Pro-solar policies could be key in forthcoming Australian election, poll finds

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When Australians go to the polls on July 2 to vote in the 2016 Federal Election, the presence of pro-renewable policies in parties’ manifestos could prove pivotal, according to a recent survey.

Carried out by Reachtell on behalf of a coalition of environmental groups – including Greenpeace, 350.org, Environment Victoria and the Australian Conservation Foundation – the poll of 2,400 eligible voters found that 64% of those surveyed would be likely to back a party with plans for 100% renewable penetration.

The poll also found that the majority of voters – 56.1% – are in favor of policies to phase out the nation’s coal-fired power stations. The survey canvassed opinions from 25 seats across the nation, including Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull’s seat in Wentworth, which currently ranks second-last in terms of solar PV uptake.

Across Australia there are now more than 1.5 million households equipped with some form of distributed solar energy, which suggests huge public support for the technology. And with every Australian citizen compelled to vote in the forthcoming election or face a fine, such an upswell in pro-solar attitudes could prove decisive.

"The transition to 100% clean, renewable power is happening now – without strong policies that support an orderly transition Australia will miss out on our $800 billion slice of the global renewables investment boom," warned Claire O’Rourke, national director of Solar Citizens, an organization dedicated to promoting the adoption of solar energy in Australia.

"Australians are already voting with their feet… and we are confident that people will express their support for solar and renewable energy at the ballot box."

The forthcoming election is likely to be a decisive moment in Australia’s clean energy movement. Even under the conservative Abbott government, solar rates grew massively in the country, and a recent Solar Citizens poll also indicated that 63% of voters would back a party that would push for solar panels to be installed on every suitable building nationwide.

Environment Victoria CEO Mark Wakeham has welcomed surveys such as these, remarking that the public mood reflects conversations they have been having within the industry. "Voters in key Victorian seats like Deakin and Dunkley are absolutely ready for the next Australian government to begin phasing out coal burning power stations and embrace a renewable energy future," he said. "It is time both major parties caught up with where the community is at."

The incumbent Prime Minister, Malcolm Turnbull, has made no secret of his support for clean energy in the past, despite heading up the inner-city Sydney seat of Wentworth, which languishes just off the bottom of the country for residential PV uptake.