Taxpayers lose $9 billion to solar

Despite Australia having the highest per capita number of photovoltaic (PV) solar systems of any country, solar power systems are costing taxpayers millions of dollars.

According to a report from the Grattan Institute titled Sundown, Sunrise: How Australia can finally get solar power right, since 2009 the total cost of installing and maintaining 1.4 million household solar installations around the country has been $9 billion greater than any benefits accrued.

Since 2001, one in six Australian households has had solar panels installed on their roofs, due in part to rising electricity costs, greater environmental concern and the accessibility of government subsidies. However, the government has since cut back its financial support. The report estimated that by the time subsidies have ceased, households and businesses that have not made the shift to solar will have subsidised usage of the network for those that have by more than $14 billion, through electricity charges.

Tony Wood, Energy Program Director at the Grattan Institute and one of the authors of the report says, “If we want fairer, cheaper cleaner electricity we’ve got to get on our bike and really get this whole reform process back on the rails again.”

Read more at Australian Financial Review.

Opinion: Still the only way forward

If Australia had taken immediate action when the time was right, it would have been a world leader in clean energy by now. There was a window of opportunity, which we didn’t take and now we’ll always be playing catch up. Yet, solar power has a great future in Australia and we still have the chance to plant our flag in the ground of solar manufacturing.

There’s no question that coal power is a force of the past, dwindling in popularity and support. As in all revolutions, the old ways must die for the progressive ones to thrive. More and more people are seeing the light when it comes to protecting the environment, seeing the undisputable benefits of adopting clean and sustainable ways of living.

When you consider the Treasury figures from last year, which show that the tax breaks on capital gains and superannuation were to cost more than $60 billion, investing $14 billion to start up a sustainable energy industry is justifiable. 

Don’t be fooled by the figures either – solar has been found to be increasingly beneficial in cutting carbon emissions and energy costs for homes and businesses. With optimal location installation, homeowners save hundreds of dollars each quarter.

There needs to be a stronger regulation of networks so that consumers do not pay for excess infrastructure. As it stands, countries such as China and Germany are ahead of us in terms of development, infrastructure and installation. What we sorely need are manufacturing and development companies, right on our own soil. This will boost our domestic industry and create new skilled employment opportunities.

In addition, competition among companies to supply power to customers, as well as regulations on responsible practices, should also be encouraged. Additionally, according to the Grattan Report, changes must be made to the way households are charged for their use of the power grid to avoid inefficiency and inequity.

Clean energy is the only way forward; it’s time we did it properly.

Have you installed solar panels on your roof? If so, what has been your experience? If not, why have you avoided doing so? Do you think Australia can do more to maximise its investment in solar energy? Would you be prepared to absorb the set up costs in the short term to ensure a better long term future?

Written by ameliath