financial support to install renewable energy generation systems like solar panels and wind turbines into around 55 remote indigenous communities. The government is also going to provide up to 32 million dollars through the clean energy and other skills package to help educational institutions and industry develop the materials and the expertise needed to promote clean energy skills.

I encourage you to engage with The Clean Energy Regulator, with ARENA, the CEFC, and relevant departments as we roll out these programs and initiatives. I’m sure you’ll agree with me that all of this is very far-sighted and comprehensive suite of policies that’s very important to your industry. It’ll provide the renewable and clean energy sectors, including solar, with a very strong platform for future growth and investment. And, as we move forward into this new era, Australians will be able to say that we are doing our fair share to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, we’re creating the right conditions for investment in clean energy technology, and we’re willing to take on the opportunities presented by the low carbon global economy of the future.

I thank all of you for your attention and for your support for a clean energy future for Australia and wish you very well in your deliberations. I know it’s not easy to listen to a video message and I really appreciate the opportunity though to speak to you in this way. And, unfortunately, I’m not able to be with you, but all the best. Thank you.