The pitfalls of using renewable energy as a political football

27th October 2014

One of the most disappointing factors in the progression to non-polluting sources of energy is that politicians have chosen to use renewables as a ‘political football’ – for their own political ends – at the expensive of small business and those significant numbers employed in the solar industry.

Whilst a review of the Renewable Energy Target (RET) was both a mandatory requirement and welcome, this should have been an efficient process given that there was a review (that said the system was working well) just a few years ago.

The political sham that was the very expensive and greatly discredited Warburton Review with its stacked panel of climate sceptics and pro-fossil fuel apologists is an unforgiveable political act. It has caused uncertainty and destabilisation in the renewables industry – the cynic would say: ‘this is part of their goal’ – and almost a year after the process was began we still do not have settlement.

Alan Pears writing for The Conversation (23/10/14) continues the discussion: 

" ... the government understands that millions of votes are potentially at risk if it tries to cut incentives for home-scale rooftop solar panels. These subsidies, the small-scale component of the RET scheme, are worth around A$2,500 for a 3 kilowatt solar system, and have helped to encourage households to go solar by making panels more affordable.

"Leaving the small-scale RET alone may also encourage homeowners to disengage from the debate over the large-scale RET, which deals with facilities such as wind turbines and solar farms, and the effects of competing energy choices on both industry and household power bills.

"The government has to seek a balance between some disparate positions. Many Coalition MPs seem to loathe large-scale renewables ... [but] at the same time, the powerful incumbent electricity and coal industries see the RET as cementing their feared 'death spiral'. Their decades of unquestioned dominance are under challenge. But, as we have seen from recent statements by Prime Minister Tony Abbott and Treasurer Joe Hockey, these industries are very influential within the government."

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And John Grimes, CEO of the Australian Solar Council writes (23/10/14):

"... it has become clear Industry Minister Ian Macfarlane's words about 'household solar' were cynical and deliberate. It is increasingly clear they have no intention of backing solar beyond undefined 'households'. Solar for small and medium sized businesses is absolutely in doubt. The Government should be making it easier, not harder, for schools, churches, small businesses to slash their power bills. The Government's position on solar and the Renewable Energy Target is devastating for the community and jobs in the solar industry."


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