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Subsidize Solar Water Heaters for Homes, Expert Tells Australian Government

As Australias federal elections near, the leading parties seek to position themselves as great champions of environment. But observers remain skeptical.

Like Tim Flannery, the Australian of the Year Professor who has called upon both the ruling conservatives and the opposition to come out with specific proposals instead of resorting to platitudes or vague generalities.

He has also faulted the John Howard government's move to allocate $336 million towards setting up solar hot water systems in schools. The money could be better utilized on households Flannery has said.

Prime Minister John Howard on Tuesday announced up to $50,000 per school would be spent on solar hot water systems and water tanks.

But Professor Flannery said the government would not get a good enough return in cutting greenhouse gas emissions from the investment.

"Schools are being used 200 days a year. So, for half the year that hot water's not going to be used," Prof Flannery told reporters in Canberra.

"If you wanted to maximise emission abatements, you put those solar hot water units on houses where there is a demand 365 days a year for hot water.

"Instead of spending a dollar and getting 50 cents back you'll be spending a dollar and getting a dollar's worth of value."

Prof Flannery said that while the government's $1,000 rebate for home hot water systems was important, most of the $627 million funding announced on Tuesday went towards schools.

He conceded there was an educational aspect to the measure.

"Even so, you could still look at putting solar panels on schools where you generate electricity that would be used somewhere in the grid."

Pointing out that neither of the two major parties had bothered to set any greenhouse targets or provide details of an emissions trading system, the professor said.

"The government's basically saying trust us, so you vote for us then we'll tell you.

"I don't think that's a very good position to take on any serious policy.

"The Labor Party is rather the same in some ways, but we need the detail now, voters need to know what they're voting for."

Prime Minister Howard, heading a Liberal-National Coalition, refuses to set any emission reduction targets until 2008.

On its part the opposition Labor is committed to reducing emissions nationally by 60 per cent from 2000 levels by 2050 but won't set a shorter-term target before next year.

"We need to set a target for emissions reductions because that will determine the (carbon) price," Prof Flannery said.

"That's something we need to know sooner rather than later and industry need to know sooner rather than later."


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