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Sustainable Living group in Armidale in push for solar rewards

Source: The Armidale, Jan 21, 2009

THE LOCAL group Sustainable Living Armidale (SLA) has made a submission to the NSW Government, which is looking at how it might regulate and reward the production of solar power collected on house roofs.  SLA is responding to the call by the Government’s Task Force on the introduction of a feed-in tariff on renewable energy.  With a feed-in tariff, a household with solar panels and connected to the national electricity grid, will receive a guaranteed payment for the greenhouse gases saved by their production of energy.

The motivation behind SLA’s submission was to help decrease Australia’s greenhouse gas emissions by encouraging a wider uptake of solar energy, and also bolstering the green collar sector of the economy.  It recommends that a feed-in tariff be available to small businesses, farms, and local government, not just households.

SLA suggests a gross feed-in tariff ­meaning that households would be paid for all the energy they create, not just the energy they export, the ‘net’ energy (average households use much of the energy they produce and therefore receive little financial benefit from a net tariff.).  In line with successful schemes elsewhere, SLA suggests a rate of two and a half times the retail rate, and a price guarantee for 20 years.

“The value of a gross tariff system and of a long term guarantee is that households and businesses will be able to predict the income from their system and, if necessary, be able to raise the installation costs from financial institutions,” said SLA member Patsy Asch.

The cost of such a scheme could be recovered from all electricity consumers on a consumption basis.  This is likely to cost the average household only an extra $1.50 per month, (based on the introduction of a similar system in Germany) which could be offset by more efficient energy usage.

Low income households could receive a concession card exempting them this price rise.  “A viable feed-in tariff will provide the incentive for increased investment in the renewable energy industry, from small-scale roof-top installations to broad-scale generating plants,” SLA member Mahalath Halperin said.  “This will lead to a broad range of jobs, facilities, manufacturing and service industries, and provide a powerful driver at a time when our economy is in need of long-term sustainable solutions.”

Information about the feed-In tariff taskforce is on the website for the NSW Department of Water and Energy, and all submissions received will be posted on that website.  The next monthly meeting of Sustainable Living Armidale will be on Tuesday, February 3, at 7pm at Kent House, and Carol Davies will speak about the $2m Environmental Trust grant to the New England Strategic Alliance of Councils (all welcome).