From Climate Spectator – 23 January 2011 –
It seems that governments everywhere are continuing to grossly underestimate the enthusiasm for rooftop solar.

The NSW government has been so overwhelmed by applications to install rooftop solar panels that it is poised to cancel its solar bonus scheme altogether, less than three months after reducing the feed-in tariff by 67 per cent.

Applications for rooftop solar installations in the state have already passed the 300MW cap set by the state in its tariff review at the end of October – a level it did not expect to pass until some time in 2012.

But it seems the response from more than 140,000 householders across the state has been so overwhelming that applications are already at 326MW, meaning that some applications from customers who have made non-refundable deposits to solar installers will not qualify for the scheme.

The take-up of solar in NSW has defied all government expectations, even though it was warned by the industry itself that the initial tariff of 60c per kilowatt hour was overly generous and unsustainable. It kicked off in January 2010 with a promise to review the scheme in 2012, or after the installation of 50MW. But that level was reached in less than six months.

Installations continued to accelerate at a rapid pace and, by the time the review started in October, installation had already topped 100MW with another 92MW of applications. Within a matter of weeks, the applications jumped to more than 300MW, with installations totaling 163MW by year end.

A spokeswoman for the government said the quicker than expected take-up was likely to reflect the “popularity of the 20c tariff”. That might be wishful thinking, because it is certain that nearly all of the 300MW capacity would have been filled by prior applications at the 60c tariff and the extraordinary rush that came on October 27, when the government gave 12 hours notice of the change in the scheme. If that is the case, the scheme will cost consumers about $300 million a year.

The government has yet to formally announce what it will do once the scheme stops – it is simply warning potential consumers that they might think about getting a refundable deposit rather than a non-refundable one – but it’s indicating that it will allow consumers to go to net metering.

The irony is that consumers are probably better off that way in any case, because instead of receiving a gross tariff of 20c per kilowatt hour for electricity produced by their solar panels, and possibly paying more for all the energy they used, they would simply deduct the amount of energy fed into the grid from that consumed in the home. Read the whole story >>>

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