Solar feed-in tariff protested

Two hundred people protested at Parliament House on May 6 against the Victorian government's proposed solar feed-in tariff legislation.

The rally was organised by Environment Victoria, the Alternative Technology Association (ATA), the Moreland Energy Foundation and Friends of the Earth.

The major weakness of the scheme is that it only applies to households (business and community groups are excluded), is limited to systems no larger than 3.2kW and the tariff is paid for only the energy fed back into grid (known as a "net feed-in tariff").

The tariff will also be given to people in the form of credits on their electricity bill, however if these credits aren't used after 12 months they will disappear.

Speakers at the rally argued the plan was inadequate and would fail to drive any large-scale uptake of photo-voltaic solar power.

Mick Harris from ATA called for the proposed net feed-in tariff to be replaced with a gross feed-in tariff, calculated based on entire amount of energy generated.

Harris cited the example of Germany, "where they have a decent feed-in tariff, [and there are] more than 50,000 people employed in the industry".

Mark Wakeham from Environment Victoria suggested that the government's scheme contradicted its own research.

Wakeham said that energy and resources minister Peter Batchelor was "lying" because, while he claimed that a gross feed-in tariff would add $100 to every electricity bill, the government's own assessment found that it would add no more than $7.

The rally was also addressed by Coalition spokesperson Robert Clarke, and Greens state MP Greg Barber.

A document produced by Environment Victoria, ATA, the Moreland Energy Foundation, and the Electrical Trades Union (ETU) calls on "all politicians in both houses of Parliament to work within their parties" to make amendments to the proposed bill.

The Victorian branches of the ETU and the Australian Manufacturing Workers Union as well as Victorian Trades Hall Council (VTHC) support a gross feed-in tariff.

VTHC secretary Brian Boyd wrote a letter to state Premier John Brumby in March, stating VTHC is "disappointed that the Victorian government is not implementing policies which will create new jobs around key environmental positions".

Government-funded Sustainability Victoria conducted a report on feed-in tariffs to guide the government in drafting the legislation. It found that 2000 new green jobs could be generated if a gross feed-in tariff was used.