Solar power users left fuming at betrayal in the West

WA premier ripping up contract

This numpty thinks he can rip up 75,000 commercial contracts!

It was a grim atmosphere here at the SQHQ bunker earlier this week as Finn popped his head around the corner to deliver the news of the solar power betrayal in the West.

He was talking of course of Premier Colin “The Backstabber” Barnett and his chair sniffing mate “Two-up” Troy Buswell to slash the feed-in tariff in Western Australia from 40c to 20c in the next year. The decision, which (call me cynical) coincides with attempts to bend over backwards for the state’s fossil fuel giants, will affect 75,000 WA households that installed solar from mid 2010 to 2011 on the promise of the 40c level. The cuts renege on a 10-year agreement to maintain solar feed-in tariffs in WA.

Now if there’s one thing that riles Finn (other than a flat tyre) its the violation of the sanctity of the business contract, particularly one that involves solar power!

“I thought the Libs were the ones who understood business and the value of a commercial contract!” fumed Finn as he strode angrily around the SQHQ bunker.

He’s right of course readers. And Finn’s nailing of the disgraceful (let’s call a spade a spade) decision by Barnett and Buswell taps into a common theme in this column. That of certainty in the solar power sector.

Many times we’ve discussed the actions of state and federal governments having longer term effects than just their penny-pinching goals. For one it’s a revocation of leadership on climate change; it’s also removing solar power systems from the range of some lower income families. However most importantly it is that point made so eloquently by Finn. The fact that people need to have trust in the contracts they have signed.

Nothing damages an industry more than lack of trust that a contract signed will be the same in the next year or so. Or if, as seems in the West, the rug is incrementally being pulled from under the whole feed-in tariff agreement between governments and domestic solar power users.

Would the solar power sector be better off without government subsidies? At least the chance of the boom and bust phenomenon seen so repeatedly in Australian solar power over the years would be reduced. Perhaps it would be a way to re-introduce certainty into the sector for both utility scale solar and domestic users?

Wonder if Barnett/Buswell have thought of cutting tax breaks and subsidies to fossil fuel industries as well as domestic solar power? After all this is a cost cutting exercise isn’t it readers? Your thoughts, either here or over at our Facebook Page are (as always) very welcome. And if you agree with us about the travesty of the WA decision and feel that you’d like to put your name down to voice your concern, we recommend you go to the Solar Citizens petition page.

Update: the WA government has reversed its decision for a retrospective cut in solar tariffs. “Quite simply, we got this decision wrong and we have to fix it,” Premier Barnett said in a statement. “We have listened, and we appreciate the commitment that many people have made to take up renewable energy, like solar power.”



  1. This is a clear breach of a written contract. We’re ready to launch a class action. This Liberal state government has also proposed parking fees adjacent rail transport, an initiative which will no doubt tip the scales towards car travel, rather than passenger rail. These and a raft of other B&B imposts, will see land tax raised in the new budget. WA’s new budget may offer a glimpse of any future Liberal federal government’s intentions, in regard to that $70 billion black hole Joe Hockey has identified. It will be filled with the hard-earned dollars of working families, with *zero* consideration for the environment, climate change and global warming.

  2. Colin Barnett has now rescinded this decision, which clearly *popped* into the head of his utterly confused state treasurer. Not the brightest light-bulb in the box; or the first time Troy has acted first… and regretted his thoughtless action(s) later… .

  3. Good on the people of WA ! for standing up against this unbelievable decision by the WA Government. Solar is a big outlay for the people trying to help the environment and themselves. Not a lot of incentive for those like ourselves, about to embark on installing a P V System in the N.T.

    • I guess the questions we need to ask about this change-of-heart are: 1.) Was this review based on the fear of loss of 75,000 WA voters (unlikely); 2.) Pressure from one particular federal Liberal MP, very concerned about the loss of several hundred thousands of votes, Australia-wide? (vey likely); 3.) Fear of class-action litigation? (almost certain); or 4.) All the above? (Yes, it was a no-win for both state and federal Liberals.)

      What a shame the state Liberals gave away an invaluable heightened perception of environmental concern (established by its initial implementation of the solar electricity scheme) so cheaply. And, while nowhere near any rail link… and therefore unaffected by the new parking impost… we see this further betrayal of public transport users as equally stupid, counter-productive and environmentally damaging. We’re not Greens (being folk who like to catch a few herring, from time-to-time) but the Liberals’ attempts to bury-the-Greens and all environmental initiatives, means we’ll _never_ vote Liberal, either.

  4. I think that the 40c a kWh is over the top and has manifested itself in the Power Companies raising the price of power for all. Its not a sustainable figure but then of course those getting subsidised by those unable to afford panels wont agree as they are saving money at the expense of their neighbours, a truly Australian thing to do, NOT.
    There will come a time in the not to distant future when those on the end of the 40c scheme will find that they have been placed on a higher tariff than those who do not have panels to even things out and the screams will be almost human.
    This will also mean that the Government has not broken a contract but that people will pay the same no matter if they have panels or not, a true division of the costs, not as it is now. For those who disagree, buy some batteries and go 100% solar instead of relying on your neighbour to pay for you instead, thats true solar power to the people.

    • “There will come a time in the not to distant future when those on the end of the 40c scheme will find that they have been placed on a higher tariff…”

      Oh dear… MORE m_alice. The pitiful screams of those who missed out are almost human… a faint whining, more a sad bleat or bray from the past century, perhaps? B & B b-b-b-backed down because of the b-b-b-b-acklash. You may b-b-b-b-leat for higher tariffs in 2020, but they’re not b-b-b-bleating likely, K I malice. 😉

  5. How can it be, that the people who have made a decision to go into considerable debt in some cases, to install a Solar Energy system, be accused of being subsidised at the expense of their neighbors. We all have a choice and not everyone is wealthy.
    I think you are forgetting that a lot of the rising costs of power in all states , have come about from new Infrastructure to cope with more demand, as population increases and some sectors of Power and Water have been sold off to private companies, who are merely in it to make a profit.
    Prices will go up, as will everything else but it is not the fault of the people seeking to help themselves by installing solar. Perhaps research the facts and costs involved, before making judgement on those who have, might help you understand a little more.

  6. roncher bridges says

    We have solar (in sunny Qld) and get the 44c/kw feed in. Of course we are happy with the rebates.. they return 18.5% on capital.

    The 44c/kw feed in is now discontinued and an 8c/kw feed in has replaced it Interestingly once the high feeds in went the cost of panels halved.

    Now to my question… I have read about this but is it fact or Science fiction. “Can excess kw be used to power 2 electrodes in distilled water to produce hydrogen and oxygen. I understand that the O is returned to atmosphere and the H pumped into a type of LPG bottle to power a hydrogen fuelled generator .

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