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Australia is a global leader in solar development, but lags in policy

Australia is a global leader in solar development, but lags behind in government policy.

Australia has shown its capabilities this week through achieving 40.4 per cent "conversion efficiency" in solar cells. This was done by using already commercially available solar cells that were combined with a mirror and filters. This advance in technology was accomplished by a team from the University of New South Wales and means that solar cells can now capture more energy from the sun.

The Australian Bureau of Statistics has also released some positive solar news this week, with one in five households across the country now using solar energy (20%). This is a remarkable change when compared with the 5.6% and 3.6% of households in Australia recorded in 2011 using solar hot water and solar electricity, respectively. South Australia is leading the way in this change in attitude, with 24% of households now using solar-generated electricity that contrasts with 4.6% in 2011.

With these significant developments in technology and the dramatically increasing usage of solar electricity in Australian households, many are questioning the government’s current stance on the Renewable Energy Target. The Abbott government has been receiving both national and international criticism for its actions towards climate change and renewable energy resources this year.

The removal of the carbon tax and attempts to halve the current Renewable Energy Target has resulted in international backlash. A recent report has labelled Australia as the worst performing industrial country in 2014 with regard to climate change. The Renewable Energy Network has also released a global report this year which has further added to this poor reputation. It states that currently 144 countries globally have some form of renewable energy target, whilst Australia’s target is currently held in the midst of a federal political impasse.

However the government may be on the verge of a backflip with regards to renewable energy. An announcement was made this week that the Australian federal government has pledged $200m over a four year period to the international Green Climate Fund. This announcement was met with loud applause at the UN, with the money to be invested in infrastructure, renewable energy and programmes for emissions reduction.

Source: Australian Bureau of Statistics 2011, Environmental Issues: Energy Use and Conservation, Mar 2011, Government of Australia, available from: http://www.abs.gov.au/ausstats/[email protected]/Lookup/4602.0.55.001Main+Features4Mar+2011, viewed 12 Dec 2014.

Australian Bureau of Statistics 2011, Environmental Issues: Energy Use and Conservation, Mar 2014, Government of Australia, available from: http://www.abs.gov.au/ausstats/[email protected]/mf/4602.0.55.001?OpenDocument, viewed 12 Dec 2014.

BBC 2014, Australia worst performer on climate change – report, 9 December, available from: http://www.bbc.com/news/world-australia-30389737, viewed 12 Dec 2014.

Casben, L 2014, Opening of world's largest solar power plant in California brings inspiration and disappointment to Australia's renewable energy sector, 3 December, available from: http://www.abc.net.au/news/2014-12-03/australian-solar-industry-frustrated-as-california-powers-ahead/5938552, viewed 12 Dec 2014.

Hannam, P 2014, Solar energy world first in Australia, The Sydney Morning Herald, 8 December, available from: http://www.smh.com.au/environment/climate-change/solar-energy-world-first-in-australia-20141208-121w8n.html, viewed 12 Dec 2014.

Taylor, L (ed) & Goldenberg, S 2014, Green Climate Fund will get $200m from Australia after Tony Abbott's about-turn, 10 December, available from: http://www.theguardian.com/environment/2014/dec/10/green-climate-fund-200m-australia-tony-abbott-about-turn?utm_content=bufferccf23&utm_medium=social&utm_source=facebook.com&utm_campaign=buffer, viewed 12 Dec 2014.

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The Author

Cassandra House

Cassandra has recently graduated from the University of Western Australia with a Bachelor of Science, majoring in Environmental Science and Conservation Biology. She is interested in the development of the Australian renewable energy sector as a means of sustaining the environment for the future; and is passionate about educating the public and small business owners on their options. Other interests include reading, gardening and playing piano and guitar. She is passionate about caring for Australia’s wildlife and has volunteered in wildlife rescue and many other community groups. Currently she is learning about small business management whilst assisting with the administration duties of her partner’s business.

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