TAXPAYERS will soon be spending several hundred thousand dollars on rooftop solar panels at Parliament House in Canberra to save just $9500 a year in electricity costs.

Parliamentary Services Department secretary Alan Thompson provided details to a Senate estimates hearing yesterday of plans to install solar cells on the Senate wing rooftops and landscaped areas to limit the building’s electricity bills.

“We currently pay well over $3 million a year for electricity and that is going up quite rapidly and we’re just looking at ways to mitigate that,” he said.

The department, which is evaluating tenders for the job, estimates the cost of the trial at several hundred thousand dollars for an annual saving of $9500 in electricity charges.

It would produce enough power to light the Senate chamber, but take decades to recoup its upfront costs based on the expected power savings.

“I find it interesting we are advancing this project at a time where there is significant concern about implementing a flood levy and we are looking at a trial program of possible savings of $9500 a year,” she said.

The Parliamentary Services Department’s embrace of rooftop solar comes despite the government’s accelerated phase-out of subsidies to households for similar technology.

The government has also cut or capped other green technology programs, including “cash-for-clunkers”, household energy efficiency, solar hot water rebates and home insulation programs, after criticism of their design and administration.

Julia Gillard has argued her plan to set a carbon price this year will deliver larger reductions in carbon emissions at a lower cost than many of her predecessor Kevin Rudd’s green programs.

However, she reversed last month’s $100m cut to its solar flagship scheme, designed to support the commercialisation of large-scale solar power projects, under intense pressure from the Greens.

Mr Thompson said the department had opted for the initial trial “to see whether solar can be a viable part of our energy mix in the future”.

source: theaustralian