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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2011 Week 06 Hansard (Wednesday, 22 June 2011) . . Page.. 2206 ..

the Greens made in this place back in February this year when we debated the feed-in tariff legislation then. Indeed, if the government and the Canberra Liberals had supported our amendment that we put forward then, we would be facing a different situation now and we could have made some different and possibly better choices.

In February when the government sought to expand the feed-in tariff scheme to include medium-scale generation, they also sought to place caps on both the medium and micro generators of 15 megawatts each. At that time, the best information at hand was that there was already around nine megawatts of micro solar installed and that the cap of 15 megawatts was at least 18 months away, or at least that is what we were led to believe.

It is fair to say that the overheating of the ACT solar industry in the past few months is not of the ACT government’s doing. There has been some shifting of policy in both New South Wales and in regard to the federal solar rebates. The New South Wales scheme was dismantled by the previous ALP government and killed off by the new Liberal government. The federal solar rebate scheme has been wound back such that up-front rebates after 30 June this year will be less. All of these factors have meant that the ACT over the past few months has seen a high level of interest in the household sector, and the market has been quite overheated. The symptoms of that include the large number of companies offering great deals to consumers on solar panels as well as many installers operating from outside the territory.

So while the ACT feed-in tariff policy itself did not drive the rush on capacity of micro generators, we have ended up reaching the micro scheme cap of 15 megawatts very quickly. Indeed, we debated the last feed-in tariff bill on 17 February, and at that time the minister indicated the ACT was installing at a reasonably constant rate of around one megawatt per quarter. At that rate everyone—except, it must be said, some in the industry—believed that the micro scheme would last another seven quarters or so, perhaps 18 to 24 months. And yet what has actually happened is that, just 3½ months later, the micro scheme cap has been reached. The solar industry in this town had 3½ months to prepare for their order books to stop. It was not even that time really, as they did not see it coming up quite so fast, and it certainly did not allow for any transition.

I want to go to the arguments I made back in February in favour of removing the cap and reducing the premium tariff as a better way to manage a phase-down of the micro scheme. It will perhaps serve to remind members as to why we have put this amendment today. We do not necessarily oppose the government’s policy objective of containing the micro scheme. But we need to ensure that solar businesses in Canberra have a fair and reasonable chance of transitioning to the new environment of installing larger systems. We are concerned about the mechanism that the government was using to remove support to the industry—that is, capping the scheme in the bill. The cap on the micro-generation scheme at 15 megawatts was always going to have at some point a sudden impact on the industry, some point where the industry would hit the brick wall. We believed a better way to do it was to reduce the feed-in tariff over several years, the way a feed-in tariff scheme is supposed to work.

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