06/08/2008 - 22:00

Solar players want rebate clarification

06/08/2008 - 22:00

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The solar panel industry has challenged the federal government's claim of significant growth in solar rebate applications since its decision to means test the $8,000 rebate.

Solar players want rebate clarification

The solar panel industry has challenged the federal government's claim of significant growth in solar rebate applications since its decision to means test the $8,000 rebate.

The change to the rebate, which came into effect at midnight on budget night, May 13, was strongly opposed by the solar photovoltaic industry, with some businesses forced to cancel orders and lay-off staff.

Environment Minister Peter Garrett said there had been record growth in the number of solar rebate applications since budget night, with an average of 522 applications lodged weekly since the budget.

Applications dropped about 25 per cent in the weeks immediately following the decision, from 493 applications for the week ending May 16 to 370 for the week ending June 13, before spiking at 794 applications for the week ending June 27.

The numbers have since been about 550 a week.

The figures were released on the same day Mr Garrett spoke at an industry event in Melbourne.

SunPower Corporation Australia managing director Bob Blakiston said the government's claims of a booming solar PV industry weren't an accurate reflection on what was actually happening on the ground locally.

He said feedback from his installers pointed to a backlog of rebate applications waiting to be processed before the budget decision to drop the rebate for households earning more than $100,000.

"There was a glut of applications in the system when the means test was applied in May," Mr Blakiston told WA Business News.

"The huge success of the Photovoltaic Rebate Program was fuelling, at a high rate, very high interest from consumers, and we're still piling through the pre-May applications."

Industry representatives have since asked the minister to go back to his department and ask for more detailed analysis of the numbers.

Mr Blakiston said he agreed with the Clean Energy Council that the industry was now ready to transition from the rebate scheme to a nationally consistent gross feed-in tariff.

A gross feed-in tariff provides compensation to installers for electricity generated by their solar panels, leading to a payback in about 10 years.

Clean Energy Council general manager policy, Rob Jackson, said while the rebate scheme had allowed the industry to build capacity and capability, a gross feed-in tariff would deliver the long-term certainty needed for investment and jobs growth.

Western Australia and New South Wales are the only two states that have yet to legislate, or consider legislating, either gross or net feed-in tariffs.

 

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