- Royce Millar
- The Age, January 30, 2009
DON Chambers' blood has been boiling this week, and the heat isn't the cause.
With temperatures in his home town of Rutherglen hovering around 45 degrees and power blackouts dogging Melbourne, it is the lack of solar panels to make use of the rays and keep air-conditioners and fridges running that has made him angry.
"Governments in Australia should be grabbing solar and running with it," said the member of the local Chambers wine dynasty and former Indigo Shire mayor. "They talk a lot of bulldust about how they are going to reduce greenhouse gases. Here is something real that the whole community can do. And we're not doing it."
As southern Australia sweltered, Mr Chambers, a long-time National Party member and former Sustainability Victoria board member, was more perplexed than ever over why solar panels are not as ubiquitous as kelpies and utes in the Australian countryside.
They would be, he said, with the slightest of encouragement to farmers. But there had been no sign of that encouragement coming from the State Government. Mr Chambers said farmers were increasingly interested in solar energy's potential to help the environment and be a possible money-spinner.
Awareness of solar power has been heightened by the experience of German farmers cashing in on a solar boom.
Mr Chambers, who has solar panels on his home, said the State Government was squandering the chance to start such an industry in Victoria.
In 2000, Germany introduced a subsidy for the gross amount of solar power generated, including the power those with solar panels use themselves.
Just about everyone with a solar panel is eligible: residents, businesses, farms and community groups.
The State Government is preparing to introduce its own subsidy, but only households will be eligible. And the payment will only cover power fed back into the electricity grid after solar households have used what they need.
Yesterday The Age revealed grave doubts within the Government about the proposed scheme.
A leaked memo from a senior state bureaucrat said Labor's plan would do nothing to boost the take-up of solar panels in Victoria.
Mr Chambers is not surprised. He said the German model made it easy for people to calculate how much they can earn from solar power and when the system will pay back their investment.
Victoria's opposition parties are discussing strategies for dealing with Labor's scheme, due to be tabled in the first half of the year.
Greens upper house MP Greg Barber said yesterday that if the scheme were not vastly improved by the time it was tabled, it was likely to be amended or thrown out.