By Rich Bowden
The newly-installed NSW Liberal Government has received widespread criticism for its recent decision to retrospectively reduce the tariff paid to households under the solar bonus agreement.
Premier Barry O’Farrell, and his Energy Spokesman Chris Hartcher, last week announced the reduction of the rebate tariff under the Solar Bonus Scheme from 60 cents per kilowatt hour to 40 for existing customers, saying the move had been made to cut costs ahead of the budget.
However this week the fallout from the decision moved close to home for Mr O’Farrell, with Coalition NSW Upper House MP and former Shadow Environment Minister Catherine Cusack describing the decision in an letter to the premier as a “betrayal”.
The letter from Ms Cusack to Mr O’Farrell, which was copied to all MPs, said the backtrack will anger those NSW customers who entered the solar energy agreement in good faith.
”The affected constituency of fixed and mid-low income homeowners overwhelmingly voted for us and feel betrayed,” she warned Mr O’Farrell in the letter.
”Every electricity bill they receive from 1 July 2011 each quarter until December 2016 will anger them, because it will list the solar bonus rebate at 40 cents and remind them in exact dollar terms of the extent of the betrayal.”
In an extraordinary attack, the former shadow spokesperson for the environment described the retrospective nature of the changes to the agreement as “repugnant” to her party’s principles.
Greens Upper House Environment spokesman Dr John Kaye congratulated Ms Cusack on her criticism of the decision and said the letter highlighted the discontent felt over the treatment of NSW
“By reminding Mr O’Farrell of the long-held Liberal abhorrence of retrospective legislation, Catherine Cusack has added fuel to the mounting solar revolt,” said Dr Kaye in a May 19 media release.
“Barry O’Farrell and his Energy Minister Chris Hartcher’s treatment of solar households and the 5,400 people who work in the industry is unconscionable and thoroughly deserves condemnation,” he added.
However Mr O’ Farrell defended the cuts, saying to reporters in Sydney that his Government had been elected to make difficult financial decisions.
“The fact is that if we allow this to happen it will add $170 to the bills of families and other energy users across this state, that is unacceptable, that’s why we’ve taken the action we have, an action that seek to limit the rebates but still allows a fair rate of return, but seeks to avoid the extra cost to taxpayers,” The Australian reported.
“We were elected ultimately to make hard decisions to clean up the state, to fix its finances, to improve the outlook and the cost of living for people across this state,” he added.