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Australia to create $653 million fund to expand solar panel manufacturing

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SYDNEY (Reuters) – Australia will set up an A$1 billion ($653 million) fund to help expand solar panel manufacturing at home, Prime Minister Anthony Albanese said on Thursday, as it looks to ramp up its transition to renewable energy from coal power.

Albanese’s centre-left Labor government has been boosting spending to underwrite new wind, solar and battery projects with more than A$40 billion of investment committed since coming to power in 2022. The government is targeting 82% renewable power by 2030 in the energy grid from around 40% now.

“Australia should not be the last link in a global supply chain built on an Australian invention,” Albanese said in a statement.

“We have every metal and critical mineral necessary to be a central player in the net zero transformation, and a proven track record as a reliable energy producer and exporter.”

One in three Australian homes have installed roof solar panels, the highest uptake in the world, but only 1% of those are manufactured in the country.

The initiative will include production subsidies and grants, and help manufacture solar panels at the site of Australia’s top power producer AGL Energy’s former coal-fired Liddell Power Station, Albanese told ABC Radio.

The domestic manufacturing of panels will help avoid any potential disruption to trade in the future, similar to issues faced during the COVID-19 pandemic, and it would support jobs as coal-fired power stations retire, Albanese said.

“There are other planned closures in the future … we (must) look for opportunities that workers continue to be employed in alternative, high-paying secure jobs,” he said.

The Australian Renewable Energy Agency (ARENA) will help with the design and delivery of the initiative. ARENA will look at the entire supply chain from ingots and wafers to cells, module assembly, and related components, including solar glass and inverters.

($1 = 1.5314 Australian dollars)

(Reporting by Renju Jose in Sydney. Editing by Sam Holmes.)

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