Rush starts as sun sets on Australian Govt solar subsidy
GYMPIE Regional Solar Centre has braced itself for a sudden influx of installations as it attempts to fill all orders before the year is out, following the Federal Government's decision to scrap the solar rebate six months ahead of schedule.
It's a big blow for the business, which is facing a challenging six weeks ahead coping with the onslaught of work and the Christmas break.
Solar panel installations planned for the first half of next year have been brought forward and sales manager Mark Petrakis has been signing up new customers wanting to take advantage of the rebate before it is cut.
The reason for the government's plan to wind back its subsidies for solar electricity panels earlier than expected is because the high take-up is pushing up power prices.
It is believed cutting the rebate will reduce the country's electricity bills by up to $100 million next year.
In hindsight, the government realised the average electricity customer was paying a high price to fund subsidies for domestic solar systems.
But Gympie Regional Solar Centre owners Dee Gray and Jeff Hogue slammed the decision as unnecessary and badly timed.
Their main priority now is to get as many systems as possible onto roofs before January 1.
More installers have been put on temporarily, but long-term employees will also lose their jobs once sales dry-up in the new year.
Ms Gray said demand for household solar panels had fallen since the government reduced support and state governments wound back feed-in tariffs. This was another big hurdle for the industry.
Mr Petrakis has been in the business of selling top-of-the-range solar systems since 2004. He said the rebate cut made a joke of Australia's 20% renewable energy target.
"The government has introduced a carbon tax in an effort to become greener and then they take away the incentives for regular Australian families to become greener," he said.
"It's taken away solar hot water rebates and solar power rebates, wasted countless of millions of dollars on solar for schools, and where's the incentives for households to go green?
"There is none."
Climate Change and Energy Efficiency Minister Greg Combet said the changes would strike the appropriate balance between easing upward pressure on electricity prices and supporting households and suppliers who installed solar.
The change is to the solar credits within the renewable energy target scheme, under which installation of small-scale systems and solar hot-water heaters continue to be supported.
Mr Combet said solar panel systems would continue to benefit from arrangements that guaranteed 8c per kilowatt of electricity put back in the grid each hour.
"As this (solar credit) benefit was never available to solar hot-water heaters, the phase out puts solar panels and solar water heaters back onto a level playing field," he said.
He said legally binding contracts to install supported systems, already entered into on the basis of the current rules, would be preserved.
See climatechange.gov.au for more details.