Solar Bonus scheme cropped


The Solar Bonus scheme has been too popular, says NSW goverment.

Everen solar panel installation

Jeremy Roberts of Everen, an emerging solar power business started in July 2010, installing a poly-crystalline solar panel on the roof of a house in the Southern Highlands, with co-director Kit Guyatt. Jeremy is concerned for the future of his company due to the sudden and drastic cuts to the Solar Bonus scheme last night.

Credit: Everen

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At midnight last night, NSW Premier Kristina Keneally reduced the feed-in tariffs for solar-generated electricity to just 20 cents per kilowatt-hour.

Previously, NSW residents with solar power were paid 60 cents per kilowatt-hour for the solar power they generated. The move comes just 10 months into the former NSW Premier Rees' Solar Bonus scheme, which was not due for review until 2012.

Keneally says the scheme is so popular, that at the higher rate it would have cost the government $4 billion over the next six years. However, the sustainability of the solar installation industry is now threatened by huge job cuts to 'green collar' workers.

"Whatever the issues may be, there is no excuse for cancelling the current scheme without industry consultation, with no notice, thereby creating an immediate crisis in the NSW solar industry," said Ged McCarthy, President of the Solar Energy Industries Association, who has installed solar panels for over 15 years.

"Of course I'm worried for my company's stability," says Jeremy Roberts, director of Everen, a small solar power installation company that started in the Southern Highlands of NSW.

"The sudden and drastic nature of these changes might ruin our emerging solar industry. Ms Keneally is trying to save $2.5 billion by killing an industry that could help to avoid some of the expected $14 billion it would cost to upgrade the ageing supply grid in NSW," Roberts told G-Online.

Matthew Warren chief executive of the Clean Energy Council, the peak body for over 450 renewable energy companies, says that "damaging the solar industry in NSW won't stop big electricity price increases but it will cost jobs and damage confidence in this important clean industry".

"Reducing the gross tariff to 20 cents per kilowatt-hour makes NSW one of the lowest rates in Australia," said Warren.

"The NSW Solar Bonus scheme has effectively built a clean energy power station across the rooftops of NSW households. This new generation capacity has been co-funded by all electricity users and the households themselves."

"We just needed to get that funding balance right, not effectively shut the scheme down," Mr Warren said.

McCarthy says that Australia has more hours of sunlight per day than anywhere else on Earth, and therefore "Australia could and should lead the world in solar technology, uptake, installations and usage."

Instead, he says Australia "lags far behind Germany, the Netherlands, the USA, Spain, France, Italy and Greece. All of whom have made real commitments to cutting carbon emissions with strong feed-in tariff programmes encouraging solar uptake and meeting renewable energy targets."