Last week I wrote an article about the impact of the O’Farrell governments lack of solar policy. I said that 1000?s of jobs had been lost in the solar industry in NSW after the Solar Bonus Scheme was axed last year.
Several people approached me after that article to say they felt I had exaggerated the impact.
So what does the evidence suggest? How many solar jobs have been lost in NSW over the past 12 months? It’s a fair question, and one that is surprisingly difficult to answer. An internet search fails to provide the answer.
If you look locally, there is no doubt that a lack of policy is costing jobs in the Bega Valley. The SE’s largest solar company is Pyramid Power. The Solar Bonus Scheme was scrapped in April 2011. Prior to that date Pyramid employed 83 people. That equated to $3.5 million in salaries alone coming into the Bega Valley. Currently Pyramid employs 9 people.
Several solar businesses in SE NSW have shut their doors and household installations of solar panels has plummeted.
The Australian Solar Energy Association estimate that the solar industry in NSW employ 5400 fewer people today than they did prior to April 2011 and 75% of the job losses have been in regional areas. The Green Energy Council estimate the figure to be over 7000 jobs.
Two things are certain. Market certainty will lead to a flourishing solar industry in NSW and one thing that will create market certainty is policy from the NSW government.
The solar industry has been left languishing for too long.
Save Our Solar
I have solar photoelectric cells on the roof of my house which quietly and efficiently generate electricity throughout the day. Most of the electricity my solar panels generate is put back into the grid because there is rarely anyone home during the day, which means our household isn’t using much electricity.
At present the NSW government regards the electricity my solar panels generate as worthless. I therefore get paid nothing for the electricity I generate. The electricity retailer gets my electrons for free.
When my family get home from work and school we start using electricity. At that time my solar panels aren?t generating, so I have to purchase electricity from the grid. Because I subscribe to green energy, I pay a premium price to ensure that the proportion of electricity I use is generated from clean sources.
The retailer gets my electrons for free during the day and I purchase them back at night at a premium price.
Whoever was responsible for this crazy state of affairs couldn’t have come up with a more unfair system if they tried. I?m sure the retailers are very happy with the current arrangement. Basically some householders are investing substantial amounts of money so they can provide retailers with clean energy for free, which the retailer can then sell at top prices. What a rort.The lack of a current solar policy suggests that the O?Farrell government is happy for this situation to continue. The NSW government is concerned about rising electricity prices and are sensibly looking at ways to reduce household bills. They are mistaken in blaming renewable energy as the main culprit. The major pressure on rising electricity prices is the need to replace and upgrade aging transmission infrastucture. Lack of solar policy and the consequent market uncertainty are destroying the solar industry in NSW. Taking solar out of the equation will have little impact on rising electricity prices.
There are a couple of solutions. Firstly, some retailers will pay a small amount (anything is better than nothing) for electricity exported to the grid. It is worth shopping around.
Of the 12 electricity retailers currently operating in NSW 5 do not offer any feed-in tariff for solar electricity fed back into the grid and only 1 of the remaining 7 retailers offer more then 6 cents per kilowatt hour. Secondly it is worth putting pressure on our local member Andrew Constance to help come up with a solar policy. A 1:1 Feed-in-Tariff is a more than fair and reasonable request. 1:1 means electrons generated from clean solar would have the same value as those generated from dirty coal. A 1:1 Feed-in-Tariff would lead to a sustainable solar industry in NSW and would not put great pressure on electricity bills. A fair tariff would create market certainty, allow for the recovery of solar and generate many jobs in our part of the word. The price of solar cells is coming down all the time. A sniff of policy from the NSW government could generate a booming industry. This is a no-brainer opportunity for the O’Farrell government. Mr Constance, can you help?
Mr Constance’s response
Like most in the community, I am becoming increasingly disappointed and despondent at the level of debate about climate change in Australia.
As with most debates about the environment it has become black or white and should you take a stance like I have against Laborís carbon tax, then you get labelled and targeted by those who will not accept any other point of view.
NSW Treasury last week released data that the carbon tax is going to increase the cost of running local hospitals on average by $120,200 and local schools by $9100.
The NSW community has also had billions stripped off the value of the state’s electricity assets.
The Commonwealth is offering no compensation to the NSW Government for the carbon tax so the costs have to be recovered through the NSW taxpayer without compensation.
So in response to Dr Nott’s public questioning of me I wish to make the following clear statement.
