Recent criticism of schemes to promote installation of domestic roof top solar is justified - schemes have been poorly designed and managed and suffered from cost overruns. But the fault is not with solar, is is the scheme governance at fault. Nevertheless renewable energy takes the blame.
The Sustainable Energy Association of Australia challenges the notion that spending more on renewables is somehow a bad thing.
In what is reported by various media as a "blowout in the Western Australian Government's household solar subsidy scheme", no analysis has been done to consider what the benefits of the additional expenditure have created.
‘Energy Minister Peter Collier rightly points out that 76,000 WA homes now have solar panels on their roofs as "a terrific outcome",' says Professor Ray Wills, Chief Executive of the Sustainable Energy Association of Australia (SEA).
‘The solar panels are installed on homes spread across WA, and contrary to the media reports, the majority are taken up by mums and dads with kids and mortgages who are now using solar power to deliver electricity to their homes direct from their roof tops and to reduce their electricity bill,' says Prof Wills.
‘We are yet to calculate the savings that this program has bought – savings that will amount to fewer upgrades to poles and wires, has in the vast majority of cases delivered improved electricity quality and reliability, and will avoid the need for investment in new fossil-fuel based generation.'
‘We need more of this, not less.'
‘It's like suggesting there might be a problem with buying a few extra buses and hiring extra drivers to increase the frequency of public transport services – no one would have a problem with that, I'm certain,' says Prof Wills.
‘Clearly there have been problems in the management of the solar feed in tariff scheme, and as a business chamber, SEA fully expects the fiscal responsibilities of Government must be met – but it is important to note this is not a problem with the solar energy.'
Premier Colin Barnett is reported to have said that the solar panel subsidy scheme "has cost much more than was originally intended" and "demand was underestimated".
'It is unfortunate for the Premier that the Sustainable Energy Association's advice provided to Government prior to the May 2011 Budget was not heeded – in the months before the 2011 Budget, SEA advised the Government to plan to ease back the tariff.'
'That same SEA advice warned the Government that changes to subsidies need to be strategically rolled back to establish a glide path for market development, not coarsely readjusted – unfortunately that advice was not heeded either.'
'Government failed to take the advice of the industry on the changes to the feed in tariff, and the renewable energy industry continues to be plagued by Federal and State Government decisions made with inadequate consultation and that lead to boom/ bust cycles and fail to provide the conditions needed to grow the industry sustainably.'
'It is also unfortunate that the media reports exaggerate the potential ramifications of the cost of the overrun to households.'
'The fact is that renewable energy schemes have had little impact on recent electricity price rises in Western Australia, and that the cost overrun for this scheme, if they were passed on, will amount to little more than a few points of one percent on annual household energy bills,' says Prof Wills.