NSW Solar Bonus Scheme – Anger And Action

Friday 13th lived up to the legend when the NSW Government announced the permanent closure of the Solar Bonus Scheme and other changes to the program; threatening thousands of solar jobs and also the feed in tariff rate of solar households who originally signed up under the scheme.

NSW Minister for Resources and Energy, Chris Hartcher, announced last Friday those who were eligible for the original 60 cent tariff will have the rate reduced to 40 cents from 1 July 2011 for the remainder of the Scheme. Customers who signed up later, under the 20 cent tariff, will see no change.

For the solar industry in New South Wales, the announcement was another slap in its face, still raw after the recent Federal Government decision to further prematurely reduce Solar Credits support.

Since the announcement, solar businesses in NSW have been busy fielding calls from confused customers and found themselves in the unenviable and unexpected position of being the NSW Government’s grim reaper. For  households who installed solar panels under the original 60c feed in tariff arrangement, anger and feelings of betrayal by the Government were not uncommon.

As with the original announcement of the Solar Bonus Scheme being put on hold, the legality of the permanent closure and retrospective tariff cut is also being questioned.

“The government set a cap, legislated for the scheme, promoted the scheme heavily. People took up contracts on that basis. The government is now reneging on a binding contract. It is bad form to tear it up existing commercial contracts, and sets a dangerous precedent for the government when issuing other contracts.” said John Grimes, CEO of  the Australian Solar Energy Society (AuSES).

AuSES has organised a rally to be held this week to protest the changes and to demand immediate net metering be implemented while the tangled web of new policy is being scrutinised; pending a possible class action by the industry and affected solar households. “We need everyone, companies, customers and the general public to join us in saying no to retrospective cuts to solar, and yes to an immediate a 1:1 feed in tariff in NSW.”

National solar power solutions provider Energy Matters is a primary sponsor of the event.

Rally details:
11:30am Wednesday 18 May
Barnet Long Room: Customs House
31 Alfred Street
Circular Quay