Media - Solar Citizens

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2016 Turnbull/Morrison budget yet another failure on coherent renewable energy policy

May, 2016: Last night’s Federal Budget was yet another example of how out of touch the Turnbull Government is with the dramatic transformation of our nation’s power generation that is underway, with renewable energy policy almost entirely absent from the Treasurer’s speech and the Budget papers, according to Solar Citizens.

“The Government has made it crystal clear that they intend to lock in at least $1bn in savage cuts to the Australian Renewable Energy Agency (ARENA) – a reckless, foolish and short sighted move,” said Claire O’Rourke, National Director of Solar Citizens.

“What we heard last night was Treasurer Morrison talking about jobs and growth - if jobs were really the target, they need look no further than the renewable energy sector.

“And yet on renewable energy policy they are silent, except to cut funding for ARENA, it is shameful.

“The global investment boom in renewable energy is gaining momentum - now is the time we should be heavily investing in renewable energy research, not cutting ARENA to the bone,” she said.

“We call on the government to reinstate ARENA’s funding and grants program,” Ms O’Rourke said. “Funding renewable energy research is a vital part of Australia becoming the innovative and transformative economy Mr Turnbull promotes,” she said.

According to Indeed solar jobs are once again rising, up 34 per cent in the last quarter. That, Indeed said, “reflects Australia’s labour market response to climate change investment across the globe”. At present Indeed data shows that solar positions make up 66 per cent of open energy job postings in Australia against oil, with a 21 per cent share, and coal, with just 10 per cent of jobs on offer.

“Clean energy investment in Australia climbed by 16% to USD 2.9 billion (EUR 2.56bn) in 2015, according to figures by Bloomberg New Energy Finance (BNEF).

“It’s hard to find another sector that displays real job prospects and real innovation and a practical response to the challenge of diversifying and strengthening our economy – and our Executive Government has largely ignored it,” said O’Rourke.

“It is hard to reconcile the budgetary decisions being made by the Federal Government and what we are seeing in the real world, here in Australia and right across the globe.

“This smacks of wilful neglect and an absolute failure to recognise the real economic transition that is well advanced in Australia, despite all that has been done by the Abbott/Turnbull administrations to deliberately inject uncertainty into the sector,” she said.

Media Contact: Andrew Bradley P: 0403 777 137 E: [email protected]

Greens renewables policy a welcome light amidst Government policy darkness

Yesterday’s announcement by the Australian Greens setting out clear and achievable targets for 90% renewables by 2030 is a refreshing and appropriate demonstration of community and political leadership at the Federal level.

“The Australian Greens seven-point plan provides a clear, achievable platform for transitioning the Australian economy to clean renewable energy generation, for supporting consumers, the environment and the broader economy,” said Claire O’Rourke, National Director, Solar Citizens.

“This is what leadership and policy certainty looks like and the Greens have set the gold standard so far in the lead up to the Federal election.

“Our Homegrown Power Plan - released last week - sets out a plan to set Australia on a pathway to 100 percent renewable electricity by 2030. It's exciting to see detailed policies so shortly after this launch, from both the Greens and the ALP who have mapped out a plan to start this process,” said Ms O’Rourke.

“Now it seems everyone has a plan but the Coalition.

“Where is the Government in embracing the renewable boom that that will support their ‘innovation agenda’?” she said.

“Millions of Australians are ready and waiting, and they represent millions of votes.

“We welcome the Australian Greens plan to support workers in transitioning to clean energy jobs and embracing the opportunities solar and renewable energy offer,” said Ms O’Rourke.

“Australia is the sunniest continent on the planet and failure to rapidly embrace a transition to clean, renewable power in this country is not only poor policy, it is a threat to the future sustainability of our national economy,” Ms O’Rourke said.

Media Contact: Andrew Bradley P: 0403 777 137 E: [email protected]

ACT leads the charge for a clean future with 100% electricity from renewables by 2020

Solar Citizens have applauded today’s reports that the Australian Capital Territory’s (ACT) Deputy Chief Minister and Minister for the Environment and Climate Change, Simon Corbell, will enact a target of 100% renewable energy for the Territory by 2020.

“The announcement demonstrates that 100% renewable energy for electricity at the local, regional, and indeed national level is not only feasible, it is happening - now,” said Ms O’Rourke.

“We are counting on the ACT Opposition to follow suit, support this policy and offer what people in the ACT are crying out for - bi-partisanship, certainty and a plan for the future that is clean, forward looking and based on sensible economics.

