Solar schemes reach their limits

Solar kickbacks around the country are being wound down, with several states surpassing or nearing their limits.
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01.Solar schemes expiring

The WA government has suspended its feed-in tariff scheme after its quota was reached.

“The scheme was so popular that to meet demand the Government increased the original $23million budget allocation to $127million," says Peter Collier, WA Minister for Energy, Training, Workforce Development and Indigenous Affairs. "This quota has now been reached and [the scheme] will be suspended from today - applications already received or postmarked before today will be accepted, but there will be no more applications processed until further notice.”

The NSW Government has also put a hold on all new applications for its Solar Bonus Scheme. The government is reviewing the scheme. New generators can still be connected, but will not be eligible to receive any feed-in tariffs.

“The NSW Government is committed to renewable energy. But our focus will be on sensible, sustained, and affordable progress for renewables,” says NSW Minister for Resources and Energy, Chris Hartcher.

Solar kickbacks elsewhere around the country are also being wound down. Approved applications for South Australia's scheme surpassed a 60megawatt (MW) limit in early April, but an extension has been granted until midnight 30 September 2011. The ACT is nearing its 15MW capacity with applications totalling around 12.5MW. Victoria, which has a 100MW cap for its premium feed-in tariff scheme, has not released updated figures for connections. There are presently no caps in NT and Qld. Tasmania does not currently have a feed-in tariff scheme.

“Prices for solar panels have come down and it does make sense that subsidies should also be phased down over time,” says CHOICE Head of Campaigns Matt Levey. “The problem is when it happens in this haphazard way it doesn’t provide industry and consumers with confidence in these technologies and it sends mixed signals to households.”

Solar systems have become hugely popular over the last three years, Matt says, partly as a result of generous state and federal subsidies that have ignited the market. But the combination of subsidies, along with reductions in technology and installation costs, has also led to an unforseen spike in uptake, which has been unsustainable. “There seems to have been a lack of communication between state and federal policies in this area, which is a shame.”

Read CHOICE's report on solar payback times.



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