I believe it’s environmentally prudent to support affordable and efficient renewable energy projects that reduce emissions.
However, I make no apologies for opposing Laborís carbon tax, which will drastically affect local householders and small business, particularly during tough economic times.
Even former Labor Premier Kristina Keneally is now calling for it to be revoked or wound back.
I am not anti-renewable energy, but I am against green schemes that drive the cost of electricity through the roof.
As IPART has indicated, the increase in power bills will be $315 this year alone courtesy of Commonwealth green initiatives and the expensive NSW solar bonus scheme, which the Liberals closed down last year given it blew out in cost from $350million to well over $1.5billion.
I have respect for Dr Nott and his efforts to promote clean energy in the South East.
However, I do not agree with his stance on Laborís carbon tax, which he has chosen to pursue me over politically now for many months in local community newspapers and local radio.
Recently the O’Farrell Government, through Essential Energy, delivered a mid-sized and major renewable energy project for the Bega Valley.
Itís a first for the region.
I would urge people to go to the NSW Government’s Office of Environment website to see other initiatives underway to reduce emissions.
I strongly endorse Bega ‘s new solar project as a means to reduce emissions and I see more of these type of projects as a great way forward.
We didn’t need Laborís carbon tax to achieve it.
Member for Bega
Mr Constance’s Response 2
You have to love the carbon tax brigade headed by Matthew Nott and Labor’s Mike Kelly, who, when questioned about their blinded support for the most ridiculous tax in this countryís history, seek to muddy the water by claiming I donít support the reduction of emissions nor renewable energy.
In response to Mr Nott’s claims (BDN, 17/4) I have always supported affordable and sensible renewable energy projects like the biomass generator at Eden or the solar farm proposal and I challenge Mr Nott to prove otherwise.
I also challenge him to prove otherwise where I havenít supported a reduction in carbon emissions.
You would have to be at the bottom of the garden with the fairies if you think that families and small business in our region can financially cop a carbon tax.
IPART has released a report that shows household electricity bills will increase as a result of Federal Laborís carbon tax and green schemes by $315.
This is in one year alone. While some who are on very high incomes can afford this increase in the interest of climate change, a majority in our local community canít.
In the meantime I again call on Labor’s Mike Kelly to demonstrate how the State Government, meaning the NSW taxpayer, will be compensated as a result of their carbon tax policy wiping off billions of dollars in value of the stateís electricity assets.
Iíd also again call on Federal Labor to release all Commonwealth treasury analysis that demonstrates the job losses associated with their beloved carbon tax in NSW.
I would remind Mr Nott and Mr Kelly that NSW Treasury analysis shows that NSW will suffer job losses in the order of 30,000 plus people, particularly in the Illawarra and Hunter.
I’d also like Labor to prove the evidence that sea level rise will be 900mm over the next 100 years and why this needs to stifle property development and affect all property owners near the region’s beaches and waterways having had tens of thousands of dollars wiped off the value of their places.
It is time for reasoned and sensible discussion and for some people to be more realistic about their policies and the effect it has on local households.
Mr Nott and Mr Kelly need to explain how much the planet will now cool and how much global emissions will be reduced as a result of Labor’s carbon tax.
What? One degree, three degrees, five?
Member for Bega
Droughts and Flooding Rains.
Most people have an understanding of climate change and the threat it poses to our region. However, after a cool wet summer, the threat of climate change seems a long way from people’s minds at the moment.
Changing the chemical composition of Earth’s atmosphere is an uncontrolled and dangerous experiment. Trying to predict the human contribution to future climate change is something that has never been done before. If we triple the atmospheric concentration of CO2, how much warming will occur? That is an impossible question to answer with certainty.
Despite the uncertainty, there is a high degree of confidence that the planet will continue to warm. That is relatively straightforward physics. It is vastly more difficult to predict the impact of human emissions on regional weather and rainfall patterns. How will rainfall change under global warming?
According to Karl Braganza, Manager of the Climate Monitoring Section at the Australian Bureau of Meteorology “a warmer atmosphere holds much more water vapour. Water vapour is itself a greenhouse gas, and is the key positive feedback of the enhanced greenhouse effect. There will be more rainfall. The rainfall is likely to be heavier, and rainfall variability more extreme. The equatorial regions will most likely be wetter, and parts of the mid-latitudes drier. The drier regions of the planet are likely to experience more severe drought interspersed by rainfall that is heavier when it does fall.”
