Greens slam solar boom and bust


Greens Upper House MP John Kaye and Greens candidate for Clarence, Janet Cavanaugh, today met with a member of the solar energy industry to discuss the impact of the NSW government's ill-considered policies which have driven the industry from boom to bust, with disastrous consequences for local businesses and the environment.
These discussions were held while inspecting the 110 kilowatt (kW) solar energy installation at Clarence Village in Turf St, Grafton.
Dr Kaye said: “This installation is an admirable, community-owned asset, which was prompted by the now defunct Solar Bonus Scheme. The Greens are committed to supporting a distributed electricity industry, including widespread use of rooftop solar panels and increased community-level control. This is exactly what Clarence Village achieved.”
Owner of Coutts-based Northern Rivers Renewable Energy, Trent Rogers, stated that this system, scattered over the villas in the complex, was part of the 1.7 megawatts (MW) of photo-voltaic systems installed by his company last year in the Clarence.
However, he is highly critical of short-term government incentive schemes which have forced the industry into a boom and bust response.
Mr Rogers said: “I am anticipating a very quiet year this year, following the dramatic change in NSW government policy in November which saw the end of the generous 60 cents per kilowatt hour feed in tariff.
“Already I have had to lay off two staff members. I am trying very hard to keep my installation crew, as I have invested in their training and I value their excellent work, but this will be difficult,” Mr Rogers said.
Janet Cavanaugh pointed out that greater certainty doesn’t appear to be a high priority for the Coalition.
Ms Cavanaugh said: “On Tuesday, sitting Nationals MP Steve Cansdell stated that he supported a 35 cent tariff. I had to remind him that in November, the Nationals had voted against a Greens compromise position to reduce the tariff to only 30 cents when they joined with Labor to slash it to 20 cents. I challenge him to tell us what has changed over the last 3 months and to release the Nationals Policy on renewable energy,” she said.
Dr Kaye said: “When it was introduced, I warned that the 7 year life of the Solar Bonus Scheme was too short to create ongoing jobs and substantially reduce greenhouse gas emissions. As it turns out the scheme lasted just over 12 months and was far too generous, attracting cowboys into the industry.
“Long-term companies, such as NRRE, faced enormous competition from fly-by-night operators who cared little for the longevity or quality of the systems they installed.
“Having been given almost a year of boom conditions, installers have now been thrown into bust. This is the worst case scenario for the long term sustainability of the industry and the thousands jobs it could create. It puts the economic, social and environmental benefits of a thriving solar industry at risk.
“Renewable energy is reliable and clean. With vast open space and abundant sunshine, Australia has the potential to harness more renewable energy than almost any other country in the world,” Dr Kaye said.
Contacts:       Janet Cavanaugh (0429 479 968), John Kaye (0407 195 455)
Trent Rogers, Northern Rivers Renewable Energy (0437 495 141, 66493 574)