Australia: New government promises push to solar

With just over 80 percent of the votes counted so far, the Liberal/National Coalition has won at least 67 of the 93 lower house seats, which delivers them a virtual mandate for an overhaul of the state.

New Premier Barry O’Farrell has set out a multi-faceted plan to aid his party’s development of a viable policy for renewable energy. This should be noteworthy news for the PV manufacturers and businesses with interest in Australia’s most populous state as, since the closure of the Solar Bonus Scheme, NSW no longer has any major plans to develop solar energy.

The Liberal Party has proposed the introduction of a Gross Feed in Tariff (FIT) for households, institutions and businesses for PV installations, putting the Parliamentary Secretary in charge of reaching a 20 percent renewable energy target by 2020, and holding a Solar Summit.

The latter is probably the most interesting part of their plan for greater emphasis on solar power. The summit will bring together industry representatives, energy experts, government, environmental groups and the community to develop a set of agreed actions to ensure the further development of solar energy in NSW.

The Liberal Party has not yet set a date for the forum and after being contacted by pv magazine they said it was too early to confirm a specific date for the meeting. However, it is expected to be held before the end of the year.

Summit specifics

In terms of implementation of systems and affordability, the summit will aim to establish a sustainable future for the NSW solar industry through a discussion of the FIT scheme and to identify options to better link these schemes to market signals and prices.

It will also investigate opportunities for large scale solar installations in NSW, including the proposal set forward by the Green Party prior to the election, identify how NSW can best leverage National programs and incentives to support a growing solar industry in the state, and identify what the NSW Government can do to further assist the development of the solar industry through initiatives such as solar mapping.

Liberal Party election documents also suggest that solar energy will be paid greater attention to over the coming years, which comes as a surprise to some, considering the Liberal/National coalition is a more right of centre Party and thus has traditionally been more conservative in its policy-making.

"The solar industry deserves better than the boom and bust cycle that has undermined investor confidence in the industry in New South Wales," an election dossier said.

The Australian Energy Market Operator’s Electricity Statement of Opportunities 2010 forecasts that by 2017/2018, on the basis of low economic growth, NSW will require substantial investment in generation or demand side management. This has led many commentators to believe that a boom in renewable energy, including using PV technology, is just around the corner.

Initial reforms in the National Electricity Market (NEM) are taking place to facilitate investment in renewable energy in NSW.

According to the Liberal Party, a Solar Action Plan will be developed as an outcome of the Summit, and a joint Industry – Government Task Force will take responsibility for delivering on the Action Plan.