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Solar industry supports government white paper

14th Dec 2011

The federal government draft energy white paper released yesterday (December 13) has already attracted a lot of attention from the solar power industry.

Not only did resources minister Martin Ferguson suggest that other states and territories adopt Victoria's approach by fully privatising power assets, but he also stated that the "dog's breakfast" of renewable energy subsidies and solar power feed-in tariffs needed to be addressed.

The paper - the first for energy since 2004 - recommends the harmonisation of the feed-in tariffs in order to avoid imposing an "unjustifiable burden" on electricity consumers.

While the number of households with solar PV systems installed is expected to grow to more than 1.5 million by 2019-20, the cost of electricity is expected to rise also - the paper forecasts $240 billion to be spent on the network and generation by 2030.

For this reason, the report has also recommended that the government include the acceleration of clean energy measures among its four priorities for the energy industry.

However, one of Australia's leading solar industry bodies believes that the paper has downplayed the importance of the renewable resource in Australia's future.

The Australian Solar Energy Society (AuSES) has called on the government to "set a fair price for solar and to invest in a Big Solar Australia".

"The solar industry wants an affordable, long term approach and to get off the wild rollercoaster ride of state feed-in tariffs," AuSES chief executive John Grimes stated.

"In 2008 COAG [Council of Australian Governments] agreed to a fair national scheme - now it is time for governments to live up to their commitments."

Speaking to business news website SmartCompany, solar industry veteran and current Solarjex interim chief executive Tony Thornton

"We've been pushing for a unified feed-in tariff model for a long time," he said (December 13).

Chair of the Australian Photovoltaic Association Muriel Watt also told the business news website that says the standardisation of policy settings and regulations - as well as net metering - could benefit the industry immensely.

"We've also called for net metering as the default across Australia and in my view that's still the easiest transaction method."

"I think the feed-in tariff is last year's debate. We need to be talking about other things now, and have a consistent statement about what the rules of that feed-in tariff are going to be."

AuSES plans to make a formal response to the paper before its final release in mid-2012.

Posted by Bob Dawson - News editor

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