Western Australia’s Labor government has ruled out introducing what a “solar tax” – the proposed doubling of grid connection charges for the state’s more than 175,000 solar households – describing the idea as “fantasy.”
WA Premier Colin Barnett told state parliament on Thursday there was “no proposal” to put an additional charge on houses with rooftop solar panels, in response to a direct question about it from the shadow energy minister Bill Johnston.
“This government has had a policy of subsidising and encouraging solar panels,” Barnett told Parliament.
“Yes, the uptake was incredibly strong, which meant it cost the government a lot more money than we anticipated. But the policy was to encourage solar panels, and they are prevalent right across Western Australia. It has succeeded. Where the member got this fantasy from about a solar tax, I am lost—I do not know.”
The idea of a WA solar tax – a proposed additional grid connection charge of $A800 – was raised by Synergy, the state-owned utility that supplies households in WA’s populous south west.
Specifically, it was floated in early December Synergy chairman Lyndon Rowe, based on the argument that the annual charges of solar households don’t reflect the actual cost of being connected to the network.
“I’m a believer (in solar) and it’s a segment that will continue to grow,” Rowe told Perth ABC radio. “They are not paying the actual fixed cost of being connected to the network. That means other consumers have to pay or the taxpayers have to pay. That’s not fair. That’s not efficient.”
The proposal and the comments were met with fierce objection from the industry and other critics, who have accused Synergy of using solar households as a scapegoat for spiralling budget losses.
© 2016 Solar Choice Pty Ltd