Australia is to spend around A$13.5 billion on the development and deployment of clean energy technologies under a new initiative announced by the country’s government.

The funds will be invested under a public-private partnership as part of Australia’s plans to reduce carbon emissions and stimulate economic recovery. The ‘Clean Energy Initiative’ will receive A$4.5 billion of government funds announced in the country’s recent 2009-2010 budget.

The Clean Energy Initiative includes plans for the development of industrial-scale carbon capture and storage (CCS) projects, investment in solar technologies and financial support for other renewable energy technologies. The A$4.5 billion of government funding includes A$3.5 billion of new money from the Rudd government.

The announcement follows the recent decision by Prime Minister Rudd to delay the start of the country’s carbon trading programme by a year, a move that is seemingly at odds with other efforts being made by the country to tackle global warming.

Under the Clean Energy Initiative, the government says it will invest A$2.4 billion in low emission coal technologies, including new funding of A$2 billion for the development of up to four industrial-scale CCS projects as part of the CCS Flagships programme. The plans may also include development of a carbon dioxide storage hub.

The government also earmarked A$1.6 billion for solar technology development to help position Australia as a world leader in the solar market, and A$465 million to establish Renewables Australia, a new body tasked with supporting research and development of leading-edge technologies.

The Solar Flagships programme aims to develop 1000 MW of new solar generation capacity in four projects using both solar thermal and photovoltaic technologies.

The Australian government has pledged to ensure that 20 per cent of the country’s electricity needs are met by renewable sources by 2020, and also recently launched the Global Carbon Capture and Storage Institute (GCCSI). Rudd recently bowed to pressure from Australia’s industrial and business sector to delay carbon trading, but strengthened carbon emission reduction targets.

Australia is the world’s largest exporter of coal and is also heavily reliant on the fuel in its electricity sector.