MendoCoastCurrent, December 14, 2008
Australian Prime Minister Kevin Rudd called for a “solar revolution” on Sunday as he unveiled plans to bring forward a A$500 million (US$329 million) fund promoting renewable energy in a bid to stimulate the economy.
Speaking just a day before a key announcement on Australia’s greenhouse gas emissions targets, Rudd said the fund’s timescale would be brought forward from the original six-year plan to the next 18 months.
“It’s good for jobs. It’s good for stimulus. It’s good for acting on climate change,” Rudd said of the move. “It’s time for Australia to begin a solar revolution, a renewable energy revolution and we’ve got to fund it for the future.”
Rudd made the announcement at the Queensland town of Windorah, where a new solar energy plant is expected to produce around 360,000 kilowatt hours of electricity per year and provide the town’s daytime power needs.
The prime minister said A$100 million would be released by June 30 next year, with the remaining A$400 million to be released in the following 12 months.
The only condition, he said in an accompanying statement, was “availability of suitable demonstration projects.” Guidelines would be released early in 2009, the statement said.
The Renewable Energy Fund, which also includes work on biofuels development and geothermal drilling, was set up to help cut the cost of developing technologies that might play a key role in energy supply and security over the next few decades.
The fund was an election commitment by the ruling Labor party in last year’s election, in which Rudd defeated conservative predecessor John Howard. During the campaign Rudd set a target that 20% of Australia’s energy should be from renewable sources by 2020.
A key ‘white paper’ policy document is due on Monday setting out Australia’s official targets for emissions cuts and plans for carbon trading. Australia is widely expected to adopt a target of a 10% cut from 2000 levels by 2020.
Although Rudd has been applauded by environmentalists for his decision for Australia to join the Kyoto protocol, they also say Canberra’s actions on reducing greenhouse gas emissions have so far been inadequate.