11 May 2011 – As the federal government slashes solar schemes and renewable energy programs and NSW prepares to do the same, the Queensland government has found a more measured way to rein in costs stemming from the runaway popularity of its solar schemes.

The Bligh Government on Tuesday said it would cut the size of the eligible solar power installation rather than the size of the rebate as a way to manage the runaway success of its scheme.

According to energy and water utilities minister Stephen Robertson some consumers had been installing huge systems to benefit from the generous 44 cents per kilowatt hour feed-in tariffs.

The size of eligible photo voltaic, or PV, systems would now be capped to five  kilowatt capacity and to just one system per premises.

“The scheme is financed by all Queensland electricity consumers so we need to ensure it continues to provide value for money and doesn’t force up electricity prices,” Mr Robertson said.

“Most participating solar PV systems have a generating capacity well below 5 kilowatts and are used by homeowners simply to generate power for household use.

“Recently, however, we have seen growing numbers of people invest in large scale solar PV systems up to 30 kilowatts simply to make money from the solar bonus scheme with advertised returns of 15 percent per annum.

“This money comes straight from the pockets of other Queensland electricity customers. ??“This practice is not in the spirit of the scheme.

“That’s why we’ll apply a cap on the size and number of new systems eligible for the solar bonus commencing in four weeks time,” he said.

The Sustainable Energy Association of Australia chief executive Ray Wills said the certainty provided by consistent policy approaches using market mechanisms to stimulate the Queensland renewable energy industry was welcome.

SEA agreed with comments from Mr Robertson that the scheme was making solar power more affordable and was stimulating growth and jobs in the solar industry in Queensland.

Professor Wills said: “As the nation with the world’s best renewable energy resources, all Australian governments need to become even more ambitious in the support for renewable energy generation, and other Australian governments would do well to look to the Queensland approach to policy for renewable energy.”

Mr Robertson said that “independent analysis of the scheme showed it was making solar power more affordable and was stimulating growth and jobs in the solar industry.

“Queensland’s solar photovoltaic panel capacity has skyrocketed since we began the solar bonus scheme on 1 July 2008,” he said.

“Before the scheme, Queensland had just 3.2 megawatts of installed solar PV capacity and 1200 Queenslanders connected to solar.

“Today, more than 72,000 Queenslanders are participating in the scheme and we have 149 megawatts of installed residential solar PV capacity.

“Participating customers receive 44 cents per kilowatt hour for surplus energy generated by their household solar PV system that is exported to the electricity grid.

“The average customer operating a 1.5 kilowatt solar system could save over $450 per year on their electricity bill just by using less electricity from the grid.

“That means they are saving money on their electricity bills as well as improving energy conservation.

“The solar bonus scheme has also helped stimulate significant industry and jobs growth. ??“For example, in March 2008 there were only 78 accredited solar installers in Queensland.

Today there are approximately 690 installers.

“Strong demand for solar panels is also driving jobs growth in the solar panel installation and design sector, with a growing workforce of labourers, technicians, sales, marketing and administrative staff.

“Increased competition has seen the cost of the average solar PV system slashed by half; making solar more affordable for Queenslanders.” ? See the website for details
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