- Royce Millar
- The Age, January 31, 2009
WHAT goes up must come down. In the case of Peter Allan's personal solar system, much sooner than expected.
Mr Allan has removed solar panels from his Brunswick roof, declaring the policies of both the federal and state Labor Government anti-solar.
Mr Allan, who works as an environmental consultant, says both levels of government are undermining the contribution of small-scale solar photovoltaic (PV) panels to reducing greenhouse emissions.
Last year the State Government announced a new subsidy scheme for solar panels under which residents with panels would be paid a premium for the surplus power they feed back into the electricity grid.
The subsidy would only be available to households, not businesses or farms, with small PV systems of less than two kilowatts and households.
In his bid to maximise the power generated from his roof, Allan had spent $24,000 on a 2.4 kilowatt system of 14 panels, rendering him ineligible for the subsidy.
Allan says the two-kilowatt cap means only "toy-sized" systems are recognised making it clear the Government is not serious about the subsidy being effective. He says the cap needs to be lifted to 10 kilowatts and the subsidy made available to all solar producers including farmers and businesses.
So far Allan has removed four panels to bring his system under the Government's proposed cap. If the Government does not lift the cap, Allan says he will smash panels on the steps of Parliament House as a protest.
"We're feeling so frustrated by state and federal half-heartedness on solar. So to symbolise the destruction of the industry we may go and destroy panels that are no longer any use," he said.
Environment groups and the Government's own Department of Sustainability had pushed for a German-style subsidy known as a gross feed-in tariff.
The Government rejected the model, declaring it unfair to lower incomes without solar, and claiming it would add $100 to all household power bills. However, The Age revealed this week confidential advice from senior Government officers that the real cost was just $7.
Mr Allan is also angry about the Rudd Government's proposed Carbon Pollution Reduction Scheme. Last month the Government announced it would replace John Howard's $8000 solar rebate with a scheme that allowed those with solar panels to claim solar credits.
But Mr Allan was stunned to discover his carbon-cutting efforts would be cancelled out by the fact that his credits could be claimed by power retailers under their own carbon reduction obligations. The effect, agree experts, is that household solar panels will make no real contribution in carbon emissions. "How would be anyone be motivated to do this knowing their action would not be reducing the amount of renewable energy generated overall?"
A spokeswoman for Climate Change Minister Penny Wong would not directly respond when asked if the Government would consider amending the carbon reduction policies to account for household action.
"Everyone has to do their bit to reduce carbon pollution — from big business to households — no one gets a free ride," she said.
With LIZ MINCHIN and MATHEW MURPHY