ACT Charges out of the Solar Sheds With Large-scale FIT

Interesting announcement this week that the ACT Government has passed legislation that clears the way for the introduction of the country’s first large-scale feed-in tariff (FIT). The solar bonus schemes have received a great deal of negative coverage in the last year or so as various state governments have backed away from their versions faster than cats at bath time (or is that being a little unkind to cats?).

Various state governments have pleaded financial difficulties as the reason for their winding back of what have been proven to be very popular schemes with the public. However the major point of interest of the ACT’s version of the feed-in tariff is that it will also be made available to large scale solar projects.

ACT environment and sustainability minister Simon Corbell told reporters following the passage of the bill that the legislation would set the Territory on course to its intended carbon neutrality by 2060 and would provide up to 14 percent of the ACT’s minimum electricity demand.

Hard-nosed readers, accustomed to government policy flip flops, both state and federal, may be asking two questions: Does the ACT initiative have national implications? And will the large-scale nature of the legislation mean more solar investment in the ACT?

Firstly to national implications. While one cannot see the state governments returning to state-based FIT’s so soon after gleefully ditching, or winding back, their own programs, the emphasis on covering large-scale solar projects may well play a part as states look to attract large investments. This may well be the kick up the … type of incentive that will also attract fans in the national Parliament just down the road.

Indeed the political makeup of the ACT does have a familiar ring to it. Cheered on by the Greens, who support the Labor Government in a loose coalition (see what I mean), and with the usual harrumphing from the Opposition Liberal benches who described the legislation as “costly and ineffective”, the ACT Parliament could well be a scale model of its larger, federal cousin.

Early indications on the second question of whether or not the legislation will attract large-scale investment to the ACT are more positive. Minister Corbell announced the arrival of at least two major commercial solar projects and was effusive in his praise for the bill.

“The passage of this important bill through the Legislative Assembly allows the Labor government to move ahead with its vision to make Canberra Australia’s solar capital and start to make the shift from non-renewable energies to clean alternatives,” he said.

John Grimes, chief executive of the Australian Solar Energy Society, has also backed the legislation describing it as an “innovative way of driving investment in big solar”.

So will the ACT be the “ideas person” behind the next stage of solar development in Australia?
Obviously this is early stages and the benefits may not be seen for some time, as well as the important question of whether or not costs for the scheme blow out.

So do you think it’s a good start?

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