NSW Government suspends Solar Bonus (feed-in tariff) Scheme

Energy Minister Chris Hartcher announced this afternoon that the NSW government, facing a budget deficit, has put the Solar Bonus Scheme on ice as of midnight 28 April 2011 due to fears over ‘cost blowouts’ for the extremely popular program.

No new applications will be considered while ‘the future viability of the program’ is under consideration. Those who are already grid-connected and feeding in to the grid under the scheme will not be affected; contracts in effect from before the cut-off date will be honoured as planned. Likewise, if you have applied for the Solar Bonus Scheme (feed-in tariff program) prior to the announcement your application will, according to Hartcher, “continue to be processed” (it is not clear whether this means that investments will be protected). Applications’ ultimate fate will be determined at a government “Solar Summit”.

According to a media release from Mr Hartcher’s office, the state government will be holding stage one of a two-stage Solar Summit on 6 May 2011 time to discuss the future of NSW solar policy. The future of the Solar Bonus Scheme (described in the release as “characterised by an extraordinary level of mismanagement”) will be officially determined at stage two of the Solar Summit, to be held on a yet to be determined date.

Even without a feed-in tariff, it may still make good financial sense to have a solar power system installed on your home with a bi-directional metering system. However, it is unclear what the buyback rates for grid-fed electricity will be with the Solar Bonus Scheme no longer in place. The federal government’s Renewable Energy Certificate (REC) scheme also remains in effect, which can provide those who wish to install solar power systems with an up-front discount.

For more information and updates on the Solar Bonus Scheme, please see the NSW government FAQ.

© 2010 Solar Choice Pty Ltd

James Martin II