In Australia observed increases in monsoonal rainfall and decreases in rainfall across southern Australia are consistent with a generalised wetter tropics and drier mid-latitudes scenario. The recent severe and prolonged drought (and by some measures a record drought), ended abruptly by record rainfall, is also consistent with projections for a warmer world.
For climate scientists every weather system and every ocean current operates in a climate system that is now almost 1 degree warmer than at the start of the 20th century.Matthew Nott
The Critical Decade
Extreme weather events in 2009 and March this year provided the people of NSW with an indication of what the state is increasingly likely to face as the climate changes, a report by the federal government’s Climate Commission says.
The year 2009 was the hottest year on record in NSW and a rise in the number of similar heatwave events is predicted. The number of days reaching more than 35 degrees in Sydney is expected to triple by 2070.
Climate change ”cannot be ruled out” as a factor in recent heavy rainfalls, such as the flash flooding in Sydney on March 8, the wettest March day for more than 25 years, the report says.
The state, on average, is expected to become drier, increasing the risk of longer, harsher droughts and of bushfires, but the intensity of downpours could also increase in a hotter climate, due to warmer ocean temperatures.
The report, The Critical Decade, NSW Climate Impacts and Opportunities,was released last week
The chief commissioner, Tim Flannery, said NSW was highly vulnerable to climate change.
”Changes in Sydney’s climate will have far-reaching implications for health, agriculture, tourism, water security and biodiversity,” said Professor Flannery
But the state also had the opportunity to benefit from a boom in clean energy, he said.
The report says an estimated $20 billion would be invested in solar power in Australia by 2020 and NSW was ”well placed” to capitalise on this.
”This is the critical decade for action. The longer we wait, the more difficult and costly it will be,” Professor Steffen, of the Australian National University, and Professor Hughes, of Macquarie University, conclude in their report summary.
They say the coastal areas of NSW face significant risks from sea level rises.
Information taken from an article by Deborah Smith SMH 14/5/12
What economists are saying.
We know that reducing emission can’t come without cost. The key question is what is the most cost effective way of getting there. How does the taxpayer get the most bang for their hard earned buck?
Economists are backing a carbon price mechanism as the most cost effective way forward. Here are a few examples of what they are saying:
The Grattan Institute is an independent public policy think tank in Australia. They are saying that “A carbon trading scheme or tax will not be costless, but it is highly unlikely that government can achieve 2020 emission reduction targets at a lower cost through alternative measures.”
Rod Sims, chairperson from IPART (Independent Pricing and Regulatory Tribunal) agrees, saying a carbon price would allow lowest cost measures to be chosen.
Professor John Quiggin, from the School of Economics, University of Queensland was awarded the 2011 Distinguished Fellow of the Economic Society of Australia. He says that “while the [carbon price] package will drive substantial changes in patterns of energy production and energy use, the overall impact on the economy will be so small as to be undetectable against the background of year to year variations in levels of economic activity driven by factors such as exchange rate movements.”
The Productivity Commissions clear finding was that the cheapest and most cost effective way of reducing emissions is via a market based price on carbon.
Ross Garnaut is is a Distinguished Professor of Economics at the Australian National University and both a Vice-Chancellor’s Fellow and Professorial Fellow of Economics at The University of Melbourne. He says that reducing greenhouse gas emissions via a carbon tax would not come at the expense of Australia’s economic growth.
I am supportive of a price on carbon because economists are telling us it is the most cost effect solution.
The recent swim in the Brogo Dam was a fundraiser for a stand-alone solar system for the Upper Brogo fire shed. It was a big swim and a great event, but we fell short of the target. We still need to come up with several thousand dollars to get the solar panels onto the roof-top of the station.
Clean Energy For Eternity is a not-for-profit group that now has deductible gift recipient (DGR) status. That means any donation to CEFE of over $2 is fully tax deductible.
If you feel like helping a good cause, why not make a cheque out to Clean Energy For Eternity. Every cent of that donation will go towards solar panels for the Upper Brogo fire shed. Donations should be made payable to CEFE and mailed to PO Box 1177, Bega NSW 2550. We’ll send receipt by return mail for your tax deduction.
On another note, the first of this years Tathra Enduro solar panel installations has been completed. The Tathra pre-school now has 3kw of solar panels on its roof-top.