Thursday, June 25, 2009

Solar power scheme expands

Adam Morton

The Age, June 26, 2009

A CONTROVERSIAL scheme that will pay a premium for rooftop solar power has been expanded to include small businesses, schools and community buildings.

The State Government's solar bill — which will pay 60 cents per kilowatt hour of solar energy generated at home and fed into the electricity grid — previously applied only to homes.

The Government yesterday also agreed to increase the size of solar system that qualifies for the payment in order to win support in the upper house.

But the most criticised part of the solar feed-in tariff legislation — that it is paid for energy fed into the grid only, and not energy generated and used at home — remained unchanged.

The Age revealed in January that the Government had received expert advice that its model would do little to encourage people to install solar power.

Consultants McLennan Magasanik Associates found that only a gross feed-in tariff — which paid a premium for all solar electricity — would significantly boost the industry.

Energy Minister Peter Batchelor dismissed the advice. He said the consultants had not modelled the exact details of the Government's scheme.

The Greens yesterday tried to change the scheme to the more generous model, but the Government and Opposition voted the proposal down.

Greens MP Greg Barber said it was a missed opportunity. "Multi-billions of dollars in subsidies have been thrown at the coal industry, but the Government is balking at … a small solar program," he said.

Opposition energy spokesman Robert Clark said it had sought, and won, a compromise that was constructive and responsible.

Mr Batchelor said it was the "fairest and best" solar scheme in the country.

He said increasing the size included from 3.2 kilowatts to 5 kilowatts meant it would cover 99 per cent of solar systems.

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