Church leaders offer PM a Christmas gift of solar panels for Kirribilli House

Prime Minister Tony Abbott has received an early Christmas gift with a message from a group of local Sydney church leaders.

The gift: A rooftop solar system to put on Kirribilli House. The message: don’t knock renewables until you’ve tried them.

The 12-panel PV system was delivered to Abbott on Thursday by representatives of a group called Common Grace – a rapidly growing movement of thousands of socially-minded Christians from various denominations.

It comes with a promise of free installation from the Australian Solar Council.

The solar system itself was crowd-funded in just four days, through in an initiative led by Common Grace. “With your help,” the fundraiser read, “the PM won’t get coal from Santa this Christmas – he’ll get solar panels from priests.”

Abbott, who himself once studied for the priesthood, has not been a huge advocate for renewable energy, preferring to tout coal as “good for humanity.”

Lately, his Coalition government has been focusing its efforts on winding back Australia’s renewable energy target (RET), a formerly bipartisan commitment to deliver 41,000 GWH of energy through renewable sources by 2020.

“The solar panels are a gift for the nation, from the nation, to symbolise public support for a clean energy future,” said Rev. Dr Michael Frost, vice principal of Morling College and Founder of Small Boat Big Sea.

“Nine in 10 Australians support a strong Renewable Energy Target. By giving solar panels to Kirribilli House, Christians are adding their voice to a chorus of Aussies who want to see a vibrant renewables industry,” he said.

“Our message to the Prime Minister is: don’t knock renewables until you’ve tried them.”

Jacqui Remond, director of Catholic Earthcare Australia, and a member of the party that was to deliver the solar gift, said that as Christians, they recognised the importance of clean energy in helping to prevent dangerous climate change.

“Climate change isn’t just an environmental issue – it’s a matter of justice. It’s about people in poverty, particularly indigenous populations, who are being hit first and hardest for what they’ve contributed to least. It’s also about Australians who are preparing to face more intense and frequent bushfires as we approach what could be the hottest summer on record,” she said.

Common Grace says that if Abbott turns down their offer of a rooftop solar system, the panels will instead be installed at the Davidson Brigade of the Rural Fire Service, where Abbott serves as a volunteer.

“Firefighters are on the front line of climate change, fighting increasingly frequent and intense bushfires. It’d be a small way we can say thank-you for what they do,” said a statement from the group.

© 2014 Solar Choice Pty Ltd

Giles Parkinson