Industry advocacy body, the Australian Solar Council, has launched a ‘save solar’ campaign.
In the face of threats Australia’s Renewable Energy Target (RET) could be changed, the council has asked supporters to donate to the campaign, contact members of parliament and engage in social media awareness.
Australian prime minister Tony Abbot, who took office in September 2013, has made clear his intention to drastically cut spending on climate targets and highlighted the possibility of scrapping the RET, citing high consumer energy prices as a more pressing priority.
The RET currently provides financial incentives for investing in solar heaters and solar panels, in two categories of small and large-scale renewable energy projects.
Proposed changes to the RET could include a reduction in the maximum size of solar projects eligible for the small-scale incentive from 100kW to 10kW. The council is campaigning to prevent the scaling back of small-scale incentives.
The current RET target is for 20% of Australia’s power to come from renewable energy, including solar, by 2020.
The RET is reviewed every two years by the Climate Change Authority (CCA), as part of the Renewable Energy Act (2000).
The council’s social media fundraising page calls the campaign a “David vs Goliath” battle with “polluting” energy companies.
The council says the Save Solar Campaign is hoping to protect 5 million Australians who now have solar on their homes, 15,000 Australians who work in the solar industry, 4,500 businesses in the solar industry and the estimated 3.5 million people predicted to install solar in the next five years.
The council is hoping to highlight the benefits of the RET and claims the RET has previously, and should continue, to benefit all Australians, and should not be divided into those who benefit and those who do not. In an e-mail to supporters the council asks: “Why can't voters and their families spend their own money on solar PV and energy storage to ‘lock in’ certainty for their future power prices?”
The REC Agents Association (RAA), an industry body responsible for assisting and overseeing companies trading in renewable energy certificates in Australia claimed last week, the Australian solar industry is expected to employ around 12,300 people across 4,300 businesses domestically in 2014. If the RET is cut entirely, up to 6,750 jobs could be lost by 2018.
“Changes to the RET have the single largest impact on expected market uptake, particularly if it is abolished completely and early,” RAA said previously.
The Solar Business Services report outlined forecasts for three possible scenario projections to 2018, the first being no policy change; the second detailing possible consequences of cuts to the RET and the third scenario based on abolition of the RET.
According to Solar Business Services and RAA, a ‘no policy change’ scenario is predicted to mean the addition of 8,000 jobs in the Australian solar industry in the four years between 2014 and 2018.
Predicted job losses in a forecast scenario where the RET is abolished this year would be immediate, with around 2,000 of the potential 6,750 jobs lost being cut in 2015.
Australia ended last year with over 1.6 million PV systems installed on rooftops, representing almost 3.1GW cumulative capacity of rooftop solar power installed across the country.
In November, at the same time as a bill to abolish the Clean Energy Finance Corporation (CEFC) enters the senate, a survey revealed widespread public support for solar, despite waning government support.
Earlier this year, First Solar announced it has begun construction of Australia’s largest PV project, 102MW solar power plant in New South Wales.