The Australian Greens have raised concerns that the Abbott government’s scrapping of the carbon pricing scheme will have serious repercussion for Australian households and small businesses with rooftop solar.
The Carbon Tax Repeal Bill, which passed successfully through the Senate on Thursday, included an amendment proposed by the Palmer United Party allowing the ACCC to enforce “any entity that produces electricity” to pass on the expected drop in electricity prices.
The Greens, however, have challenged the amendment, warning that it could affect Australia’s 1.1 million solar households – most of which have been shown to house lower income families – whose rooftop PV panels export power to the grid.
“Last week, the government was desperate enough to incorporate the amendments as-is,” said Greens leader Christine Milne in a statement on Wednesday.
“Now the government has incorporated amendments they can’t explain, which don’t do any of the things that Clive Palmer has made a big fuss about saying they would do.”
“The changes to the repeal bill will be a ridiculous impost on everyone who has a solar panel on their roof, or even places like the Royal Children’s Hospital in Melbourne that has a co-generation plant, because Mr Palmer’s amendment applies to anyone who sells electricity,” Milne said.
Last week, the ACCC responded to the Greens’ concerns by saying it would be guided in its application of the law by a statement made by the environment minister, Greg Hunt, when he reintroduced the bill into the lower house.
“I confirm that the definition of electricity retailer is limited to electricity retailers and electricity producers selling electricity into a wholesale electricity market to a retailer,” Hunt said.
“The intention is that this exclude small and industrial electricity generators, who either consume all their own generation on-site, or sell it directly to a retailer without engaging in the wholesale electricity market.”
But Martijn Wilder, a partner at Baker & McKenzie, told the Guardian that “on a plain reading, the law does apply to power sold from solar roof panels,” and that the letter of the law did not reflect the assurances Minister Hunt had given. “At best,” he said, “it is legally ambiguous.”
The ACCC has since told Australian Greenhouse Network members – that is, industry groups and individual businesses liable to pay the carbon tax – that despite “ambiguity” in the final form of the carbon repeal bills, the ACCC would only enforce price reductions for electricity and gas retailers and bulk importers of synthetic gases used in refrigeration and air conditioning.
© 2014 Solar Choice Pty Ltd