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  • States in $125m solar power grab

     

    A PROPOSED $400 million solar plant that could deliver 154 megawatts of power is to be the cornerstone of the Howard Government's fight against climate change.

    In a political shift that steals an approach trumpeted by Labor, the Federal Government has announced it will contribute $75 million towards the plant, to be built in northern Victoria using technology developed by Melbourne firm Solar Systems.

    A second grant of $50 million will go towards a $360 million pilot for a brown-coal drying and a post-combustion carbon dioxide capture and storage project at the International Powers' Hazelwood facility in Gippsland.

    The grants, announced by Treasurer Peter Costello and Industry Minister Ian Macfarlane, are the first under the new $500 million low emissions technology demonstration fund (LETDF).

    The Australian Conservation Foundation (ACF) welcomed the plans but stressed that more was needed to fight climate change, including putting a price on greenhouse emissions for polluters and encouraging homes to install solar hot water systems.

    "The truth is, in our fight to tackle climate change, this is a small first step when we really need a huge leap forward," said ACF executive director Don Henry on ABC radio.

    Mr Costello said the energy sector had been instrumental in Australia's economic success and ensuring it was environmentally sustainable in long-term was a key factor in the Government's climate change strategy.

    "Technological improvements will be instrumental in delivering large-scale reductions in emissions both in Australia and throughout the rest of the world," Mr Costello said.

    Mr Costello said Australia intended to meet its Kyoto protocol greenhouse emissions targets even though it would not ratify the agreement.

    Opposition resources spokesman Martin Ferguson said the Government had finally decided to follow the lead of the Labor Party.

    "We have to act on the issue of energy and obviously with a heavy reliance on coal, especially the difficulties of brown coal in Victoria, you have to invest in clean coal technology," he said on ABC radio.

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