Monday, June 22, 2009

Another renewable energy rebate axed

By Melissa Clarke

ABC News Online, 22 June 2009

The renewable energy industry is frustrated by another rebate being wound-up with little or no warning.

The Federal Government has announced it will no longer fund a 50 per cent subsidy for most households not connected to the electricity grid to install renewable energy systems.

The industry was notified by an email sent out at 8:33am (AEST) today, which informed them applications for the rebate would not be accepted as of 8:30am.

Solar energy businessman, Adrian Ferraretto, says that has thrown the industry and customers into chaos.

"Anyone that was thinking about having a rebate for their stand alone power system suddenly was no longer able to," he said.

Mr Ferraretto says it is bad news for his business.

"Customers, like us, are absolutely devastated that the Government's chosen to do this," he said.

"We are now about to get on the phone and start ringing our customers to discuss their options with them."

The Renewable Remote Power Generation Program has been in place since 2001.

The Department of the Environment, Water, Heritage and the Arts says it has encouraged more than 7,000 households and buildings to use renewable energy instead of diesel generators.

It estimates that saves more than 24 million litres of diesel each year.

But a dramatic rise in diesel prices last year led to an increase in the number of applications for the rebate.

The email from the Environment Department to the industry says the money allocated for the program has run out, though there is still some funding for applications from Western Australia.

"As the industry has been aware for some time, the Renewable Remote Power Program has seen increasing demand," the email said.

"The program has a finite budget which is now fully committed.

"The number of recent applications has increased to the extent where it has not been possible to give advance notice of the closure."

The Department says the industry will not be left without work, because there are more than 1,100 approved applications waiting for installation.

But Mr Ferraretto disagrees.

"I feel like someone's taken a wrecking ball to our business," he said.

He says the Government's decision earlier this month to cut the household solar rebate, worth up to $8,000, was also sprung on the industry without enough warning.

The replacement solar credit scheme has been delayed in Parliament, with cross-bench senators refusing to support it because the legislation is linked to the Government's contentious emissions trading scheme.

Mr Ferraretto says the Government has not kept its promise of a smooth transition for the sector.

"Two weeks ago, we've had the $8,000 rebate pulled with eight hours notice," he said.

"Last week we had the new Renewable Energy Target scheme and now that was rejected on Thursday and now we have this."

"As a business, we're left with pretty much no solar rebate."

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