The most important in our view was the failure to allocate any funding to the Renewable Energy Fund in the coming financial year, particularly as a number of drilling projects important to the development of the geothermal clean energy option were relying on funding this year. This has sent share prices tumbling and the Government scrambling to assure this industry they’ll be supported through the other “green energy fund”, the Energy Innovation Fund, or assurances for the following financial year. The only explanation for this blooper is that the efforts to hoover up as big a surplus as possible led to this hoovering of credibility.
That the main public heat has surrounded the means testing for the solar rebate demonstrates both the public backing for solar initiatives, and the precarious nature of rebates (and subsidies) as policy solutions. The visiting German Environment Minister observed that if you want to encourage solar PV rollout, a better policy instrument for unlocking longer term opportunities is guaranteed feed-in tariffs for electricity generation post installation. It’s clear that the rebate system has fed a boom. It is also clear that restricting the rebate to $100,000 pa households is causing something of a bust, especially for those businesses relying solely on the rebate program for their income. There are separate and relatively substantial pots of money for solar cities and solar schools initiatives that may allow a softer landing for the existing industry but the real spotlight should be on developing a consistent national feed-in tariff strategy for solar and other low emission sources that will not be captured by the Renewable Energy Target to make sure Australia has a diverse portfolio of clean energy options in 2020.
John Connor, CEO of the Climate Institute, writes in Crikey of the negative consequences of the budget for the energy and environmental industry.