MONDAY 02 JULY, 2012 |
Combet's Solar Panel Carbon Abatement Mistake
The carbon tax is here and the Government is continuing to operate in promote and defend mode. But it
may want to be careful in how it fends off attacks from the Opposition; lest
it raises the ire of solar-supporting voters.
During Sunday's Meet The Press on Channel 10, Minister for Climate Change and Energy Efficiency
Greg Combet criticised Tony Abbott's "Direct Action" policy for
reducing carbon emissions, stating:
"And even if he puts his own policy into action, this so-called direct action policy, that's to deploy solar panels and plant trees and buy emissions reductions from large polluters - guess how that's paid for? Out of people's taxes. And guess what the cost of deploying solar panels on rooftops costs, per ton of greenhouse gas emissions it's reduced? Anything up to $400 a ton of greenhouse gas emissions that are
reduced," said Minister Combet.
Perhaps it was an honest mistake on Mr. Combet's part, but solar panels
costing "up to $400 a ton" in terms of carbon abatement is a gross
The use of such inflated figures is a well-worn page in the anti-solar playbook; a page
that even some nay-sayers have ripped out as it simply isn't true. As Mr. Combet
apparently doesn't rank among the anti-solar brigade, his choice of
figures was curious and possibly based on the cost of rooftop solar power some
The price of solar panels and associated equipment has dropped dramatically over
the last couple of years. Additionally, solar panels have become far more
efficient. Aside from the many other benefits of residential
, the price reduction and improvement in efficiency has positively
impacted on associated carbon abatement costs.
For example, based on the outright purchase of a 2.09kW solar power
system at full retail price and without any form of subsidisation, an assumption of a 25
year serviceable life and installation
; such a system provides an abatement cost of $89 a tonne
maximum according to information provided by Energy Matters
- and that is a high end estimation. Even if a solar
inverter should fail during that time frame, the cost of a replacement inverter
taken into consideration still doesn't bring the figure anywhere close to $400.
A very important consideration in the $89 price is that it is based on full
retail price without any form of discount or subsidisation. Current subsidies only cover a part of a system's cost. The owner of the system therefore pays
the majority of the abatement cost, not the government or taxpayers who now only pay a fraction of that amount (around $31 a tonne).
Additionally, the larger the system, the lower the abatement cost. Add to this the very thorny issue of many system owners not receiving a fair price for the solar electricity they export to the mains
grid and it becomes
Not all solar panel
arrays are installed in Melbourne and with some heavily populated areas in Australia
having better solar resources, this pushes down the carbon abatement cost
aspect even further.
While solar may not offer the very cheapest form of carbon abatement, a
myriad of other benefits such as solar's Merit
bringing down wholesale electricity prices needs to be
considered in any related discussion.
At the very least, any argument regarding solar and carbon abatement should
start with up-to-date figures and scenarios.
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