Australian rooftop PV facing immediate 30% cut

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The review into the RET was expected to be grim for the solar industry, but the recommendations look set to decimate demand for rooftop PV by 30% in the rooftop sector and potentially far more in the promising commercial rooftop space. The RET review advocates either immediately cancelling or quickly winding down the Small-scale Renewable Energy Scheme – which subsidizes rooftop PV through a certificate program.

The authors of the report, who were largely drawn from the petroleum and thermal generation industries acknowledge that rooftop PV will immediately decline, recovering over five years.

“Modeling indicates that repeal of the SRES would have an immediate effect of reducing the install rates of rooftop PV by at least 30% and the number of solar water heaters by around 16%. However, by the early 2020s, the rate of small-scale solar PV systems installed each year would recover to a rate similar to that if the SRES was left in place.”

In what is a “double whammy” for the rooftop solar industry, the RET review also advocated that, in case the SRES is not abolished immediately, that the eligibility size be reduced from 100 kW to 10 kW. This will severely affect the commercial rooftop space.

Review “defies logic”

Solar developer, installer and independent retailer Infinite Energy says that it has a unique insight into the RET and that the review “defies logic.”

“The abolition of the Small Scale Renewable Energy Scheme will put thousands of solar workers out of a job and deny households and businesses the opportunity to generate their own clean renewable energy,” said Infinite Energy’s Aidan Jenkins. “The only winners from this review are owners of old dirty coal fired power stations.”

“The direct cost of the scheme is around 3% of electricity prices, it reduces wholesale electricity prices by more than this amount. The review’s own modeling confirmed this.”

Reacting to the report, the Australian Solar Council renewed its campaign to push back against the changes and is raising funds to do so. CEO John Grimes told pv magazine that the day was, “the darkest day in the history of the solar industry in Australia.”

“On this issue, the Prime Minister and the Government are completely out of touch with Australians. Poll after poll shows 90% support for solar. 75% of Australians believe the Renewable Energy Target should remain as is or be increased,” said Grimes.

While changes to the Large-scale Renewable Energy Target (LRET) will require changes to legislation and being passed by the Senate, the SRES can be changed immediately by government. The Senate looks unlikely to pass changes to the RET, with opposition parties lining up against the move.