Funding for 250MW Queensland Solar Dawn project will not be pulled

The Queensland Liberal-National government will not withdraw from a $75m funding agreement made under the previous Labour government for the proposed Solar Dawn concentrating solar power (CSP) plant near Chinchilla, apparently as a result of realising that it is legally committed to the project. The new government under Premier Campbell Newman is in the process of dismantling the previous government’s climate change programs deemed redundant in light of Federal initiatives such as the Clean Energy Future scheme, which provides the framework for Australia’s Carbon Price.

The Solar Dawn project is one of two winners of funding through the Federal government’s Solar Flagships program, which was set up to demonstrate the feasibility of utility-scale solar power plants in Australia and to assist in its commercialisation. The Federal government will contribute approximately 30% to the funding of the approx. $1b project on the provision that the Consortium secures the balance from other sources. $75m was committed to the project under former Premier Anna Bligh; the rest of the capital has been raised through private channels or put forth by the developers themselves.

The Solar Dawn Consortium recently made its case for the government not to pull funding, but ironically the ultimate reason that the funding commitment will stay in place is the fact that the funding agreement is legally locked into place.

“The government will honour its contract on the Solar Dawn project,” Minister for energy and Water Supply Mark McArdle was quoted as saying in RenewEconomy. “The Queensland government is aware of the stat’s contractual commitment to the project that was entered into by the previous government. There has been no decision to change existing state commitment.”

This was not the case with Queensland’s 2.7MW solar PV Cloncurry Solar Farm, which saw $5.6m of support cut when the government found an ‘exit clause’ in the funding agreement. Evidently there was no such clause in the agreement with Solar Dawn. The news will be a huge relief to proponents of Big Solar across the nation, especially in light of the trouble faced by the other Solar Flagships ‘winner’, NSW’s 150MW Moree Solar Farm.

© 2012 Solar Choice Pty Ltd

James Martin II