WHY, WHY, WHY don’t WE here in Australia take note of success elsewhere in the world? The German solar power sector is now creating three times the number of jobs per installed megawatt as the coal fired electricity industry.
Australia currently has no national solar production program and we trail countries such as Germany, who with HALF our sunshine, have 200 times our solar production capacity.
Check out the variety of policies in our states and territories.
Our Alternative Technology Association (ATA) is arguing for strong solar feed-in tariffs that pay householders for all of the electricity they produce (called a gross feed-in tariff) – not just for the surplus electricity that is fed back into the electricity grid (called a net feed-in tariff).
The ATA says only a gross feed-in tariff will provide enough financial incentive to those households wishing to go solar and make a significant contribution toward reducing their emissions from electricity.
In 2000 Germany introduced a gross feed-in tariff and has continued to grow its solar market with around 2,500 MW of solar power capacity currently while Australia has about 7MW of grid-connected solar power – less than 0.5% of Germany’s capacity.
During this time Germany has created nearly 250,000 new jobs in the renewable energy industry, which will soon surpass their car industry as the country’s major employer.
Introduced in 1991 and expanded and enhanced in 2000, the Electricity Feed Act requires utility companies to purchase electricity generated from renewable resources such as domestic solar power systems at set rates ie feed-in tariffs.
The scheme has been responsible for the dramatic growth in Germany’s renewable energy market, particularly the solar PV industry. In the five years from 2000, the quantity of electricity fed into the grid from eligible sources has more than doubled.
When Germany introduced gross feed-in tariffs in 2000 it doubled the amount of electricity generated from renewable energy sources with a seven-fold increase in installed solar PV capacity to over 1,500 MW by the end of 2005, and it adjusted its 2010 target of 12.5% of total energy consumption.
Germany is now three years ahead of schedule in its renewable energy percentage of total energy consumption target. It recently increased its renewable energy target to 27% of all electricity generation by 2020.
Supporting arguments and background materials from ATA website.
In Victoria the Government will pay households a premium of 60 cents per kilowatt hour of energy fed back into the grid, the most offered in Australia – both Queensland and South Australia offer 45 cents per kilowatt hour – but critics say this net feed-in payment scheme will not lead to a rapid uptake of solar power for homes.
The Victorian Government claims the state’s new feed-in tariffs would enable people to pay off the cost of solar installation in less than ten years but Brad Stone, spokesman for the ATA, says “less than 10 years” claim was “so far from the truth it was not funny”. That would need a payment rate of at least $2.
Jeremy Rich, MD of renewable energy company Energy Matters comments on Victoria’s proposed scheme:
“The proposed net metering will only offer payment for the spare solar electricity returned to the grid. This means that the feed-in tariff model, which is so successful in Europe and many other countries, will be watered down significantly..
The government is giving hope to Victorians by making them think they are encouraging renewables and solar power, when in fact this proposed feed-in tariff scheme could turn out to be a missed opportunity. Why can’t they adopt a tried and tested gross model like the rest of the world?”
Environment Victoria campaigns director Mark Wakeham says the Government has:
“shunned the experience of 40 countries internationally”.
ACT gross feed-in tariff
In July 2008, legislation was passed in the ACT’s Legislative Assembly for a gross feed-in tariff to be implemented, which will pay 3.88 times the normal retail price; around 59 cents per kW/h. The program is expected to be rolled out on March 1, 2009
Western Australia gross feed-in tariff
In the lead up to the last state elections, both major parties committed to a feed in tariff. However, since that time very little information has been available regarding the progression of rolling out a program.
Victoria net feed in tariff
Victorian households with solar power systems will be paid a feed-in tariff from 2009. Victorian residential grid connect system owners will be paid 60 cents for every unused kilowatt hour of power fed back into the state electricity grid, which is almost four times the current retail price for electricity and the highest feed-in tariff offered in Australia.
South Australia net feed-in tariff
From July 1 2008, qualifying South Australian residents will receive $0.44 per kilowatt-hour. Not all electricity companies may choose to offer contracts and those that do may add to this incentive.
Tasmania net feed-in tariff
The current feed in tariff rate for Tasmania is $0.20 per kilowatt-hour
Northern Territory net feed-in tariff
Alice Springs residents can receive a net feed in tariff rate of $0.45 per kilowatt hour produced. In other areas of the Northern Territory, the rate is 14.38c.
Queensland net feed-in tariff
The Queensland Government Solar Bonus Scheme commenced on 1 July 2008. Grid connect solar owners participating in the scheme will be paid $0.44 per kilowatt hour (kWh) for surplus electricity fed into the grid, plus local electricity companies may choose to over additional payments above that.
New South Wales feed-in tariff
The New South Wales government recently announced the introduction of a feed in tariff in 2009. The amount or type of tariff NSW will roll out is yet to be determined by a task force.
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