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NSW regional solar initiative gathers support in Senate

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Interminable RET negotiations might give the appearance that the Australian Parliament is deeply divided over the importance of renewable energy, but the federal senate’s warm reception of a proposal to boost small and medium-scale solar development in inland NSW tells a different story.

The proposal, put together by a 24 NSW councils and shires accounting for two-thirds of the state’s area, would see each local government group install around half a megawatt of PV in various sites around their electorate, as well as five medium-scale concentrating solar thermal plants of 3-6MW each.

As we reported here last October, the Solar Energy eXchange Initiative, or SEXI proposal, aims to seek federal government funding of up to $200 million over five to six years to develop the six solar projects, worth about $30 million each, and demonstrating five different solar technologies.local-govt-map-proposed-SEXI-area-300x265

Last week, the SEXI plan was put to the federal Senate in a motion introduced by NSW Greens Senator Lee Rhiannon – and according to the coordinator of the group of councils, Matt Parmenter, it received support right across the political spectrum.

As you can see on Hansard, the question – which urged all levels of government to acquaint themselves with the Initiative and consider how they could support it – was agreed to, with no division required.

“I think this shows that the Senate ‘gets’ SEXI”, said Parmeter. “The senators understand the long-term importance of renewable energy to inland NSW, and as an industry that we can develop to produce electricity we can eventually export.

“It can provide jobs and investment in our region in the future.”

And considering the proposal will need federal government funding to go ahead, the unanimous in-principle support given by the Senate is a good start, said Parmeter.

The support of federal parliament follows similar support from the NSW Parliament 18 months ago, where a motion of support was passed unanimously by the Legislative Council.

“There are more steps to be taken, more meetings to do, more reports to be produced, but there is no doubt about the popularity of solar energy, and the public’s view that it should be part of our energy future,” said Parmeter.  

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