Solar Systems sold, but Mildura power plant won’t go ahead before 2011.

15 02 2010


Company Solar Systems, was to build Australia’s first large scale solar power plant in Mildura. Key investor TRUenergy (which also owns Yallourn brown coal power station and mine) decided not to put more money in without finding further funding partners. This was at the time the financial crisis hit, Solar Systems subsequently went into receivership, making 100 workers redundant.

 The Mildura solar power plant, was planned to power all of Mildura, 45000 homes, and create over 1000 jobs. The Brumby and Rudd governments while promising 125 million between them towards the Mildura solar power plant, have consistently refused to intervene to guarantee it goes ahead.

After a long administration period and several protests by the Save Solar Systems campaign, Solar Systems has now been sold to company Silex.

Concerns remain

The sale of Solar Systems is a better outcome than liquidation, but concerns remain. Silex is a company involved with the nuclear industry and uranium enrichment, their media release promotes nuclear power, which is deadly and not a solution to climate change.

Will the Mildura solar plant still be built and if so when? Silex media release states: Following completion of the acquisition, Silex will conduct a 12 to 18 month technology commercialization program in parallel with business development and marketing activities, with the aim of commencing commercial project activities in 2011. This program could then lead to the construction of a 2MW pilot facility in Mildura (potentially a precursor to a -150MW power station).

While government says $125 million remains on the table, 2011 is after both state and federal elections. The Mildura power plant should be a condition of sale, construction should start now. Climate change means renewable energy has become an essential service. Government must guarantee the Mildura Solar Power plant is built. This should be just the start of a transition to 100% renewable energy. Despite the threat of abrupt climate change, the market has failed to deliver; renewable energy in Australia is only around 6% of total electricity supply. It was government that built all existing coal fired power stations, government must take responsibility for the transition to renewable energy.

The CPRS won’t work

The federal government says we should rely on their version of carbon trading, the CPRS. Yet this is a con, carbon trading is further reliance on the market to solve market failure. Treasury modeling shows it wont reduce Australian emissions before 2035, and even that is assuming “clean coal” works. The CPRS will see the biggest polluters – brown coal, black coal, gas, oil and aluminum, get billions of dollars in handouts, and windfall profits from sale of free permits. After 5 years in Europe, carbon trading has clearly failed.

Building large scale renewable power stations would reduce emissions, but carbon pricing can’t guarantee they are built. We need government policy that starts building now – not just Mildura, but renewable energy across Australia.

The money is there

The federal government showed how government can act in crisis – the stimulus package did help temporarily stabilise the Australian economy, but an opportunity to develop large scale clean energy industries, creating tens of thousands of jobs was squandered. The federal government will spend $36 billion for new submarines for Defence, buying one less could build 11 Mildura solar power plants. The state government is directly spending $363 million on an upgrade to the Melbourne Tennis Centre – thats almost the $420 million asking price of the Mildura plant. We have nothing against tennis, but what matters more, a game of tennis, or the planet on which it is played?




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