Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Help save the Australian solar industry

One of the less well-known features of the budget announced last week was the means testing of the solar energy rebate. Starting July 1, households with a combined income over $100,000 will no longer qualify for this rebate. Losing the rebate can increase the price of solar power by up to 200%. And with today’s interest rates (our mortgage repayments have doubled since we bought our house- how about yours?), most people on a combined income of less than $100,000 can’t afford solar even with the rebate. So this proposal will basically kill the domestic urban solar business in Australia.

The most straightforward approach to stop this from happening is to ask the Coalition to block the means testing in the senate. It is obvious to both the supporters and detractors of the Coalition that their response to the budget hasn’t been terribly effective so far; this will give them a badly needed win.

The Greens have already come out against this cut. If the Coalition joins them, then Labor will actually have to defend their decision to cut solar in favor of increased coal subsidies. If we’re lucky, that might mean that the Greenhouse and Environment Ministers will have to start answering questions on this issue, instead of ducking them.

How to do it:

  • Look up your senators (Wikipedia has a list).
  • Google the contact info for the listed Liberal and National senators from your home state.
  • Send them a short snail mail or email asking them to block the means testing of the solar rebate in the Senate.
  • Ask your friends to do the same- even if their politics differ from yours, this is an issue which should appeal to just about everyone who isn’t a coal-fired denialist Ruddbot.
  • Sending a thank you note to your Greens senators for opposing this measure wouldn’t hurt either.

Note: While I am a proponent of bringing nuclear power to Australia, I still think that energy diversity is important, and cutting renewables to fund clean coal corporate handouts is shortsighted.


Chris said...

As I'm moving to Australia in a few months, I really wish I could help out.

Of all the Western countries, Australia is the most perfect to get a large solar industry going. Apart from initial cost, there's no good reason this hasn't happened yet.

I mean, with a bit of solar energy and a location next to the sea, Australia could solve a lot of its drought problems through solar-powered desalination. It's the perfect country to take that leadership role (and it needs to, since the National party in NZ has said when it likely gets elected into power in October, it'll just follow Australia on climate issues - much to my disgust).

Unknown said...

It isn't clear to me that personal-scale photovoltaic power is something the government should be subsidising at the moment. Why should public money be put there instead of something with a clearer benefit (e.g. solar heating/hot water)?

C W Magee said...

The new $100,000 household income limit also applies to the solar hot water rebate, as well as photovoltaics.

And the purpose of blocking the change in the Senate is to force a debate. If there is a case to be made for this change, then let the greenhouse minister make it. The current situation is that the change was slipped through unnanounced in the fine print, and the relevant ministers are refusing to comment or answer questions about the decision. That's not how I envision democracy working.

Anonymous said...

I read today that the change can't be blocked in the Senate because it's not legislation, but an 'administrative decision' (?) Does anybody know if that's true?