Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Solar Project in the Dark on Funding Future

The operators of a proposed $1 billion solar thermal electricity plant in Queensland say their project will go ahead despite claims by the state's new Premier that he will withdraw funding.

Yesterday Campbell Newman said he would dismantle all of Queensland's carbon reduction schemes to save $270 million for the state budget, including $75 million earmarked for the Solar Dawn project near Chinchilla, which is part of the Federal Government's Solar Flagship Program.

The Federal Government also is threatening to withdraw $464 million of its funding.

But the operators of the proposed 250 megawatt power station, led by two renewable energy manufacturers, Areva and Wind Prospect CWP, say they signed a conditional agreement with the Queensland Government last month and have not been notified of any change.

Up to 450 people were expected to work on construction if the project went ahead.

But Mr Newman says he made it clear during the election campaign that funding for renewable energy programs would be shut down due to the introduction of the carbon tax.

In a statement, Solar Dawn said was not aware of any changes in its agreement with the State Government.

"Solar Dawn has not been notified of any change of intentions of the Queensland Government under the terms of the existing conditional agreement," the statement read.

"We appreciate the commitment of the State of Queensland, which signed a $75 million conditional agreement with Solar Dawn for project assistance in February this year."

Federal Resources and Energy Minister Martin Ferguson said in a statement the Federal Government continued to support the Solar Flagships Program and Solar Dawn.

But he has put the ball squarely in Queensland's court.

"If the new Queensland Government chose to breach the existing financial commitment to the Solar Dawn project, the Australian Government would naturally need to consider its own position," the statement said.

Mr Newman said this morning the Federal Government must fund renewable programs using income from the carbon tax.

"We frankly have a mandate to make these decisions," he said.

"They are difficult decisions but they have to be made because we've got to provide savings back to Queensland families, and that's our commitment to them.

"This is now up to the Federal Government to deliver carbon mitigation because they have this great carbon tax. It's a great scheme according to them, so they can pay for these things rather than Queenslanders and Queensland families paying twice."

Professor Paul Meredith, from the University of Queensland, who leads research on the the Solar Dawn project, says clean energy is a critical issue for Queensland, and the state will lose $60 million in research funding if the project does not go ahead.

"I think we have to realise that if we are going to be players in this revolution in the energy sector that we have to build core capacity, we have to build it now and we have to start training scientists and engineers and technologists and economists in this," Professor Meredith said.

"And if we continue to sit on the fence for what are very, very long-term objectives then clearly we're not going to be a player in this clean energy agenda."


No comments: