January 12, 2022

Australian Renewable Energy Agency to funds $14 million for “Ultra low-cost solar”

The Australian Renewable Energy Agency (ARENA) has announced up to $40 million funds for the research and development towards reducing solar production to an “ultra low cost” target.

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ARENA will allocate the $40 million R&D funding round to solar research to move Australia into lower solar costs and achieve the net zero emission mission by 2030. he funding round will open in February 2022.  

 

 Applications are being invited across two streams, the first covering solar cells and modules and the second targeting cost reductions in balance of system, operations and maintenance. ARENA said it currently expected to allocate up to $20 million in total funding to each of the two streams. 

The new funds follow the late October release of the Morrison government’s Long-Term Emissions Reduction Plan, which in turn followed its reluctant commitment to shoot for net-zero emissions by 2050, alongside most of the rest of the world. 

The “solar stretch target” was one of the few encouraging take-aways from the policy; a welcome sign of recognition from the Coalition that solar is the cheapest form of electricity ever produced, and driving costs even lower will be vital. 

 

The Morrison government’s plan suggested that a solar energy cost of below $15 per MWh would help lower the cost of renewable hydrogen to below $2 per kilogram, and low emissions steel to less than $700 per tonne, and green aluminium to under $2,200 per tonne. 

 

In a statement on Monday, ARENA said the R&D funding program would be aligned with the Agency’s own ambitious target of ‘Solar 30 30 30’, to improve solar cell efficiency to 30 per cent and reduce the total cost of construction of utility scale solar farms to 30 cents per watt by 2030. 

ARENA has already helped drive significant cost reductions in the cost of large-scale solar energy projects in Australia, subsidising the first large-scale projects constructed in Australia, which led to dramatic reductions in the cost of building subsequent projects. 

 

But the true stars have been Australian research institutions, particularly the University of New South Wales, but also the Australian National University, the University of Sydney and the CSIRO, which have made major contributions to the global development of cheaper and more efficient solar technologies. 

 

“Australia’s solar researchers have been leading the world for decades,” said ARENA chief Darren Miller in a statement on Monday. 

 

“Thirty years ago, UNSW researchers invented the PERC silicon solar cell, technology which today is the foundation of more than 80 percent of the world’s solar panels. 

“This $40 million R&D funding round will support Australia’s solar researchers and industry to get behind the target of Solar 30 30 30 and drive the innovation that will deliver ultra low cost solar,” he said. 

 

Ultra low cost solar will be a vital component in helping Australia move towards a lower cost, largely renewable electricity system and achieve the goal of net zero emissions by 2050.” 

 

The Ultra Low Cost Solar R&D Funding Round will open in February 2022 with applications due by 5pm AEST Monday 11 April 2022. https://arena.gov.au/funding/ulcs. 

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