The Federal Government jeopardises renewable energy sector again

Posted 17th July 2015 by Dan Hede

Three weeks ago, The Clean Energy Council of Australia was relieved. They stated that the “Renewable energy crisis was over” because The Federal Government had finally agreed on a Renewable Energy Target (RET). Many thought that the 3 years of uncertainty and the freezing of investment for major projects had ended. On the back of this good news, The Clean Energy Council announced that a $100 million solar power plant in Queensland would go ahead, as to the Windlab’s $50 million Wind Farm in western Victoria and the $450 million Arat Wind Farm in western Victoria.

Despite these positive announcements, this week Tony Abbot ordered the Clean Energy Finance Corporation (CEFC) to stop financing wind and household solar energy and instead invest in “new and emerging renewable energy technologies”. This latest questionable policy decision has once again challenged investor confidence and jeopardised the future for many workers who make up the 18,000 strong workforce directly employed by the solar industry.

As Oliver Joy, from the European Wind Energy Association explains; “When you make abrupt changes and you tell investors that you’re going to do one thing one day and then you change it immediately the next day, that can scare away investors and that is damaging for the industry.” This is contrary to what is occurring in the European Union (EU). On the basis of reliable government policy, there has been a rapid expansion in the output of wind and solar energy.

Before the turn of events, CEFC was reported to be busy assessing $500 million in finance for solar projects valued at more than $1 billion.One-third of the current $10 Billion funding of the CEFC goes to solar projects, the majority of which are small-scale projects(Upadhyay and Upadhyay, 2015). There are 1.3 million rooftop solar systems in Australia and one in seven Australian households currently benefit from solar energy.

As per CEFC’s previous projections, by 2030, about 5 million commercial and residential solar systems were expected to be installed (Upadhyay and Upadhyay, 2015). Most households receive publicly backed rebates to install these systems, but CEFC has made it its priority to help low-income families, renters, small businesses, and community groups to invest in solar. With no alternative in sight, these groups will bear the brunt of the new mandate(Upadhyay and Upadhyay, 2015).

Source: ABC News, (2015). Australia missing out if it doesn't embrace wind power: expert.

ABC News, (2015). Clean energy sector 'uninvestable' due to RET uncertainty: analyst.

ABC News, (2015). Government 'sabotages' thousands of solar energy sector jobs., (2015). Clean Energy Council - Renewable energy crisis is over., (2015). Renewable energy statistics - Statistics Explained.

Upadhyay, A. and Upadhyay, A. (2015). CEFC In Australia Banned From Investing In Small-Scale Solar Rooftops. CleanTechnica.

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