Australia Could Do Better - Solar Citizens

What's in the way of a sun-powered future?

Australia is in the midst of a rooftop revolution, with more than 1.6 million homes all around the country sporting rooftop PV systems. Our nation has the opportunity to reap all the benefits that come with this monumental shift, including more jobs, more investment and more control for people over their power bills.

There’s no doubt this revolution challenges traditional business models and has prompted a significant backlash from some of Australia’s biggest power companies. This should come as no surprise, as their profits depend on renewable energy being stuck in a niche part of our energy sector. Along with several years of federal policy failure on renewable energy under the Abbott government, it’s safe to say solar and renewable energy has been held back and that too many roadblocks remain.

Solar at Risk

Federal policies have been key in supporting and growing solar and renewable energy in Australia. The three most important are the Renewable Energy Target (RET), The Clean Energy Finance Corporation (CEFC) and the Australian Renewable Energy Agency (ARENA).

After enjoying years of bipartisan support, the large-scale component of the Target, which encourages investment in big solar and renewable energy projects, was slashed in 2015 following a review of the policy kicked off by the Federal Coalition government. After eighteen months of industry uncertainty, the cut had a devastating impact on the renewables industry in Australia with investment in the sector down 70% in 2014 from the previous year.

However, thanks to the efforts of Solar Citizens across Australia, the small-scale component of the Target (the SRES scheme) was saved. This scheme uses a system of certificates to encourage households and small businesses to put solar on their roofs by reducing the upfront cost of installing a system.

The CEFC wasn’t safe under the Abbott government either. In 2015 the Federal government issued a new directive to stop the CEFC investing in household rooftop solar projects. The scope of the CEFC, which made back more than double on their investments in the 2014-15 financial year, remains in question.

Australians want a sun-powered future and we need our Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull to adopt a strong suite of policies that will get us there.

The Australian Labor Party has committed to a new goal of at least 50% renewable energy by 2030 in its National Platform, which is a solid step in the right direction. And while the Coalition, under Prime Minister Turnbull, has also shown a friendlier attitude towards renewables, we need our representatives to walk the talk and commit to return to bipartisan support of solar, something we all know makes sense.

Unfair and Discriminatory Practices by Power Companies

Energy demand is declining more quickly than anticipated due to increased energy efficiency, in part driven by soaring electricity bills, and the contraction in our domestic manufacturing industry. The fundamental shift to solar and renewable technologies is pushing coal and gas out of the market and threatening traditional power companies’ business models. Think about what the internet did to the media and music businesses - we’re talking a monumental disruption to the way our electricity is produced and consumed.

Families are feeling the pressure from skyrocketing power bills, and are responding by using less energy and, in many cases, choosing to go solar. Instead of embracing this new approach to energy and getting on board with technology designed to accommodate growing solar and renewable energy production, power companies penalise and discriminate against solar owners through unfair charges and often make it harder for others to go solar.

Solar owners across the country get in touch with us to let us know when they’re being discriminated against or facing an unfair charge. Some recent examples include in Victoria, where households with solar were prevented from accessing many of the higher discounts on offer from power retailers. Or in South Australia, where SA Power Networks tried to introduce a penalty that would see solar households pay close to $100 more in supply charges than other residential households who consume the same amount of electricity. These aren’t isolated cases, there are many and varied examples of big electricity companies across Australia discriminating against households with rooftop solar.

Solar owners deserve a fair price for the energy they generate and feed back into the grid, but feed-in tariffs are being cut all over the country. That’s why Solar Citizens is calling for a review into a fair price for solar electricity that’s fed back into the grid as part of our Stand Up for Solar campaign.

We are at a tipping point that will determine how our energy systems are structured - it’s exciting and Australians everywhere want to be part of it. The voices of solar owners and solar supporters - that’s you - will be critical to setting policies that will shape our energy system and create a clean, sunny future.

With a new Prime Minister and a Federal election looming, we need to harness our people power to lock in the solar-powered future Australians want to see. We’ve done it before and we can do it again. Click here to check out our current campaigns.