New Coalition premier of NSW, Barry O'Farrell, may be rethinking his decision to slash the electricity power rebate to solar power customers after some of his own Liberal Party MPs vowed to vote against it.
About 1500 angry people rallied at the plaza of Sydney’s Customs House on May 18 to protest the slashing of the rebate from 60 cents a kilowatt hour to 40c. The rally had to be moved from an overflowing indoor location
Many farmers have invested from $55,000 to $90,000 in solar panels so they can sell excess unused electricity back to the grid to earn extra income during the hard times of long droughts.
The decision could also mean a great loss of jobs for many of the 8200 people employed in the solar industry, which was one of the fastest growing employment sectors.
Nearly 60% of solar installations in 2010 were outside the Sydney metropolitan area, confirming that a lot of employment was generated in the regional towns.
Nearly 120,000 household and small businesses have solar power, so many people will be affected by the 30% loss of income.
The solar power systems installed in 2010 have led to the abatement of 204,000 tonnes of CO2 in NSW alone. About 40,000 electricity customers who applied to join the scheme since April 28 this year will be allowed to do so only at the rate of 20c a kilowatt hour.
O'Farrell will have to introduce legislation retrospectively to enforce the new rates of rebates, an unprecedented step.
The chairperson of Solar Energy Industries, Ged McCarthy, said they will launch a class action against the retrospective legislation if it goes ahead.
O'Farrell and energy minister Chris Hartcher have lied about the real cost of the scheme, saying it was still underfunded by $749 million. But the solar industry says the cost is only $263 million a year.
On May 24, the government will hold a crucial party-room vote on whether to abandon the solar feed-in-tariff. Protest organisers have called on people to encircle NSW parliament when the legislation to slash the payments is debated.
But there is a very simple solution to the solar power rebate. The privatised electricity companies are making huge profits from the solar bonus scheme by reselling the electricity generated by solar power to other customers.
Greens MP John Kaye said all the government has to do is force the utilities to pay for this solar-generated electricity, which at the moment they are getting free.
It’s clear the Coalition government, like the Labor government before it, has no commitment to renewable energy, while it continues to subsidise the coal companies and go down the path of reducing the solar power rebates.