NSW Pollies Back Down On Daft Retrospective Solar Feed In Tariff Legislation

By Rich Bowden

The NSW Government’s decision to reinstate the solar fund feed-in tariff to 60c per kilowatt hour has come in reaction to bitter criticism, not just from solar investors and the solar industry but all sides of politics. Opponents of the decision to reduce the compensation to 40c have emerged, not just in the wider community of NSW, but also within the ranks of the NSW Liberal party.

Over the last few weeks, SolarQuotes.com.au has been following the outcry over the original decision. As described in a recent article, influential backbencher and former environment spokesperson Catherine Cusack, described the retrospective nature of the backflip as un-Liberal and a “betrayal” of solar customers.

In the face of this strident opposition, Premier Barry O’Farrell and his embattled Energy Minister Chris Hartcher, have decided discretion is the better part of valour and announced this week they would reinstate the scheme to its original bonus amount.

However will this backflip return certainty to the solar industry? Or will solar players simply refuse to trust a state government that seems bound to find ways to cut costs in renewable energy schemes where it can?

Mr O’Farrell certainly sounded contrite in his media release of June 7, although appeared to  direct his remorse more toward expected opposition to the bill from the Upper House than over righting a genuine wrong to solar consumers.

“I have listened to community and backbench concerns about the retrospective nature of the changes,” Mr O’Farrell said in a media statement released this week. “It had also become clear that the crossbenchers in the Upper House would not support the planned changes and they will not proceed.”

He appeared to make his underlying regard for the Solar Bonus Scheme clear when he continued:

“I wanted to do everything possible to reduce the cost to taxpayers of the Solar Bonus Scheme and keep a lid on electricity prices. However, I am a realist and there is no point putting up legislation to the Upper House which is going to be rejected.”

Mr O’Farrell claimed though, that he had “… listened to the concerns of those who entered the scheme in good faith and this decision should give them the certainty they need.”

The decision to reinstate the full bonus amount has delighted John Grimes, chief executive of the Australian Solar Energy Society (AuSES). The organisation, along with the Solar Energy Industries Association (SEIA) mobilised popular opposition to the changes to the solar bonus scheme and has now called for a “fair price for solar” as the next phase of its campaign.

“To make a strong solar future a reality in NSW it is now imperative that the NSW government puts in place a fair price for solar going forward,” said Mr Grimes.

Pointing to the current uncertainty surrounding the solar industry he added:

“The solar industry in NSW remains in crisis, with many solar companies already letting staff go and slashing costs. The government must urgently act to put an end to this uncertainty, or 8,000 solar jobs will be lost, and companies closed.”

The O’Farrell Government needs to work hard with solar business to restore the certainty in the industry. The complete mess surrounding the attempted changes to the solar feed-in tariff was the worst possible start for the new government, seeking (presumably) to establish a working relationship with the solar energy industry. However it is not too late. Mr Grimes said his organisation, and others in the solar power industry in NSW, would be prepared to work with the coalition to reintroduce fairness and certainty as the industry looks to move forward.

“We want to work collaboratively with the government to urgently finalise the details of a scheme that will at least pay people the same rate for their clean solar power as they pay for coal fired electricity from the grid,” said Mr Grimes.



  1. On the 19/10/10 I paid a deposit of $620.00 10% to purchase 12 solar panels on our roof. The house was being built by me,unfortunately I fell down the open stair void and broke my elbow.Staff infection and other complications put the building behind almost 1 year.The cable was placed in the roof 23 Feb 2011 and the panels were installed 30 May 2011, final connection to grid was 4 July 2011.I paid a total of $6,200-00
    and now they are wanting to take me to court because I refuse to pay another $1360.00 for adjustment to REC’s from $38.00 to $30.00. If I pay can I then Claim back From the state government? Or why if that vis the case couldn’t they claim back.
    Regards, Lance Hora

    • Hi Lance,

      It is the Federal Government that regulates the RECs, not the state government.

      Your options will depend on what the specific wording of your contract with the solar installation company is.

      It will most likely be along the lines of one of these 3 agreements:

      1) The price paid is fixed, as soon as you pay your deposit, no matter what happens to the future REC price or when you get the system installed.

      2) The price is fixed, as soon as you pay your deposit, no matter what happens to the REC price – as long as you allow it to be installed by a certain date. (most reputable installers have contracts like this).

      3) The price is variable and may go up and/or down depending on the price of the RECS on the day of installation. (these contracts are also common)

      Check what your contract says – if it is 2) or 3) then you most likely have to pay the difference.

  2. …..and the lesson (again!) is:- NEVER pay a ‘deposit’. EVER. For ANYthing.
    Pay in full as soon as ‘the goods are delivered’, satisfactorily, at the agreed price and in cash. (For which a discount should be negotiated and included in the original contract.

    If a provider ‘needs’ a deposit in order to be able to provide the goods/service it’s too small and shonky to deal with. (and any ‘warranty’ would be iffy at best).
    If YOU can’t pay the full agreed price for what you want then DON’T buy it. ‘Credit’ is the most destructive and convoluted invention since ‘religion’ and other politics.

    The Golden Rule for business:- If YOU have the gold, YOU make the rules.

    ps Even in buying real estate people should remember that the seller wants to dump something he no longer wants. He’s NOT doing you a favour by ‘accepting’ your money ~ an attitude to which a lot of people have fallen prey….and which has driven housing to ridiculous prices, unattainable by more and more people.
    ….and auction-goers who love to be goosed into competing to give away their cash are idiots who shouldn’t be allowed out on their own.

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