As news arrives of solar energy’s gains into our neighbouring South Pacific nations, many movers and shakers in the Australian solar sector are calling on our country to take advantage of this excellent opportunity. Specifically many analysts are saying Australia should position itself as a regional power in solar energy, presumably churning out solar knowledge and PV technology to the Asia Pacific region.
Is that such a bad idea solar fans?
Last week the tiny Pacific nation of Tokelau took a giant step towards its goal of becoming the first wholly solar-powered nation on earth when Fakaofo, the first of its three atolls, flicked the switch to solar energy, replacing diesel. The other two atolls are expected to come online by the end of the year.
Tonga too is taking giant strides towards a solar future with the country’s first solar farm in Nuku’alofa coming online last month.
Respected solar industry commentator John Grimes of the Australian Solar Energy Society (AuSES) spoke of the “endless opportunity” of Australia as a leading proponent (and exporter) of solar know-how and technology.
“This is going to be a huge industry in the future. If we can mark ourselves out as being experts in remote and deployed solar technology, the opportunity is literally endless.” he told the ABC’s Lateline. “We should be thinking about technology to come, investing in it and making sure that we play a disproportionate role, globally, in that industry.”
He adds that the Asia Pacific region is an area where giant strides can be made in the field of solar energy by Australia.
“Much of the technology today was invented in Australia by Australians. We have not, as a country, capitalised on that opportunity. So this does require government focus and attention, but with a small investment we can make a disproportionate impact both on the industry and the lives of the people in the Asia Pacific region.”
Mr Grimes point is well taken and many solar fans would agree that the government is not doing enough to take advantage of the way South Pacific nations are looking to solar power for their energy needs. Neither the current government, nor the semi-ignorant Opposition, appears to have the political courage to make the current demand for solar work to their advantage.
So what will it take to change our government’s mind readers? Will a more concerted effort to support pro-solar candidates at the ballot box work?