Fears government will tinker with solar laws

NORTHERN Rivers residents have a love affair with solar panels, which for several years have sheltered many from skyrocketing electricity prices, but that love affair may be under threat.

The Federal Government is widely predicted to make changes to the renewable energy target (RET), which industry experts say would push up prices for household solar.

A review of the target, chaired by prominent "climate sceptic" Dick Warburton, is expected to deliver its findings to the government this month.

Australian Solar Council chief executive John Grimes said any changes would have a big impact on household solar prices, and the government's attitude to renewable energy was already putting plans for large-scale solar projects on ice.

He predicted a raft of changes - even if the government was unable to pass an abolition of the RET through the Senate.

"The target would be halved, support for small-scale solar would be reduced by a third overnight, and limits would be put on the number of people who could install solar PV," he said.

John Davis from Nimbin's Rainbow Power Company said without the subsidies, a larger 5kw household system would rise from $8500 to $12,000.

Other roadblocks have also been flagged, such as network providers minimising the number of new solar systems, which can connect to the grid.

Mr Grimes said the government was listening to the big power interests, who hated household solar.

"An average solar system would slash someone's power bill by 65%," he said.

"Going solar is the one tangible thing people can do to cut their power bill.

"The government should be making it easier, not harder.

"For many of those people who can only just get over the bar now this will be the difference between being able to install solar and not being able to install solar."

Solar subsidies

The renewable energy target mandates that power companies must generate 20% of their electricity from renewables or are obliged to pay for a certificate (STC) which in turn subsidises household solar.

The Small-scale Renewable Energy Scheme (SRES) creates a financial incentive for owners to install eligible solar water heaters, heat pumps, solar panel systems, small-scale wind systems, or small-scale hydro systems

A recent study from the solar industry showed that the cost of the SRES was offset entirely by the reduction in wholesale electricity prices created by more solar.

47% of all Lismore households have installed rooftop solar PV, making it one of the top solar regions.



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