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NSW budget criticised by solar body

7th Sep 2011

The New South Wales government is unfairly using the Solar Bonus Scheme to justify an across-the-board hike in electricity prices, according to a leading industry body.

John Grimes, chief executive of the Australian Solar Energy society (AuSES) says: "The NSW government is hiding behind the success of solar. This is simply another cash grab with solar once again being used as a scapegoat."

The state government released its budget yesterday (September 6), which outlined a $12 annual increase in electricity prices.

The price rise is expected to start in 2013, adding to the overall cost of energy in the home.

Grimes has called on the government to explain why residents who have already made the switch to renewable energy are being asked to pay the increase.

"The government should make power companies pay a fair price for the solar power they are currently getting from solar households if it wants to claw back funds for the budget," he asserts.

According to Grimes: "Everyone should have access to the benefits of the greatest energy source in the world. People's power bills should be going down, not up, because of solar power."

NSW treasurer Mike Baird claimed in his budget speech that the Solar Bonus Scheme was originally intended to cost $355 million, however it has since ballooned to $1.75 billion.

Baird says: "Recovering the costs of Labor's failure will require a further $150 million increase in the Climate Change Fund Contributions from 2013-14. This is expected to increase annual average electricity bills by around ten to twelve dollars per household."

According to the budget, a total of $452 million has been allocated for programs under the Climate Change Fund including $294 for the Solar Bonus Scheme Reimbursement program - details yet to be released - and $34 million for the Clean Energy Supply program.

The political situation is expected to heat up over the next week as more details emerge.

However, consumers can look forward to the release of the Independent Pricing and Regulatory Tribunal (IPART) report into the future of the solar feed in-tariff in April 2012.

IPART's analysis has been commissioned by the state government and will form the basis of its solar tariff decision, aiming to determine a fair and reasonable price for excess solar power fed back into the grid by households.

Government-led initiatives such as feed-in tariffs and solar credits have been responsible for widespread adoption of solar systems across Australia.

-Bob Dawson - News Editor

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