Page 2012 - Week 06 - Wednesday, 25 June 2008

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As I said, we have allocated in excess of $200 million to this subject over the last three budgets, and we will continue to do that. We are currently engaged in a detailed feasibility study on the possibility of a large solar farm, and we are serious about it. It is a significant, serious, scientific assessment of our capacity in this community to actually develop and generate solar power within this community.

We take it seriously; we are funding it; we are putting our money where our mouths are. We do not stand and boast about a climate change strategy or commitment that we had that in our last year in government we funded to the tune of $240,000 and then continue to beat our breast and pretend that we were ever serious about this particular subject. Canberra knows the Liberal Party was not serious.

This is a great initiative. I again congratulate Mr Gentleman for his stewardship and for his championing of it. There are a range of issues involved. Indeed, Mr Mulcahy of the Canberra Party is engaging intelligently in this debate. He has put a particular point of view that should be listened to in relation to any social policy initiative. The sorts of issues he raised are issues which the government gave consideration to. There are issues around costs; there are issues around subsidisation; there are issues around cross-subsidy and the equity of distribution of costs for initiatives such as this.

We considered all of those, and, at the end of the day—and I was very much part of that discussion—when you weigh up all of the issues which we as communities need to address around driving innovation, driving industrial development, driving business, driving community engagement, doing something genuine, then initiatives such as this, it seems to the ACT government and Mr Gentleman, must be grasped. Even if there is an element of experimentation, we have to try this to see, because we need to generate change and engage.

At the moment there are 134 solar voltaic units connected to the grid in the ACT. In a city of 130,000 houses, 134 are currently connected to the grid. Of those 134, I believe probably at this stage only one of the 134 is a net user. To put into context some of the concerns and worries that you express, Mr Mulcahy, which I do not dismiss as legitimate concerns, I think in the context of where we are up to, it is relevant to remember that of the 130,000 houses in this city, 130 currently have solar voltaic units connected to the grid. That is 0.1 per cent. In the context of the costs and equity issues that you raise, Mr Mulcahy, at this stage they are a far lesser consideration. Mr Gentleman has done the costings. At this stage and into the foreseeable or near future, cost distribution across the community is negligible. On all his modelling, Mr Gentleman says it is less than 80c a year in the first year in the context of our capacity for units to be installed. That is probably not taking into account the removal of the rebate which the Commonwealth is responsible for or, perhaps I should say, guilty of in relation to photovoltaic energy.

They are legitimate issues, but we have taken them into account, and we believe that, for all those reasons about innovation, driving business capacity, engaging the community, doing something different, establishing new industry and a new focus and a new point of view, this initiative is worth while, should be pursued and I hope will be supported by the broader Canberra community. I am sure it is, and I believe quite deeply that this will be very successful across the board in relation to all of those outcomes that we wish for.

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