The Australian Solar Council will in the coming days unleash a massive ad campaign in Western Australia, where one of the key issues in the upcoming 5 April senate election is the cost of electricity. In what Climate Spectator’s Tristan Edis calls ‘a case of poacher turned gamekeeper’, the Solar Council has enlisted Geoff Denham, the public campaigner best known best know as the mastermind of the highly successful 2010 anti-mining tax campaign and anti-carbon pollution reduction scheme.
The campaign will consist of television and newspaper adverts setting the record straight on solar power, subsidies for which are being blamed for the rising cost of electricity in the state–and nationally. Seeing as how Australia’s solar industry is relatively small and new, it is the first time that a campaign of this magnitude for this cause has been waged. The budget for the campaign will be around $1 million, having been collected mainly through donors who are either participants in the solar industry or who simply support solar and other renewables as a matter of principle.
WA will act as a staging ground for the larger campaign that the Solar Council will later undertake on the national level. The federal government seems intent on diluting or eliminating the last-standing incentive scheme for renewable energy in the country: the Renewable Energy Target (RET).
Support for the RET will act as a political bellwether for how elected officials will approach renewables within the state senate chambers as well—and any candidates being elected a pro-RET platform will send a message to the federal government.
The WA election is extremely tight, and could be swayed by just a few votes, points out Solar Council Chief Executive John Grimes. In a poll conducted by the Solar Council, of 400 (of around 2000 total) solar workers in the state, 93% said that support for the RET will be a ‘very important’ or ‘quite important’ consideration in how they cast their vote. “When just 12 votes can decide a Senate seat, these votes count,” said Mr Grimes.
The RET is not, as it is frequently accused of being, responsible for the drastic electricity price rises that WA and most of the rest of Australia has suffered in recent years. This myth has been quite thoroughly rebutted by analysts throughout the energy industry, including in an in-depth analysis undertaken by the REC Agents Association.
“The Small-scale Renewable Energy Scheme deserves a gold medal. It has helped five million Australians cut their power bills by installing solar and has created 15,000 jobs and will do so at zero cost to households or the Federal Budget. That is an extraordinary achievement,” said Fiona Hehir, vice president of the RAA.
On the topic of the RET, activist group Solar Citizens send a message to its followers that protecting the incentive scheme will be the organization’s primary focus for the year 2014. “The lack of understanding about renewable energy on [the RET review] panel is an ominous sign. But the good news is it ultimately won’t be this panel that determines the fate of the target. That decision sits within the government party room,” the group said. They have also started a petition to save the RET which those interested can sign: Solar Citizens – Save the RET Petition.
© 2014 Solar Choice Pty Ltd