Thursday, 15 November 2012

Cash rebate for solar panels slashed
4 Nov 2012

NEW research has smashed the myth that solar panels are middle class welfare for the rich as the Gillard government prepares to reduce cash subsidies. From July 1, 2013, cash rebates for solar panels will be slashed in half, an event solar companies traditionally use as a marketing exercise to boost sales. In a bid to urge politicians not to tamper with the rebates, the Solar Council of Australia has ranked every electorate in Australia.

The surprising statistics ranking the penetration of solar panels and hot water systems in every electorate finds that climate change advocate Malcolm Turnbull's electorate of Wentworth has the lowest take up of solar panels in Australia. But Julia Gillard's working class electorate of Lalor in Melbourne's western suburbs scored the Number 2 spot with 25,000 households installing solar PV or hot water systems Independent Rob Oakeshott's regional electorate of Lyne was the top electorate in NSW.

Mortgage belt and marginal seats where families are sensitive to rising electricity prices have embraced solar panels. But in a case of do as we say, not as we do, federal electorates with more Greens voters have fewer solar panels than anywhere else in the country including Health Minister Tanya Plibersek's inner city electorate of Sydney, Infrastructure Minister Anthony Albanese's electorate of Grayndler. The Greens' only federal lower house seat, Adam Bandt's electorate of Melbourne, has one of the lowest take ups of solar panels in Australia with just 3,000 households going solar.

More apartment blocks and businesses are a big part of the reason why inner city electorates have fewer solar panels. John Grimes, Chief Executive of the Australian Solar Council, predicted support for solar power would be a hot issue in the 2013 election with four million Australians now living in houses with solar panels. "The surprising data in here is the more you earn the less likely you are to install solar,'' he said. "What we've seen is really strong take up in the mortgage belt and the regional areas.

Falling prices of Chinese manufactured panels has kept the cost of installing solar reasonable in recent years despite declining federal cash rebates and state feed-in tariffs. But Rod Sims, the chairman of Australian's consumer watchdog the ACCC and a critic of solar panels on public policy grounds warned families should not be frightened into going solar by the industry. "The original subsidies for solar panels were simply obscene,'' he told the Sunday Telegraph. "It's those subsidies people are paying for in their electricity prices.''

"For an individual, they should do the sums. I don't blame an individual for taking advantage of very high subsidies. But I would say don't assume electricity prices are going to be sky high. Don't fall for an argument they are going up 500% in the next five years.'' Opposition climate change spokesman Greg Hunt said the government had established a system where people phantom credits are being paid for renewable energy that is not being created. "There's a flood of certificates on the market. Some people are waiting up to 12 months to get their cash back on rebates for solar panels,'' he said.