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Last Updated: Wednesday, 25 October 2006, 11:05 GMT 12:05 UK
Australia plans major solar plant
Dried-up dam at a farm in Parkes, Australia on 25 October 2006
Australia is suffering one of its worst droughts for decades
Australia is to build one of the world's biggest solar power plants as part of a major new strategy by the government to combat climate change.

Canberra said it would be contributing A$75m (US$57m) to the A$420m plant due to be built in the state of Victoria.

The government also announced A$50m in funding towards a major project to reduce carbon emissions from coal.

Australia, a leading exporter in coal - has been criticised for failing to sign the Kyoto Protocol.

The government had argued that the 1997 agreement on greenhouse gas emissions would damage the domestic economy.

But the country has been forced to confront the issue of climate change with a prolonged drought - the worst in a century - that is destroying the livelihoods of thousands of farmers.

National grid

On Monday, Prime Minister John Howard announced that the government would be investing A$500m (US$379m) in clean technology.

One of the first projects to get funding is what Finance Minister Peter Costello said aimed to be the "biggest photovoltaic project in the world".

The plant in Victoria will use mirrored panels to concentrate the sun's rays and produce power that can go into the national grid, he told Australian radio.

Work is due to get under way in 2008 and reach full capacity by 2013.

The government is also investing in a A$360m pilot project, based at an existing coal-fired power station also in Victoria, which is aimed at capturing and storing carbon emissions.

"This will make a major contribution to emission reduction in Australia and it just shows practical, considered, financially viable, workable technologies which can improve the emissions problem that will help us on our way to reduce global warming," Mr Costello said.

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