Mixed Signals in Australian Solar Policy

When it comes to direct action climate change and developing positive solar policy, the bedrock is all about cooperation. Everyone must do their part if greenhouse gas reductions are to be achieved. All nations must do their part, and their domestic renewable energy and solar policy must reflect a genuine desire to mitigate the effects of climate change.

It stands to reason that a particular government should also be united in its efforts in improving the climate, and this should be much easier. But as the Australian government recently demonstrated, that’s not always the case. Environment Minister Greg Hunt and Prime Minister Tony Abbott exemplify how a government can fail in showing a united front in developing positive renewable energy and solar policy.

Greg Hunt’s Solar Policy Promise

Just recently, Greg Hunt was forced into an embarrassing withdrawal on a promise regarding a $500 million solar policy. According to sources, this promise was made without the permission or knowledge of Prime Minister Abbott.

In an industry gathering in November 2013, Minister Hunt regarded the flagship solar power program as more than just a leftover solar policy from the 2010 election campaign. It was actually a “shining beacon” of the direct action climate change policy of the Abbott coalition.

Hunt declared that the coalition was fully committed to the half-billion dollar “1 Million Roofs” program. According to Hunt, the coalition will provide the $500 million needed for the program. What’s more, an additional $50 million each would be provided for the Solar Schools and Solar Towns programs.

That’s $600 million in total. Hunt assured the industry that these programs were being readied for implementation. They would begin in the 2014-15 financial year.

Even as the budget drew nearer, industry figures continued to receive similar assurances from Hunt. However, bureaucrats in the department were sharing their own views, and they were not as optimistic as Hunt’s view on solar policy.

Reneging on a Promise

Hunt’s statement caught the others in the coalition by surprise. That’s because the solar policy was not reaffirmed by Prime Minister Abbott and his top economic advisors. Abbott is widely regarded as uninterested in climate change, despite reports that climate change was a focus during Abbott’s recent trip to the White House.

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Hunt either did not get the message or misunderstood the message entirely from the coalition leadership. Others report that Hunt went around the coalition leadership when the promise was made, and that he did not inform Abbott of his intentions.

In the end, of the $600 million in promised funding, only a miniscule $2.1 million was set aside. The $2.1 million was earmarked for the Solar Towns policy, which was a far cry from the promised $50 million. The Solar Schools policy received nothing.

What’s more, no money was given to the “shining beacon”. Instead of $500 million, the solar policy received zero in the 2014-15 budget allocation.

According to labor opposition environment spokesman mark Butler, the entire situation was a “debacle”. Butler noted that Hunt made reference to the solar power policy repeatedly, yet in the end the promise of $600 million become just $2 million.

Now industry figures are left wondering if they can ever trust any promise regarding solar policy from Hunt ever again—or any promise made by the Abbott coalition, for that matter.

The Author

Motivated and dynamic journalist with a strong interest in sustainable solar powered technology. My work in journalism and new media has provided me with a medium to produce content concerning emerging renewable energy.

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