NSW solar deal pushes scheme past limit
May 6, 2011 – 1:34PM

The solar energy industry has struck a deal with the NSW government that will push the Solar Bonus Scheme beyond its legislated limit, threatening consumers with further electricity price rises.

The government’s Solar Summit kicks off on Friday afternoon to discuss the future of the scheme after NSW Energy Minister Chris Hartcher suspended it last week.

Homes with rooftop solar panels feed electricity back to the grid at a price of 20 cents per kilowatt hour but massive uptake has pushed the scheme to near capacity long before it was due to close in 2016.

The former Labor government kicked off the scheme on January 1, 2010, and the Coalition warned it could push power prices up for all electricity customers by $100 a year.

On Friday morning, Ged McCarthy, chairman of the Solar Energy Industries Association (SEIA), met Mr Hartcher to discuss processing all applications received before the scheme was suspended.

At the time, Mr Hartcher said those thousands of applications were on hold until the outcome of the Solar Summit.

But Mr McCarthy says those applications will now be accepted into the program.

“A lot of our members were worried that their business was going down the drain with the sudden stoppage of the scheme last week,” Mr McCarthy told reporters in Sydney.

“The applications up to the other day, when they made this announcement (to suspend), it looks like they’re going to be in the existing scheme as it is.”

The legislation states that the scheme will be capped at a total generation capacity of 300 megawatts.

When Mr Hartcher announced the end of the scheme last week he said that limit might already have been exceeded.

Mr McCarthy said on Friday that the new applications would push the total solar power generated under the scheme to 340 megawatts.

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