New Zealand “Solar Tax” Battle Rages On

New Zealand solar tax

The argy-bargy over a so-called “solar tax” in New Zealand has continued, this time on a different front – over the use of the word “tax” in campaigning against it.

It all started when an NZ electricity distributor decided to start charging solar households an extra fee. That fee was challenged but then upheld by New Zealand’s Electricity Authority, which Greenpeace accused of trying to “kill the uptake of solar“.

A petition was launched and as a result, 45,000 paper suns – with a petition signatory’s name on each – were taken to the reception of the Electricity Authority in Wellington.

Interest in the petition has continued and the tally has now passed 77,000 names.

New Zealand Solar Tax Petition

Meanwhile, it appears the company involved didn’t like the word “tax” being associated with the surcharge and lodged a complaint with the Advertising Standards Authority (ASA)

However, the ASA ruled a couple of weeks ago that the complaint had no grounds to proceed.

“The Chair noted that while there are different definitions and interpretations of the word “tax”, in this case it had been used to create an unfavourable impression of the network charges,” states part of the ASA decision (PDF).

“This did not mean however, that the advertisement met the threshold required to be described as misleading.”

Greenpeace says the charge on solar energy is a tax as it is a targeted and compulsory levy whacked on users of solar panels as a revenue raiser for the company; which it states is a monopoly in the region.

Greenpeace said in making the complaint, the company made a “terrible mistake” as it presented it as “interested in protecting the status quo, rather than a forward-thinking business that understands that solar power is now one the fastest growing energy sources in the world,” said Greenpeace New Zealand Executive Director, Russel Norman.

“Solar gives families and communities the power to manage their own electricity, it displaces dirty fuels like coal, and it can cut monthly power bills substantially.”

A recently released report by the Sustainable Electricity Association of New Zealand (SEANZ) stated electricity consumers in that country could collectively save billions of dollars through the benefits of solar and battery storage – and not just those with panels on their rooftops.

If anything, the complaint may have given more publicity to the petition, plus more ammunition for Greenpeace and affected solar households to continue the fight.

In Australia, attempts at implementing “solar taxes” have met with strong backlash and failed. With 1.6 million solar power systems installed across the nation, users of solar power have become a powerful lobbying force.