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Alternatives to Solar Flagships program 'should be sought'

1st Mar 2012

In order for Australia's solar power ambitions to be realised, the government should consider alternatives to its Solar Flagships program.

This is the view of Jeff Bye, general manager of CBD Solar, who emphasised that the $1.5 billion of funding would be better spent on rooftop solar.

He offered the example of the funding being given to public hospitals throughout the country, which would be used to fund solar power.

As there are approximately 750 public hospitals in Australia, this would equate to around $2 million each, allowing them to generate around 700kW and create 980,000kWh of energy a year.

Speaking to RenewEconomy, Mr Bye highlighted that this would mean the average electricity cost per hospital would stand at 15 cents per kWh, saving around $147,000 a year for each institution.

Collectively, this would lead to cost savings of more than $110 million a year.

At a time when hospitals are trying to save money, this could be a welcome solution, the expert noted.

A number of government initiatives, such as the Solar Flagships program, have been implemented over the years, such as the Solar Homes and Communities Plan (SHCP) solar power rebate program.

It continued as the Photovoltaic Rebate Program in 2000 and was assigned a budget of $31 million.

The initiative led to more than $1 billion being allocated to the installation of more than 130,000 solar panel systems, as well as the training of 3,200 accredited installers.

This scheme was replaced with Solar Credits in 2009, which were designed to provide support to households, community groups and businesses when installing small-scale solar power systems.

It is not only the federal government that has taken steps to improve the uptake of solar energy, as state governments have also resorted to similar action.

Queensland, for example, has recently drawn up the Queensland Renewable Energy Plan 2012, which identifies opportunities to leverage up to $8.9 billion in renewable energy investment throughout the state.

Furthermore, the region is poised to deliver 9,000 gigawatt hours of renewable energy generation over the next eight years.

Energy minister Stephen Robertson said: "We have increased Queensland's renewable energy generation capacity 66 per cent from 745 megawatts in 2008 to more than 1,235 megawatts today - that's enough to power roughly 640,000 homes per year."

Queensland has also reached its 500 megawatt Virtual Solar Power Station target three years ahead of schedule.

Posted by Bob Dawson


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