The declining Australian government support to the solar industry in terms of incentives is causing the diminishing number of solar jobs in the country, according to the REC Agents Association. In an annual report released by the organisation, it cited that solar jobs will be reduced by as much as 3,400 as companies will cut down on its manpower compliment or even leave the industry. The group added that this is caused by the lower number of PV panels installation this year that has dropped to about 22 per cent from figures in 2012.
Ric Brazzale, president of the REC Agents Association, said that there is a rationalisation happening in the industry. He also warned that the prospects in the solar industry figure to be tougher next year. He added that government policy will largely dictate the future of the sector with the challenge posed by declining support of the government in the form of feed-in-tariffs.
The trend of decreasing state-based incentives continued with the state of Queensland announcing recently that it was eliminating its solar feed-in-tariff of 8 cents for every kilowatt-hour beginning July 1. It’s a huge slide from the previous policies which even promulgated tariff of 44 cents per kilowatt-hour just five years ago. In 2012, many Australian households especially in Queensland took advantage of the generous feed-in-tariffs of the government leading to the addition of a record 1038 MW of capacity.
Brazzale says that at least one in five Australian families has a solar PV or solar hot water system, many of them signing up for these initiatives during the time when the government provided generous feed-in-tariffs. However, the prices of PV panels have dropped to $3 for every kilowatt in 2012, representing a quarter of the costs just four years ago. The prices have also steadied despite the weakening of the dollar.
However, the Australian Solar Council believes that these changes will only hurt the solar industry for the short term. The group, in fact, projects that the changes in government policy regarding subsidies will result to as much as 8,000 solar jobs losses. Yet it underscores that Australia can learn from the experiences of European nations which used to provide high incentives to the solar energy sector.
The Australian Solar Council says that after an initial period of uncertainty, solar PV companies in the country can stand on its own feet without government subsidy. It added that time will eventually come when the Australian solar PV sector will realise it does not require government subsidies in order to thrive and create further solar jobs.