The Hon. LYNDA VOLTZ:
My question is addressed to the Minister for Energy. What action is the Government taking to support the development of solar energy in New South Wales?
The Hon. JOHN ROBERTSON:
I thank the Hon. Lynda Voltz for her question and her interest in solar energy. The Commonwealth Government has committed $1.5 billion to support the construction and demonstration of up to four Solar Flagship projects in Australia.
The Hon. Catherine Cusack:
But you haven't been investing in the scheme.
The Hon. JOHN ROBERTSON:
You supported the scheme, unanimously. These will be large-scale solar power plants using solar thermal and photovoltaic technologies generating up to 1,000 megawatts of solar power generation capacity on Australian soil. Round one of the Solar Flagships program will support the construction of two large-scale, grid-connected solar power stations in Australia, one using solar thermal and one using photovoltaic technologies. The New South Wales Government has worked tirelessly to put New South Wales in the running for a slice of the action. The New South Wales Government's Solar Flagships Taskforce has been working with solar companies for nearly a year to develop strong competitive bids. Of the 52 projects in the running for Solar Flagships funding, no less than 14 are based in New South Wales.
It is my great pleasure to inform the House that over the weekend Premier Kristina Keneally and I announced that New South Wales will lead the country in its financial support for local Solar Flagships bids. The New South Wales Government has pledged $120 million—more than any other State or Territory in the country—to help New South Wales secure a large-scale solar project for this State. If successful, hundreds of millions of dollars in solar investment will flow to New South Wales, bringing with it hundreds of new clean-energy jobs. Following the New South Wales Government's announcement, Theiss-Silex Solar Consortium confirmed that its proposal for the Solar Flagships funding would see more than 1,300 new jobs created here in New South Wales. In fact, all the large-scale solar projects proposed are based in regional New South Wales, in towns like Cobar, Nyngan, Moree, Broken Hill and Dubbo, supporting regional employment and country economies.
But the opportunities presented by the Solar Flagships program go beyond jobs and money for New South Wales. It is a chance for our State to showcase its solar assets to the world. New South Wales is already home to world-class research facilities in solar technology, with graduates from key local institutions leading the solar revolution across the globe. We have strong natural advantages: our low levels of humidity, coupled with lots of sunshine, make us the perfect State for large-scale solar. And we have the largest electricity market in the country, with a range of suitable locations close to the electricity grid. New South Wales is, without a doubt, the perfect State for solar investment.
Aside from our Solar Flagships funding pledge, New South Wales is getting on with the job of delivering support to the solar and renewable energy industries locally. For example, as members of the House would be aware, on 1 January this year the New South Wales Government established the Solar Bonus Scheme, making it affordable for families and small businesses in New South Wales to invest in solar for the first time. The scheme pays eligible renewable energy system owners a gross rate of 60¢ per kilowatt hour of energy generated—the most generous solar payments in the country.
New South Wales will continue to lead the way in solar and renewable energy investment, and industry support, whether for small-scale solar and wind turbine or large-scale renewable energy power plants. An announcement on the Solar Flagships winners is due later this year. I look forward to updating the House on New South Wales' progress through the selection process in the months ahead.