Australia battles for uniform FiT; Resources Minister has other plans


The ongoing saga of Australia’s renewable energy policy continues as the country’s Resources Minister, Martin Ferguson, yet again shows his disapproval for the feed-in tariff. At the recent Solar Flagships conference event held in Brisbane, Australia, Ferguson made no effort to conceal his rejection of an incentive that has proven a success in Europe.

For months now, residents of the country have been petitioning for a uniform national FiT. At present each state has a different policy, and some areas have yet to receive a policy at all. The petition for this movement has now gained over 18,000 signatures.

One of the more popular policies in the country is the gross FiT, available in the ACT. This pays for all energy produced by a solar power system, regardless of whether it is fed or not. It is this type of incentive that Australia wants as a uniform policy, yet Ferguson rejects its success.

“Feed in Tariffs are not the solution some make them out to be…The Government should not be attempting to pick winners…A solar PV feed-in tariff does not guarantee Australian jobs. In fact it could simply result in greater imports of PV panels,” he claims.

Ferguson went on to attack the German policy, stating, “Germany’s solar subsidy saw German consumers in 2007 pay more than €1 billion in additional power bills to cover the cost of this policy – and yet – only around half of 1% of Germany’s gross electricity consumption come from solar PV that year.”
However, in defense of these claims, Germany is now in position to remain among the top three dominant players in the industry on a global scale, despite the country’s gloomy climate. Germany is generating billions a year through the PV industry and has now reached the dizzying heights of 50,000 employees in the industry. Australia however, which has some of the best solar conditions in the world, and is home to some of its best technological developments, has little more than 1,000 employees in the solar industry, and no manufacturing capacity to speak of.

It seems odd, then, that a figurehead of the country’s energy resources would reject a proven model for success.

Ferguson is clear on his standpoint when it comes to renewable energy. He is keen to implement solar; he just doesn’t seem sure on the how. The minister admits that, “Solar energy – like all the others – will only succeed if it is affordable, adequate and reliable in the energy market of the future.” Yet he does not see the feed-in tariff as a means to this end.
Instead, Australia’s Resources Minister backs the somewhat controversial Renewable Energy Certificates (RECs) scheme, which allows for money to be paid back on solar purchases. “The expanded Renewable Energy Target includes the Solar Credits initiative, providing multiplied credits for small generation units such as household solar PV installations. Taken together, these policy settings represent a valuable boost for the solar energy industry.” This option has been criticized for being confusing, applicable more to businesses than to homeowners and unpredictable in terms of return on investment.

The Australian government put in place the Renewable Energy Target (RET), which stipulates that by 2020, 20% of energy produced in the country should come from renewables, to stimulate the uptake of renewable energy sources in the country. The RECs work towards this target, with 1MWh of energy equal to one REC, so 45,000,000 RECs must be generated to meet the 2020 target. In order to meet the target, energy companies must surrender RECs into their holding account at the end of every calendar year at an amount representative to 20% of their market share. However, if energy companies don’t put sufficient RECs into the holding account, the company is fined at a rate much higher than the REC value. The target is therefore unattainably high, when the country’s present figures are taken into account. This is the main reason why the country calls for a uniform FiT: Renewable energy producers would have an incentive to produce electricity from solar sources, would not face any complex or potentially expensive problems along the way.

So then, it appears that the future of renewable energy in Australia is uncertain, as the people vs the powers-that-be battle continues. Ferguson concluded his speech by saying that, “Australia has an historic opportunity – we have both the will and the means to drive the take-up of clean energy.” “And the Government is committed to making the solar industry grow – both for the industry’s own sake, and for the energy security and prosperity of all Australians.” But that “we will not solely back solar at the expense of other renewable technologies.”

23 August 2022
Intersolar South America, South America’s largest exhibition and conference for the solar industry, takes place at the Expo Center Norte in São Paulo, Brazil, on August 23–25, 2022, and has a focus on the areas of photovoltaics, PV production and solar thermal technologies. At the accompanying Intersolar South America Conference, renowned experts shed light on hot topics in the solar industry. In 2021 – despite the Covid-19 pandemic – Intersolar South America welcomed more than 28,000 visitors and over 1,000 conference attendees over 3 days. 200+ providers showcased their products. Combining local and international expertise, Intersolar South America brings together the PV and solar thermal sector to discuss the current status and strategic trends for Latin American PV markets, as well as technology innovations and new business opportunities. Overall, distributed generation is still driving momentum in the Brazilian market. Get 10% off with code 38LCF6KN
6 September 2022
Intersolar Mexico sits at the cross-section of photovoltaics, solar heating & cooling technologies, and energy storage. The event serves as the industry’s go-to source for invaluable technology trends and premier B2B contacts in the promising Mexican solar market. From September 6–8, 2022 Intersolar Mexico together with the co-located The GREEN Expo® and Aquatech Mexico will take place in Centro Citibanamex, Mexico City.
7 September 2022
The demand for rooftop solar PV is soaring, driven by falling costs of the technology against energy crises that are gripping countries globally. But while an increasing number of households turn to solar to generate their own electricity, there is now a need for more specialist equipment, technologies and services to ensure the solar transition can reach as many customers as possible. Delivering these is now a major challenge for rooftop solar installers. This webinar will analyse the characteristics of the rooftop solar market, discussing how the products, logistics, installation and servicing of solar systems has evolved in line with consumer demands.
14 September 2022
Join us in London for 2 days as we look at the UK’s new landscape for utility & rooftop solar. Understand the new opportunities within this GW-plus annual market!
15 September 2022
Bifacial PV modules will be the dominant solar PV technology globally within one or two years; in the utility-scale sector, their market share is already above 70%. This webinar will provide a clear view on the successful implementation of bifacial technology, maximizing system performance and minimising LCoE.
19 September 2022
RE+ 2022 is the umbrella event that includes SPI, ESI, RE+ Power, and RE+ Infrastructure. As North America's largest renewable energy event, it's a catalyst for industry innovation that's supercharging business growth in the clean energy economy.

Read Next

August 10, 2022
Canadian Solar plans to build an integrated PV manufacturing plant in Western China, with a capacity of 200,000MT of high-purity polysilicon, 10GW of both cells and modules and multi-GW productions of raw and auxiliary materials.
August 10, 2022
Iberdrola has commissioned the 590MW 'Francisco Pizarro' PV project in Extremadura Southwestern Spain, which is Europe’s largest solar plant.
PV Tech Premium
August 10, 2022
PV Tech Premium looks at the main drivers that drove solar PV in Chile in the last years and has risen as one of the leaders in the region.
August 10, 2022
OMERS Private Equity has acquired a minority stake in the Arizona-headquartered solar operations & maintenance (O&M) provider NovaSource Power Services.
August 10, 2022
A solar PV module frame made of recycled roll-formed steel has outperformed conventional aluminium frames in testing by an independent third party.
August 10, 2022
US solar tracker manufacturer FTC Solar has cut its net losses compared with last quarter and Q2 2021 but has seen its revenue collapse, blaming a hostile solar environment in the US that has seen project delays and cancellations, which it said it now hoped was coming to an end.

Subscribe to Newsletter

Upcoming Events

Upcoming Webinars
September 7, 2022
15:30 AEST (UTC +10)
Solar Media Events
September 14, 2022
Solar Media Events
October 4, 2022
New York, USA
Solar Media Events
October 11, 2022
Virtual event