Solar Scheme and solar power rebates could be slashed again after the Government confirmed it was still concerned the scheme was driving up electricity prices for the poor.
Climate Change Minister Greg Combet said he was deeply concerned about the equity of the program that some experts estimated was already costing families that couldn’t afford panels about $100 a year.
That’s because the cost of the uncapped solar scheme that offers grants of about $6000 is passed on to consumers by electricity retailers, rather than being a cash grant in the Federal Budget.
Electricity users pay again when a feed-in tariff scheme “pays” the solar householders who produce more electricity than they use.
Mr Combet has already said the rebates will be slashed from about $6000 to $5000 from July 1, prompting a stampede of customers.
“This is a program that we inherited from the Howard government. And it was a thoroughly poorly designed, inequitable program,” he said.
“We’ve progressively wound back the levels of assistance. I announced before Christmas a further wind-back to take effect from July 1.
“In the meantime, I’ve been watching closely the levels of demand that are still being created by this scheme. The thing that’s appropriate for me is to watch it very closely, to take steps to reduce the levels of subsidy, which I am doing.”
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Mr Combet said the surging demand for solar roof panels was “not purely a function of a federal government level of assistance”.
“Various state governments have what’s called a feed-in tariff. The NSW feed-in tariff led to a complete explosion in demand.
“They’ve both contributed to very high levels of demand. As well as the high dollar, because it means that the solar panels being imported from China are relatively cheaper.
“So I am very mindful of that and I am watching it very closely, because I have been particularly concerned about the equity of that program. Because it is effectively a subsidy that is paid through electricity prices.”
For families who can afford it, the generous scheme can reduce the cost of installing solar panels from $10,000 to just $4000.
* Retirees warm to sun’s energy
PENNY-WISE Sunshine Coast retirees are leading a national solar power boom.
New data shows almost 12 per cent of Caloundra homes (18,193) now host a solar system the highest percentage of any Australian postcode. Retirees with upfront cash are behind the demand.
At one over-50s Caloundra resort, Halcyon Park, 70 systems have been installed in the past six months. Australians are rushing to make a June 30 installation deadline after which the Federal Government’s solar scheme will be reduced.
SolarLife sales representative Kris Orchard said retirees accounted for almost 90 per cent of his clientele.
Retired couple Bill and Lois Walters, new owners of a 2.25kW system, said the deciding factor was cost.
Their neighbours had boasted that their power bills were down to zero and making credit. Mr Walters hoped his $211 quarterly power bill would be drastically cut.
“We are hoping financially to be better off,” he said.
by Samantha Maiden, Sunday Mail