The sudden end to Western Australia’s solar feed in tariff yesterday for new connections has been widely criticised by the solar industry and its supporters.
WA’s Energy Minister Peter Collier announced yesterday morning the state’s cap for participation in its feed in tariff initiative had been reached and was to be immediately suspended. The state had set a cap of 150MW capacity, but the latest information the solar industry had access to suggested there was still enough of the quota left for new applications to be accepted until next month.
Minister Collier said even without the incentive, system owners would see a reasonable payback period and that Synergy and Horizon Power will continue buying excess electricity fed into the grid from solar power systems under the State Government’s Renewable Energy Buyback Scheme. However, solar industry associations said the program’s closure would have a severe impact on the sector.
Clean Energy Council (CEC) Chief Executive Matthew Warren expressed disappointment the announcement was made without prior consultation with the solar industry.
“The solar industry continues to seek policy certainty so that it is not at the mercy of knee-jerk reactions,” Mr Warren said. “West Australians have invested in the solar industry – both as consumers and in terms of new training, skills and jobs. The WA Government should not be turning back on this emerging industry.”
Professor Ray Wills, Chief Executive of the Sustainable Energy Association (SEA), described the decision as untimely and short-sighted.
“Government has failed to consult with the industry on the ensuing changes, and this has made it very difficult for any business to plan effectively,” said Professor Wills. “The renewable energy industry continues to be plagued by government decisions that lead to boom/ bust cycles and fail to provide the conditions needed to grow the industry sustainably.”
Professor Wills says while solar PV could reach retail grid parity within the next few years, without some sort of price support in the interim, it will likely significantly erode the value and capability of the industry.
“The costs of solar are less than half those reported by some planners and the benefits of solar are far greater than the wholesale cost of electricity. We need a sustainable, fair value, feed-in-tariff for excess solar electricity exported to the grid that efficiently overcomes key market failures such as competition with the continuing massive subsidisation of fossil fuels.”