More money back for solar power



Solar panels on roof

Credit: iStockphoto

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A gross feed-in tariff for solar power, intended to support the growth and uptake of renewable energy, has been announced for New South Wales.

In making the move, Greenpeace described NSW as having "leapfrogged every other state to become by far the most attractive market for solar panels in Australia."

NSW households with solar energy systems will now be paid a premium rate for all of the clean electricity generated through their panels - not just the small percentage they sell back to the grid (the so-called net tariff paid by all other states, with the exception of the ACT, which also pays the gross tariff).

Under the new gross feed-in scheme, households with solar panels can expect to receive about $1,500 a year for the electricity they generate.

"[The new] tariff is wonderful news for householders, the renewable energy industry and the climate," said Greenpeace climate campaigner Julien Vincent.

"Australia has spent over ten years in the renewable energy wilderness, while countries with only a fraction of our solar resources such as Germany and Spain have used gross feed-in tariffs to become world leaders.

"It's time for Australia to catch up and gross feed-in tariff policies are the best way to provide certainty for our solar industry to flourish."

Indeed, the industry has today enthusiastically welcomed the government's announcement.

"This is a bold step for NSW and great news for the people of the state which will make a real difference to the growth of the renewable industry in NSW and help the average householder to make the intelligent step and go solar," said David McCallum, General Manager of renewable energy systems company Conergy.

The Clean Energy Council also applauded the decision to help get solar panels on NSW roofs, and encouraged South Australia and Western Australia - both currently reviewing their solar schemes - to help roll out new and improved programs across the nation.

The Council also pointed to the need for investment in large-scale renewable projects in addition to household-based schemes.

Despite the expansion of the Federal Government's renewable energy target earlier this year, "new large-scale clean energy projects have not been able to get off the ground because of a sustained weak price for renewable energy certificates," said the Council's chief executive, Mathew Warren.

"The solar industry in most other states, the Federal Government's Solar Flagships Program, as well as wind, bioenergy and hydro projects, all face a bleak 2010 if this problem remains."

Green groups have also voiced hopes for the development of large-scale renewable projects, and for the NSW model to set the standard for new national feed-in tariff legislation, currently put forward by Greens Senator Christine Milne and Independent Rob Oakeshott.