NSW and Australia’s solar power industry reacted with disappointment to Friday’s announcement from the NSW government that the previous NSW Solar Bonus Scheme60c/kWh Feed-in Tariff would be revoked and replaced with a 40c/kWh tariff as part of the government’s efforts to get the ‘blowout’ incentive scheme under control. The sensibility and the legality of the decision, which sets out to end the Solar Bonus scheme completely, were questioned by key players in the solar industry, as well as by the 160,000+ recipients of the 60c FiT who stand to suffer financial losses.
œThe Government seems to be out of step with the more than 160,000 households that have backed rooftop solar. With this weight of public endorsement they should be supporting the solar industry, its customers and consumers and promoting a sustainable industry in NSW,” said Australian Solar Energy Society Chief Executive Officer John Grimes. He added that without the added incentives of a feed-in tariff, “clean solar power is subsidising highly polluting coal-fired power and that makes no sense.”
Mr Grimes also cautiously praised the NSW government’s decision to honour existing applications for solar power installations, whilst critisising the sudden, dramatic policy shift: œWhile AuSES welcomes the NSW Government’s confirmation it will honour existing applications for solar installations, it is deeply concerned about the future for solar in NSW. The decision, in combination with the REC (renewable energy certificate) scheme changes and solar budget changes on the federal level, has put the solar industry on edge and bracing for the unexpected. The cancelation of the scheme and the associated uncertainty will put 4,500 jobs at risk, may result in customers losing non-refundable deposits, and will leave installers sitting with stock that has already been ordered for pending installations.
Also in response to the news, Solar Shop Australia Chief Executive Officer Tony Thornton recalled Solar Shop’s warning to the previous government that the 60c feed-in tariff was too generous and would prove to be unsustainable, but that it is now too late to alter the scheme for those who were already contracted into it. œCommitments have been made and Australians have spent millions of dollars purchasing systems with the expectation that they would receive a future repayment on those dollars invested, Mr Thornton said.
œNew South Wales residents made investment decisions based on a government- guaranteed 60c per kilowatt hour payment. That has now been cut to 40c per kilowatt hour, and many householders will today be shaking their heads in disbelief and wondering how they will balance budgets,” said AuSES head, Mr Grimes.
After announcing the news on our website, Solar Choice was inundated with comments from unhappy solar power system owners, many of whom explained that they had arrived at their decision to purchase solar power systems after thorough consideration and budgeting based on the 60c tariff.
One commenter pointed out the irony of the government’s decision. “(I)t seems that the gov’t has no problem spending the millions it makes via the coal industry, but it cannot ensure that renewable energy options remain affordable for everybody. The gov’t is also forgetting that it’s saving money on building new power stations, due to the feed-in of solar systems.”
A rally will be held on Wednesday 18 May at 11:30am in the Barnet Long Room at Customs House, Circular Quay. The purpose of the “Solar’s Last Chance” rally will be to give “a human face” to the crisis, and to persuade the government to give a greater degree of certainty to the state’s burgeoning solar industry. The recent boom in the solar industry and can be attributed in great part to government support, both on the state level and federal level.
© 2011 Solar Choice Pty Ltd
Sources and Links:
International Business Times, “Industry questions sensibility, legality of Solar Bonus Scheme slash”
Sydney Morning Herald, “Solar industry hits the roof over plans to slash power rebate”
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.
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