“We are looking forward to hearing from them as a matter of urgency, as are the many tens of thousands of solar citizens in the ACT, citizens that vote,” she said.

“Likewise at the national level, Australian voters are waiting on their verandahs, under solar panels, to hear exactly what the Federal Government is planning to do on this critical policy area. The Homegrown Power Plan, produced by Solar Citizens and GetUp, provides a pathway for the nation to achieve 100% renewable electricity by 2030 that we encourage the Government to pursue in earnest.

“Our understanding from today’s reports is that the government will expand its current large-scale renewable energy auction process from 109MW to 200MW to meet this new 100% target.

“We expect the Opposition in the ACT to do nothing less than put its full support behind this policy and back this legislation,” said Ms O’Rourke.

“It’s the right thing to do for the people of the ACT.

“Globally, over the last few years, more money has been invested in renewable energy capacity than fossil fuel capacity. In fact, nearly three times as much money was invested in renewables in 2015 than a decade earlier.

“The ACT Government is leading the rush for the future here in Australia, now it’s time for the ACT Opposition to take the sensible, popular position and offer bipartisanship on this issue that is critical to Canberra’s clean energy future,” Ms O’Rourke said.

Media Contact: Andrew Bradley P: 0403 777 137 E:[email protected]      


ALP renewable energy plan for orderly transition welcome

Claire O’Rourke, National Director, Solar Citizens has welcomed today’s policy platform on renewables and power generation released by the Federal Opposition.

“The announcement shows the ALP has a plan for an orderly, managed transition of our energy sector which will ensure Australia grabs a $800bn slice of the global renewable energy boom that is on our doorstep – it’s a positive step towards the clean energy future Australians want to see,” said Ms O’Rourke.

“We welcome the ALP’s renewable power commitments but note that, as the Homegrown Power Plan we jointly released last week clearly demonstrates, an Australia powered by 100% renewables by 2030 is both absolutely necessary and absolutely possible.

“There is real depth in today’s policy announcement which sits in stark contrast to the Abbott Government’s record and the lack of any concrete plan for transition from the Turnbull administration.

“Solar Citizens welcomes the clear policy detail outlined in today’s announcement, including an appropriate solar thermal funding round that could support a solar thermal plant at Port Augusta, the concept of Community Powerhouses, the doubling of energy productivity by 2030, and an expansion of the Clean Energy Finance Corporation (CEFC) mandate.

“We are relieved that at last we have some comprehensive focus at the national level on the many issues facing the Australian public in respect to the National Electricity Market (NEM) and the National Electricity Objective (NEO) with the announcement by the ALP of a long overdue review into both.

“We know from our first hand experience with many thousands of solar citizens that voters will pay attention to parties that can articulate clear ideas and policies on how we will manage the inevitable transition of the way we produce and consume electricity.

“In stark contrast, the Federal Government to date has a dubious record on renewable energy policy, with the Abbott era driving swathing cuts to the Renewable Energy Target and making multiple attempts to destroy Australian Renewable Energy Agency (ARENA) and the Clean Energy Finance Corporation (CEFC).

“What we have seen so far from the Turnbull administration is policy to remove $1.3 billion in grants funding allocated to ARENA and a new Clean Energy Innovation Fund that reallocates $1 billion of existing CEFC funds.

“After almost nine months in office, Prime Minister Turnbull has not articulated a clear plan for our nation to use the vast natural solar and wind resources we have right here at home, frankly that’s simply not good enough,” she said.

“The Turnbull Government has an opportunity to turn this around and take the lead on solar and renewable energy policy - it’s time to step up.

“Globally, over the last few years, more money has been invested in renewable energy capacity than fossil fuel capacity. In fact, nearly three times as much money was invested in renewables in 2015 than a decade earlier.

“Australia is the sunniest continent on the planet and failure to rapidly embrace a transition to clean, renewable power in this country is not only poor policy, it is a threat to the future sustainability of our national economy,” Ms O’Rourke said.

Media Contact: Andrew Bradley P: 0403 777 137 E: [email protected]

Prime Minister Turnbull gets a solar shock in his own electorate

April 14, 2016: New polling data, conducted by ReachTEL in the Prime Minister’s own seat of Wentworth, is a wake up call to the Prime Minister and the Federal Government in relation to their policies on renewable energy.

ReachTEL conducted a survey of 788 residents across the federal electorate of Wentworth during the evening of 6th April, 2016.

