Decision May Halt Aussie Solar Industry

According to the Australian Business Council for Sustainable Energy (ABCSE), the country’s solar power industry may come to a grinding halt following a decision by the Australia Greenhouse Office (AGO) to cap grants for new solar power systems.

Carlton,Victoria, Australia – February 27, 2003 [] Due to overwhelming demand, the AGO’s program to support households install solar power or photovoltaic (PV) systems has been capped at AU$100,000 (US$61,000) per month to enable the program to continue until the end of the financial year. Only 14 household systems now can be supported each month Australia-wide. “Unfortunately, this does not even cover the applications already submitted under the program,” said Ric Brazzale, executive director of ABCSE. “This means Australia’s solar power industry will effectively come to an immediate grinding halt.” The Howard Government announced the introduction of the solar program in 1999 as part of a suite of greenhouse initiatives. Prior to this PV systems were tax exempt. The program started on January 1, 2000 and provides households that install a PV system a rebate of AU$5/watt (US$3), up to a maximum of AU$7500 (US$4,500) per household. The rebate is designed to stimulate Australia’s emerging solar power industry. “This decision creates massive uncertainty for the industry and the 1000 people it employs,” said Brazzale. “Sales will now halt until July 1, then may continue for a couple of months and then we don’t know. This makes business planning impossible and threatens jobs and many small businesses.” According to the BCSE, as a matter of priority the Government should: 1) Increase the cap on monthly system approvals from AUD$100,000 (US$61,000) to AUD$800,000 (US$486,000) by the reallocation of funding from other AGO programs that we understand have been under spent; and 2) Work with industry to develop an effective PV industry development and support program to replace the PV program when funding would effectively cease by June 30, 2003. “The Government’s solar program has done a great job to date and it would be a shame for that good work to be undone so quickly,” said Brazzale. “Australia has some of the greatest solar technology and expertise anywhere in the world and this comes at a time when the community is more concerned about climate change and it impact than ever before. Solar PV is one of the ways the community can directly have an impact and indeed and the community has demonstrated strong support for it.”