WA Government saves millions while solar customers are up in arms

12th Aug 2013

The Western Australian government has managed to outrage the public even more with its decision to substantially cut the solar feed in tariffs that solar customers were promised when they installed the systems.

While the government is certainly celebrating the decision – it now won't have to dish out $51 million in solar rebates – the state's population of solar power users and virtually anyone who supports a greener Australia is speaking out.

The state budget called for the electricity tariffs to be cut by ten cents per kilowatt, which will be effective from October 1.

Kirsten Rose, chief executive of the Sustainable Energy Association, had especially choice words for the government, calling it "disappointing" and "regressive", and saying it is a "massive betrayal of public trust."

Advocates and green leaders have been vocal about the decision to slash the cuts, but it's the words from actual solar panel customers that seem to be the most heartbreaking. ABC Local Radio fielded calls from listeners, with many taking it as a prime opportunity to say how abominable the decision really was.

Broken promises

One caller, Steph, spent $20,000 on her solar panel system in 2010. With a contract that stipulated she would be paid 40 cents per kilowatt of extra electricity for ten years, it seemed like a good investment.

Now, however, she has few options.

"It's a broken promise," she said.

"[Treasurer Buswell) got it wrong and now the rest of us have to pay for it. If you did this in business, you'd be in court."

Another caller, Peter, said that with the new rate, there's no way he'll be able to pay off the loans he took out to install the solar system, and yet another said he didn't how understand how the government could just throw away a contract.

Now, many are looking into lawsuits for breach of contract, which some experts say is a legitimate action.

The WA Greens stated that the decision was a "disaster", and that they didn't think the government could sink so low.

Now, the budget calls for reallocation of money to be spent on dirty industries like mining, gas production and energy generated through fossil fuels.

"I am furious about this," said Greens spokesperson Robin Chapple, echoing the sentiment of a large part of the WA population.

"On the one hand this government is building more and more climate sensitive infrastructure, and on the other hand it is refusing to shoulder its responsibility by making the switch to renewables."

Posted by Mike Peacock

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