Solar panel rebates yanked, leaving no current incentives



Solar panel installation

Credit: BP Solar

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Australians looking to install solar panels have been left in the lurch, with the Federal Government's $8,000 rebate program coming to an early end.

Environment Minister Peter Garrett announced the end of the current rebate program earlier this month, three weeks earlier than expected.

The rebate program was due to be replaced in early July by a new 'Solar Credits' scheme, but the bill under which this scheme is listed, the expanded Renewable Energy Target (RET) bill, has been deferred by the Senate until at least August 2009.

Australians are now expected to pay full price for their solar power installations, and no incentives will be given until legislation has passed.

Minister Garrett said the government had committed over $700 million to the original rebate program, which was more than four times the intended commitment.

The decision to defer the RET bill will only further delay clean energy projects across Australia, said Matthew Warren, Chief Executive of the Clean Energy Council - projects which are poised to create thousands of new jobs and stimulate multi-billion dollar investments.

Australia's emerging solar photovoltaic industry will have to bear the impact of the latest 'political posturing', he said, with new companies being halted in their tracks in the wake of the decision.

"It's time for all sides of politics to stop treating renewable energy as a political football and get on with the clean energy revolution demanded by the clear majority of Australians," Warren said.

Senator Penny Wong has said the new scheme, when introduced, will "provide the solar industry with the support and certainty to grow".

She said that while ending the previous program was the "fiscally responsible thing to do", delays to the new legislation were the result of "the Opposition...simply blocking and delaying...saying no to anything where there is any indication of division in their party room."

The Senate will hold an inquiry into the RET bill on August 12.

Australians that have lodged an application for the original photovoltaic rebate before midnight on the premature close-off date will still have their applications assessed and be eligible for the $8,000 rebate.

Those that have installed renewable energy systems on or after June 9 will be eligible to receive solar credits, in the form of Renewable Energy Certificates, following the passage of the RET legislation.

Renewable Energy Certificates will apply to the first 1.5 kilowatts of the installed system's capacity. Depending on the market value of the certificates at the time, and on the state or territory, applicants may be eligible to get back up to $7,750.

These changes apply only to photovoltaic solar panels, and there are no changes to the solar hot water rebate program currently in place.