Australia: another state axes FIT program

Residential photovoltaic FIT schemes have proven popular in Australia and, in part, because of this success state and territory governments have been suspending, winding back or closing their schemes. The most recent to do is the resource rich state of Western Australia, where the government announced today that all new applications will not be processed.

In recent weeks, the Australian Capital Territory also closed its FIT scheme and New South Wales have reduced its program and raised a series of safety concerns over residential photovoltaic installations. A subsequent safety inspection campaign in Sydney revealed some faulty installations but found a very small risk of them causing house fires.

The West Australian FIT scheme

The scheme was launched in 2009 and more than 65,000 residential installations have been installed. This demand has seen the government increase the program’s budget from AUD$23 million (US$25.4 million), to $127 million (US$140.4) in May of this year. At the same time, the government reduced the FIT rate from 40 cents per kilowatt hour (pKh) to 20 cents. Previously the rate had been 20 cents.

Combined the residential installations already installed under the scheme are worth 150 megawatts (MW).

The Labor Opposition party has slammed the changes, "West Australians who want to act on climate change have been doing what they can to reduce their carbon footprint and many are looking to save on their bills by investing in renewable energy generation,” said spokesman Kate Doust.

The government claims that falling photovoltaic system prices means that West Australians can still install systems cost effectively. "Wholesale prices of renewable energy systems have halved in the past 12 months which has resulted in greater affordability and means customers will be able to recover the purchase cost of their systems much quicker," said Energy Minister Peter Collier.

By contrast the Australian Federal Government is aggressively pursuing large scale photovoltaic and concentrated solar power (CSP) installations through its $750 million Solar Flagships scheme.