“The data clearly shows that the Prime Minister Turnbull’s own electorate of Wentworth, ranks second last out of every Australian electorate for uptake of solar power. It’s abundantly clear that there’s a great deal of work to do in his electorate to meet the demands and wishes of his constituents on renewable energy,” Claire O’Rourke, National Director, Solar Citizens said.

“ReachTEL tells us that 63.5% of people surveyed would be more likely to vote for a party which had a policy to gradually transition Australia away from coal-fired power to 100% renewable power by 2030.

“That was followed by the revelation that nearly 47.1% of those same people would be less likely to vote for a party that was holding back the transition to 100% renewables by 2030,” she said.

“What is truly fascinating is how important people think renewable energy is - 12.2% of those polled said that the area of ‘renewable energy’ could influence their vote at the next Federal Election, ranking higher than national security and health.

“Large numbers of people’s voting intentions are clearly being influenced by political decisions and policy measures on renewables by the major parties. The Prime Minister should note that 6.2% of voters in Wentworth surveyed are currently uncommitted to their vote, and 28.6% are just ‘somewhat committed’,” Ms O’Rourke said.

The release of the new polling data coincided with an action by Solar Citizens, who today delivered a postcard petition to Prime Minister Turnbull’s office calling for a clear vision, and the required policy settings, for an Australia that’s powered by renewables.

The petition was signed by over 10,000 Australians.

Alongside the petition, a massive "Room for Improvement on Solar and Renewables" certificate was delivered.

Details on the petition can be found here

Media Contact: Sara Duddy P: 0478 667 860; Andrew Bradley P: 0403 777 137

Prime Minister touts ARENA projects after snatching grants funding

Less than a month after the Turnbull government snatched $1.3 billion from the Australian Renewable Energy Agency (ARENA), it today touted the benefits of its renewable energy research and development projects already in the pipeline.

Claire O’Rourke, National Director, Solar Citizens said, “The Turnbull Government has stripped $1.3 billion from ARENA and scrapped its grants program – instead projects will have to be able to attract debt or equity finance under the new Clean Energy Innovation Fund.

“The projects announced by the government today would be unlikely to attract funding under Mr Turnbull’s proposed changes that remove ARENA’s grantmaking function,” Ms O’Rourke said.

“The main aim of the new Clean Energy Innovation Fund that will be managed by ARENA and the Clean Energy Finance Corporation is to fund commercially viable projects.

“Yet we all know that any research at its early stages is rarely commercially viable, despite being necessary to ensure Australia can stay at the cutting edge of the global renewable energy industry innovation.

“With the global march on renewable energy gaining momentum, now is the time we should be heavily investing in renewable energy research front and centre – putting the brakes on ARENA’s R&D capability makes no sense,” she said.

Ms O’Rourke said nearly three times as much money was invested globally in renewables in 2015 than a decade earlier, yet the Turnbull government was ripping funding from renewable research and development grants while simultaneously talking up the need for an agile and innovative economy.

“We call on the government to reinstate ARENA’s funding and grants program,” Ms O’Rourke said. “Funding renewable energy research is a vital part of Australia becoming the innovative and transformative economy Mr Turnbull promotes,” she said.

Media Contact: Andrew Bradley P: 0403 777 137

E:[email protected]

SAPN happy to hand out new taxes to solar customers but not pay its own

Revelations about alleged global tax evasion on the 4 Corners program last night raise yet more concerns about the activities of the South Australian network company, SA Power Networks (SAPN).

“SAPN has led the charge in its attacks on rooftop solar, relentlessly seeking to tax solar customers while, it appears, its owners are working just as hard to pay none itself,” Solar Citizens Consumer Campaigner Reece Turner said.

Cheung Kong Infrastructure Holdings or CKI, one of a string of companies named in leaked documents in the ABC’s ‘Panama Papers’ Investigation last night, controls SA Power Networks with a 51% ownership stake.

“In May 2015 the company pushed for an additional charge for all solar PV households of $100 per year. This was rejected by the AER on the grounds it was discriminatory.

The network fought back through the Federal Court where it again lost.

“The network company is now proposing a new tariff structure that it estimates will halve the uptake of solar over the next five years.

“Their ruthless attempts to slow down the uptake the solar transition, and penalise solar customers in South Australia look even more ridiculous in light of these latest revelations.

“Regulators and the general public must surely look very poorly on a company like this that wants to hand out new taxes to solar customers but do all it can to avoid paying its own,” he said.

Media Contact: Andrew Bradley P: 0403 777 137
E: [email protected]


Solar Citizens welcomes the Federal Government’s announcement today to ensure the future of the Clean Energy Finance Corporation and Australian Renewable Energy Agency.

