Australian Green Party launches bold solar policy ahead of elections

The run up to the Australian election has begun in earnest Down Under, with the Greens stating clearly their support for solar power with a bold pro-PV manifesto that spells out ways the party would ensure solar energy for all Australians that want it.

Launched today, ahead of the general election to be held on July 2, the Greens’ clean energy policy seeks to allocate AUS$192 million for solar in schools, and would also amend the electricity system to ensure solar-generated electricity is fairly priced. The proposed regulations would also demand that energy companies offer a legal reason why they cannot connect a consumer that wishes to install solar.

Further details outlined in the policy include the creation of a solar ombudsman position, which would focus on ensuring rental tenants had a "right to solar", and also ensure that energy companies write-down pole and wire assets.

Greens leader Richard Di Natale also said that his party would campaign for better information regarding the Clean Energy Finance Corporation’s (CEFC) scheme, which supports homes and businesses that wish to install solar with no upfront costs. The Greens would back this campaign to the tune of $5 million.

Di Natale would like to see solar homes and businesses "protected from fees and charges likely to be imposed by electricity networks clawing back their diminishing revenues as our electricity system decentralizes and consumers become empowered."

Despite Australia boasting some of the world’s highest penetration rates for residential solar PV, this still represents a bold stance by the Greens, which backs the goal of 90% renewables penetration nationwide by 2030.

At state level, New South Wales (NSW) already has a generous support scheme for solar. The government offers a five-year subsidy of up to $0.60/kWh for PV generated up until December this year. So far, the scheme has attracted more than 146,000 NSW customers, despite the market price set to fall to $0.06/kWh by early next year.

In Victoria, the tariff for rooftop solar PV – and small-scale wind turbine-generated energy – is currently $0.052/kWh for solar fed to the grid.

Grid connection is another key theme of the Greens’ policy, with the party calling on a national standard that would help solar prosumers be fast-tracked on to the grid. The manifesto calls for a fee structure and timeframe for commercial and domestic connections, and offering consumers the right to appeal when connection requests are refused.

Further, the Greens have said that they will establish a $500 million top-down government authority called RenewAustralia, which would focus on steering the country towards a cleaner energy path. As part of this transition from fossil fuels to clean energy, the Greens would set aside $250 million to help coal workers and even entire communities make this transition, the policy stated.

A recent survey found that pro-clean energy policies are likely to be met positively by Australian voters in the forthcoming election, with 64% likely to back a party that pushes for a renewables-heavy energy system.