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THURSDAY 05 MARCH, 2009 | RSS Feed

Australia's Solar Credits Program Controversy Deepens


by Energy Matters

Australia solar credits program controversy
With the Australian government's $8,000 solar rebate to end in June and then to be followed by the new Solar Credits program, the latter is coming under increasing scrutiny. 
While the current residential rebate is means tested, the Solar Credits program will be open to just about everyone - home owners and business alike. The program has great potential to see a massive uptake of small scale solar power around the country; building what would effectively be a huge distributed clean energy production network.
However, nothing is ever as it seems and in late January the Alternative Technology Association detailed its concerns about "phantom solar credits" being issued under the new program. 
From July, home owners and businesses that install solar panels will be awarded with five times the current amount of Renewable Energy Certificates (RECs) that usually accompany the equipment. This will allow system owners with enough RECs to recoup up to $7000 by selling their RECs through a registered agent, which is usually the company that supplies the equipment. The certificates are often bought by electricity companies who can then count the RECs against their own renewable energy targets.
The Association says the additional Renewable Energy Certificates (RECs) issued under the program will not equate to real clean energy production and will therefore impact on Australia's Renewable Energy Target (RET) of 20% by 2020.
Reported in The Age yesterday, a spokesperson from Moreland Energy Foundation is quoted as saying "We would have to recommend that people not claim the rebate available to them for solar, or just not install solar at all. And that is a horrible situation for an organisation like ours to be in."
If such an approach were taken by home owners and businesses on a large scale, some say it could have serious knock-on effects for the growing Australian solar industry; ranging from suppliers of equipment to local installers who depend on residential grid connect solar installations to make a living. With the Australian economy facing a recession, such an approach may be less than desirable as it could translate to a loss of jobs, impact on local research and development and also scare off overseas investors.
Some industry commentators have said that given penalising the solar industry and home owners for government policy will likely be counter-productive, a more effective way to address the situation is to exert pressure upon the government to ensure that the additional Renewable Energy Certificates are excluded from being counted towards the RET - and with less than 4 months before the program is rolled out; there's no time to waste.


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