Rudd's renewables turnaround

If you’re an Australian who was contemplating a nice juicy rebate on installing a solar power system and you earn over 100k a year; no doubt last week’s budget was a shocker for you when the rebate for those on higher incomes was scrapped.

If you’re not in that range, you might be thinking “people earning over 100k a year should pay full tilt”.. and that would be totally understandable – but here’s the problem.

Most solar systems eligible for the rebate start over 10,000 bucks; probably closer to 12 – 13k; so even with an 8k rebate; that’s a few thousand dollars shortfall that the house owner needs to come up with.

With gas at record highs, mortgage interest rates at their highest in years, skyrocketing food prices (thanks in part to climate change); there’s not a lot of people around who can fork out the 5k shortfall without getting further into debt. 

I was speaking to Max and Markus at Energy Matters about the budget  decision recently – Energy Matters is the company I buy my solar gear from; huge range of products and a great bunch of folks to deal with  – and they were saying that one of the barriers to getting the prices of solar equipment down was demand.

More demand means more production and cheaper prices. The price per watt was rapidly decreasing thanks in part to the demand the rebate scheme generated.

Even though I wasn’t eligible for a rebate as my system was too small, I enjoyed the savings benefits as a side effect – I was able to purchase a larger system than the one for the same price a year previously and it’s that system that’s powering the notebook I’m typing this out on.

Thanks to the tightening up of the rebate, the price drop will now slow down. Max also mentioned that there were many reports throughout the industry of people cancelling solar system orders since the budget was passed. The effect was instant.

The solar industry in Australia was a very, very small niche up until the rebates came into play; and then it started to boom. While some may view it as a gravy train for the solar guys; they also have employed a lot of people – and prices did fall so that people like me who wanted systems too small or otherwise not eligible for rebates could afford them.

Some fear that the “green” revolution will mean job losses, but like the fears of the technological revolution causing mass unemployment; it’s totally unfounded. The rebate scheme showed that the industry was ready to grow, and quickly, but just needed a helping hand. Now that hand has been somewhat taken away and jobs *will* be lost. Even a sliding scale rebate reduction for those households earning over 100k would have been better than this.

Labor used the environment and renewable energy as a rallying cry during the last election – these were key issues. This is a terrible decision by Rudd’s government and the Federal Environment Minister Peter Garrett’s support of it only serves to confirm in my mind the fears I had prior to the last election.

If you’re one of the people affected by Rudd’s decision; don’t just stew on it – tell him (or his office) at least how you feel, and don’t forget to let Peter Garrett know too. I wrote to Rudd prior to the election about his refusal to meet with the Dalai Lama; and as it turned out, so did thousands of others. He wound up meeting with him. Now that’s he’s Prime Minister, let’s see if he’s so responsive now to an even more important issue – addressing climate change and championing the cause of renewable energy like he said he would.

The solar industry weren’t the only renewable sector smacked in the face in the last budget. Is this a sign of things to come? Will Kev be swept off his feet by the clean coal; artificial geosequestration and nuclear power lobbyists? Heaven forbid that individual taxpayers should ever be able to afford to have their own renewable energy based power plants. Sheesh.

If it’s cash he’s worried about (but we had a huge surplus), even his web site states: “The cost of inaction on climate change will be much greater than the cost of not taking action now”

Those words may well come back to haunt him.

Oh, by the way – just so you know I’m not Labor-bashing, I’m apolitical and not prejudiced, I despise all political parties equally ;).