Australian Gross Feed In Tariff Pressure Mounts

The Australian Federal Government made a promise before last year’s election to study the possibility of a nationwide feed in tariff to boost the solar photovoltaic industry and as part of attaining the MRET (Mandatory Renewable Energy Target) for Australia of 20% by 2020. In recent months, pressure has been building on the government to take action and implement such a program.

The Australian Senate Environment Committee’s response yesterday to a proposed uniform and nationalised system of feed-in tariffs to encourage the uptake of renewable energy technologies including wind and solar power has met with mixed reactions. 

The Government majority on the Committee recommended that further discussion of the issue be left to the COAG (Council of Australian Governments) meeting on November 17, recommending the states and territories work on a uniform scheme as quickly as possible..

The Clean Energy Council (CEC) has welcomed the Committee’s favouring of a national gross feed-in tariff program, which would be paid on all electricity generated by home solar power systems, rather than the net feed in tariff system in place in some states where householders are only paid on the surplus electricity generated.

However, Australian Greens Deputy Leader and Climate Change Spokesperson, Senator Christine Milne, who was responsible for the Private Member’s Bill regarding the national gross feed in tariff, has criticised the Senate Committee’s response stating that they have “decided to hide behind the COAG process as a way of getting out of supporting my Bill”. Senator Milne believes that the immediate implementation of a uniform gross tariff scheme is crucial to stimulating residential solar power uptake in Australia, rather than the variety of programs currently in place at a state level.

At present, New South Wales is the only state in Australia that hasn’t committed to or implemented a feed in tariff program of some type. Late last week, NSW Environment Minister Carmel Tebbutt told the Sydney Morning Herald that New South Wales “can’t wait forever” for a national tariff and would follow the lead of other states by implementing a scheme soon if a national program isn’t rolled out. However,  it hasn’t yet been decided if a New South Wales tariff program would pay owners of home solar power systems for all the electricity they generate (gross tariff), or just for the electricity fed back into the grid over and above their own use (net tariff).

With many in the solar power industry believing that the announcement of a national gross feed in tariff will also see the end of the $8,000 Solar Homes and Communities Program rebate, some companies are encouraging home owners to install systems now to benefit from the rebate and state tariff schemes immediately, followed by the national gross feed in tariff when it is finally rolled out.