Australia: Queensland to slash FIT

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Australian state governments’ support of photovoltaics has turned into a case of "last FIT standing", with Queensland today effectively bringing it to an end its FIT program. The government has announced that it will reduce the tariff to only 20 percent of the previous rate. At AUD0.08 it is well below the rate charged for electricity by utilities.

Since taking power in March, the Liberal-National Party (LNP) has cut its support for photovoltaics across different market segments. Funding was withdrawn from the 2.1 megawatt (MW) Cloncurry Solar Farm, support for the Federal Government’s Solar Flagships program – which was to see a utility-scale plant established in the state – was withdrawn and now the residential FIT.

The residential FIT program had been in place since 2008 and had seen installed photovoltaic capacity in the state increase from 3.2 MW to more than 461 MW. The government has now referred to the Queensland Competition Authority to make recommendations for a system that is "subsidy-free, fair and reasonable".

Not all reactions to the news from the photovoltaic industry in Queensland have been negative. Installer Enviromate issued a statement today saying the change will not end in disaster for the industry. "The solar industry is changing, and we are embarking on a new frontier of solar now which is not reliant solely on feed-in for return, but rather on the value of offset," said Managing Director Andrew Heath.

Heath, as have many renewable energy bodies in Australia such as the Australian Solar Energy Society (AuSES) and the Sustainable Energy Association (SEA), have called for a net metering (1:1) system to be introduced around the country. Unfortunately, writes Enviromate in its statement today, the advice has not been heeded. "We have seen both in New South Wales last year and in Queensland today that governments seem determined to ignore this message and to believe the Big Power lobby groups that distributed energy generation is bad."

The south-eastern state of Victoria is the only state with a remaining FIT program, which pays AUD0.26/kWh, although that is a provisional rate that is set to be phased out.