A victory for people power - Solar Citizens

A victory for people power

Last Thursday the Tasmanian Energy Minister Bryan Green released an Issues Paper and announced a three week period of public consultation on feed-in tariffs for Tasmania. This is a great victory for people power.

Less than two weeks ago, we were getting consistent reports that senior Treasury people were saying “We have all the information we need”. It was reported that the Minister was about to make a decision on the future feed-in tariff.

Thanks to all the people who signed our petition, who rang talk back radio, and who contacted their local members. Because of you, the government has finally got the message that the people of Tasmania want to have a say in this decision.

The positives in the Issues Paper are:

  • Three years of the existing 1:1 for people who have already installed solar PV provides some fairness for people who invested when solar power prices were higher, (but three years is relatively short when some systems have 10 or more years payback time).
  • It looks as though the same arrangements will apply for people who install before 31 December. This should provide some short term assurances for the solar installation industry. The longer term prospect depends on the new feed-in tariff rate.

Disappointing aspects of the paper are:

  • There is no wider vision of the role of renewable energy for the future development of Tasmania.
  • The Paper presents very much the standard narrow economic argument that the only benefit of solar PV is avoided purchase of wholesale power and some avoided distribution losses. It ignores the benefits in job creation, public engagement and diversification of electricity supply. It only mentions in passing the role of solar PV in putting downward pressure on wholesale electricity prices.
  • It is still limited to under 10kW projects. There is no support for community, farm, small business and commercial renewable energy installations.
  • The paper uses the word ‘regressive’ to imply that a 1:1 feed-in tariff transfer money from the poor to the wealthy but no evidence is presented for this. In fact, Hobart, the Local Government Area with the highest household income has the fourth lowest rate of solar installations in the state.

Public pressure has achieved this victory on the process but we will have to keep up the pressure to ensure that the end result is a feed-in tariff that recognises all the benefits of distributed renewable energy and provides a fair return for future investment in solar PV.

Making the case to the Energy Reform Project in Treasury is the next step in our campaign. But the ultimate decision on this will be made in parliament, as it should be.

What can you do now?

  • Sign our petition now if you have not already.
  • Encourage everyone you know to sign. The success of our campaign depends on strength in numbers as well as the strength of our arguments.
  • Spread the news through social media. Follow our Twitter feed.
  • Read the Issues Paper. Over the next few weeks we will be preparing material to assist you to put in submissions to the Electricity Reform Project.
  • Find out who are your local members of both the House of Assembly and the Legislative Council. Let them know how important this issue is to you.
  • Keep the issue live through letters to the papers and calls to talkback radio.