Western Australia announces retroactive feed-in tariff cuts

The Western Australia state government has announced that it intends to retroactively cut the feed-in tariff rate for around 75,000 solar homes. In a budget announcement, the Barnett government said it would halve the rate for those who installed a solar PV system and are now receiving 40c per kilowatt-hour (kWh). Australia’s solar industry and renewable energy campaigners have come out strongly against the government’s decision, saying that it is a breach of trust with the all the households that made the informed decision to go solar based on the incentive rate on offer at the time.

The government proposes first to cut the 40c/kWh rate to 30c/kWh from 1 October 2013, then to 20c/kWh from 1 July 2014. Those who are already receiving the 20c/kWh rate (i.e. solar households who entered into the scheme between 1 July 2011 and 31 July 2011) will not be affected by the proposed changes.

Whether the WA government will be able to implement the budget changes is not yet clear. A similar attempt by the NSW government to roll back Solar Bonus Scheme rates in May of 2011 was met with heated criticism and ultimately ended in failure.

The 40c/kWh was on offer to scheme applicants from 1 July 2010 until 30 June 2011.  The WA Department of Finance website states that “customers accepted onto the Western Australian scheme receive payments for a period of 12 years”. Although the above does not specify the rate of those payments, it is clear that those who made the decision to invest in a system did not expect the rate to be reduced, and voices throughout the solar & renewable energy sectors share this sentiment.

John Grimes, CEO of the Australian Solar Council, slammed WA’s move in a media statement. “Today’s decision by the Barnett Government represents a significant sovereign risk if it is allowed to proceed.  If this government contract can be ripped up without compensation, no WA Government contract is worth the paper it is written on.  This move would set a very dangerous precedent.”

Kirsten Rose, Chief Executive for the Sustainable Energy Association (SEA), issued a similar statement. “Households were promised in writing that they would receive a set price for the electricity they exported for ten years. Now they will not even get a third of that. It’s a huge betrayal of public trust, and they have every right to be angry,” she said.

Dr Geoff Evans of solar energy political advocacy group Solar Citizens called the decision ‘outrageous’ in a media statement. “The WA Government is penalising solar owners for trying to save money and take back control over their power bills and is turning its back on people who are taking the right steps for our energy future,” he said. “It’s unfair to change the rules on people who have already made an investment on the assumption of policy stability, and the decision should be immediately repealed.”

Dr Evans encouraged solar system owners looking to “strengthen their voice in WA” to join the Solar Citizens campaign. The group has also started a petition to the government to reverse the decision.

© 2013 Solar Choice Pty Ltd 

James Martin II

Contributor at Solar Choice
James was Solar Choice's primary writer & researcher between 2010 and 2018.

He is now the communications manager for energy technology startup SwitchDin, but remains an occasional contributor to the Solar Choice blog.

James lives in Newcastle in a house with a weird solar system.
James Martin II

Comments

  1. We are, is I should say, were Liberal voters.Not anymore, Buswells flippant ‘YES’ to a reporters question”Mr Buswell will you now tear up the existing contracts” is amoral and quite clearly a comment from a Government which has lost contact with the people.I’m sure the Federal Liberal Party would be shaking their heads in disbelief. I have booked a call into our Federal Member to register a formal complaint and an advise that we will not be voting Liberal in the forthcoming election. I will also ring the Treasurer and The Premier to discuss our disgust.

  2. This Government is out of control and can’t cover its mistakes now without being honest with the public. It will only get worse as these addicts to power, stumble from one economic mistake to another. And like an addict, will think their next stupid decision will make up for, and improve the last one.
    The Western Australians have no idea what they are in for. Some of us saw this mob for what they were BEFORE the election. This will get worse. Watch this (press releases) space.

  3. I invested $21300 in my instalation the installer keeping the credits I invested this amount on a 40cent buy back it is a criminal act

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