The Government today also announced a $1 billion clean energy innovation fund drawn from existing CEFC allocations to be managed by the CEFC and ARENA.

“Today’s announcement indicates a positive shift towards clean energy by the Turnbull Government, following years of attacks on the CEFC and ARENA under former Prime Minister Tony Abbott,” Solar Citizens National Director Claire O’Rourke said.

“However we have grave concerns that ARENA’s funding and grant making function will wither under the changes.

“Grants are essential to supporting new ideas and helping drive innovation at the cutting edge of the industry - we are very concerned that research and development could be held back without ongoing support that ARENA has been providing.

“The new clean energy innovation fund’s required rate of return will also be adjusted to the bond rate plus 1%, a positive development. The fund will also allow ARENA to make equity investments - this is a welcome additional function to the agency’s core purpose.

“ARENA must continue to provide grants to support emerging technologies, and it must retain a full independent board.

“The coming Federal election is a prime opportunity for a break with the politicisation of renewable energy that we’ve experienced in the past and to begin a new race to a 100% clean energy future by all parties contesting the poll.

“Australians love solar and renewable energy and are concerned about the economy, jobs and the cost of living. Recent polling commissioned by Solar Citizens found that the majority of voters support a gradual transition to 100% renewable power by 2030.

“It’s a realistic and achievable goal that will support an agile, diverse economy and Australian families and help keep power bills under control for the long term,” she said.

“Australians want strong leadership that can turbo charge the transition to renewable energy and make clean energy an integral part of a thriving economy.

Claire O’Rourke is available for interview.

Media contact: Jane Garcia 0434 489 533


The Turnbull government’s reported plan to combine the Clean Energy Finance Corporation and the Australian Renewable Energy Agency is a risky gamble on the future of renewables in Australia, according to Solar Citizens.

National Director Claire O’Rourke said the reports of funding ARENA’s grants program with borrowings would harm research and development, demonstration projects and deployment projects, all core elements that ensure technological advances and strategic investment are possible.

“You can’t fund a 100% clean, renewable energy future for Australia by gambling on secure, long-term funding for major proven programs that support innovation and investment in renewables, including solar and wind,” she said.

“In the lead-up to the Federal election, we are surprised to see the Federal government pass the buck on innovation in the renewables sector.

“Funding ARENA’s grants with borrowings will see research and development disappear and it will reduce the likelihood of investment in demonstration projects.

“Deployment projects, which receive the largest proportion of ARENA's funding, would also see a dramatic fall in activity as investors would no longer have the ability to effectively manage risk or guide projects in the medium-to-long-term.

“The uncertain investment environment for renewables has already placed Australia in jeopardy of falling a long way behind the rest of the world as renewables boom and global jobs growth ramps up.

“The Federal Government should immediately restore full funding for ARENA and keep both ARENA and the CEFC organisations well supported so we can lead the world on renewable energy innovation, investment and deployment,” she said.

Claire O’Rourke is available for immediate interview.

Media contact: Jane Garcia 0434 489 533


A study by the International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA) released today reveals a doubling of renewable energy by 2030 could deliver USD $1.3 trillion of benefits to the global economy, sparking new jobs and opportunities for economic growth.

IRENA found doubling the share of renewables in the global energy mix by 2030 can save up to USD $4.2 trillion annually by 2030 – 15 times more than the costs.

A two-fold increase in renewables such as solar would grow Australia’s gross domestic product (GDP) by about 1.7%, according to recent IRENA figures.

Claire O’Rourke, National Director at Solar Citizens, said renewable energy can power massive global growth but Australia must stake its claims of investment and jobs.

“Renewable energy is powering ahead -- USD $1.3 trillion worth of benefits is an incredible step for showing the power of renewables to generate wealth and employment, while lowering the cost of electricity and producing cleaner energy,” she said.

“The Turnbull Government must seize the opportunity to put Australia on a pathway to the clean energy future supported by the majority of Australians.

“The good news from this report is that we can transition our energy mix to significantly more renewables, while keeping the economy healthy and growing.

“Australians want political leadership that can deliver cleaner, more modern energy from solar and renewables.

“A strong, healthy economy relies on renewable energy, we need the Turnbull government to invest more in renewables and solar and make sure Australia grabs our share of this global boom,” Ms O’Rourke said.

Claire O’Rourke is available for interview.

Media contact: Siobhan Lyttle 0432 828 004