Article From the Nimbin Good Times
The NSW Solar Industry has been left in the dark about the conditions that grid-connected solar systems will operate under once the NSW Solar Bonus Scheme ends.
The current scheme for grid-connected solar systems is nearly fully subscribed. Once the 300MW cap is reached, new solar connection customers will be selling their electricity at only a quarter of the price they buy it for. This will be the worst conditions solar generators have had to face in the past 10 years.
Billions of dollars in Government funding and concessions continue to flow to the fossil fuel industry, subsidising last century’s energy sources. This occurs while no meaningful action has been taken to factor the cost of pollution into the current price of electricity generation, effectively an on-going environmental subsidy. These two elements combine to keep electricity prices artificially low.
This century’s clean energy sources, such as solar wind and geothermal, have to compete in a market designed around last century’s baseload generators. This market with its nominalised tariffs, takes little account of the benefits decentralised renewable energy brings to the electricity network. Feed in tariff (FIT) programs provide a band aid solution to valuing factors such as time of production, distribution savings and environmental benefits associated with small scale renewable generation.
The Solar Industry in NSW is on the verge of collapse due to the removal of its FIT program. Solar jobs are about to be lost and yet politicians fail to provide detailed long-term plans for the future of the industry. Federal and State governments continue to offer short-term policies but fail to address the true obstacles to wide-scale renewable uptake. This uncertainty holds back large-scale investment in the renewable energy projects required to transition our energy sector to the realities of a low carbon economy. This is a clear failure of leadership considering the risks posed by climate change.
Over the past two years we have seen the cost of extreme weather events, such as fire, drought and flood, have on the economy. We are all aware prevention is better than cure. It is disheartening to see billions of dollars raised in flood relief whilst effective long-term prevention remains on the back burner. Inaction to address the cause of these events will cost the community greatly in the long run.
Solar installers in Northern NSW are asking for an Interim Solar Policy to be adopted by the incoming NSW government to stabilise the industry. This policy would see small scale generators guaranteed a minimum parity rate (currently 23c) for renewable energy exported to the grid. Such a policy would only act as a short-term fix until comprehensive reforms to the energy sector can be undertaken. State and Federal politicians need to view the renewable energy industry in a broader policy context. We must not only identify the most cost effective methods for assisting renewable energy uptake in Australia, but simultaneously remove the historical subsidies for fossil fuels and other structural impediments in electricity pricing that disadvantage renewable energy generators. This is the only way we will start the transition to the realities of a future carbon limited economy.