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WA solar feed-in tariff suspended

1st Aug 2011

Following a growing trend in high take-up of renewable energy schemes, the Western Australian state government has suspended their residential feed-in tariff after it reached its maximum cap earlier than expected.

WA energy minister Peter Collier says that the scheme has proven wildly effective in giving homeowners a financial incentive to reduce their carbon footprint.

"The feed-in tariff scheme has been a great success - under the scheme, more than 65,000 homes will be generating their own renewable electricity which will add an extra 150 megawatts of renewable energy capacity to the grid," Mr Collier said.

Due to an upswing in popularity, the initial project budget was increased from $23 million to $127 million.

The government will accept applications post-marked prior to today (August 1) but will not admit any additional applications until it has re-assessed the incentive scheme's future.

It is expected that participants in the scheme will be able to pay off their solar panel system within ten years.

The state-run incentive scheme has been designed to allow residents to feed electricity generated by household solar power systems back into the grid.

By generating electricity for the grid, subscribers to the tariff scheme receive compensation on their energy costs.

In WA, utilities companies Synergy and Horizon Power buy excess electricity from households and businesses under the state government's Renewable Energy Buyback Scheme.

Feed-in tariffs are a popular government incentive to encourage the public and private sector to adopt renewable energy systems, along with solar credits schemes and a newly-proposed increased asset write-off threshold.

Collier attributes part of the scheme's popularity to the increased affordability of solar power units.

"Wholesale prices of renewable energy systems have halved in the past 12 months which has resulted in greater affordability and means customers will be able to recover the purchase cost of their systems much quicker," says Collier.

The announcement of the cap being quickly reached follows a pattern in other states where solar adoption is seeing a rapid boom.

In July the ACT feed-in tariff was reached after being open for only two days - surprising many in the solar sector.

The surge of applicants came after small-scale solar power systems were deemed eligible for the first time.

Queensland also reached its overall solar energy target an unexpected three years early.

The government has recently announced a string of initiatives as part of its push for renewable energy development - many which will benefit the solar power industry.

By: Mike Peacock - Solar Correspondent

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