Abbott government extends renewable energy investment ban to solar power

Abbott government extends renewable energy investment ban to solar power

A directive banning the Clean Energy Finance Corporation (CEFC) from investing in existing wind technology will also apply to small-scale solar projects, a move that will effectively throttle the industry, the Australian Solar Council said.

The federal government confirmed that the $10bn CEFC will no longer invest in wind power, instead focussing on “emerging technologies”.

“It is our policy to abolish the Clean Energy Finance Corporation because we think that if the projects stack up economically, there’s no reason why they can’t be supported in the usual way,” Abbott told reporters in Darwin. “But while the CEFC exists, what we believe it should be doing is investing in new and emerging technologies – certainly not existing windfarms.

This is a government which supports renewables, but obviously we want to support renewables at the same time as reducing the upward pressure on power prices,” the prime minister said. “We want to keep power prices as low as possible, consistent with a strong renewables sector.”

But it has emerged the government’s investment directive also applies to small-scale solar technology like rooftop panels that generate up to 100 kilowatts of power.

One-third of the current funding of the CEFC goes to solar projects, the majority of which are small-scale projects.

Scrapping funding for these projects would impact low-income households and renters and public housing users who cannot afford or do not otherwise have access to their own panels, head of the Australian Solar Council, John Grimes, told Guardian Australia.

To say this is about lowering the costs of power is cynical in the extreme,” Grimes said. “What they’re doing with this is the precise opposite.”

He argued the move was payback for the solar industry’s successful campaign to keep small-scale solar power in the renewable energy target (RET).

This certainly smells like revenge politics,” Grimes said, adding it was the government’s “backdoor” way of strangling solar power.

The environment minister, Greg Hunt, threw his support behind the industry as recently as Sunday morning.

“I’ve been repeatedly critical of the CEFC investing taxpayer funds in projects such as existing windfarms, rather than focusing on solar and emerging technologies,” he tweeted. “Our policy is to abolish the CEFC but in the meantime it should focus on solar and emerging technologies as was originally intended.”

The Coalition had secured the Senate crossbench’s support for the inclusion of wood waste in the RET in exchange for the provision of a new windfarm commissioner who would look into claims of the negative health impacts of turbines.

 

Source: The Guardian

Date: July 2015

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