An offer from Christian groups to install a solar system, free of charge, at the residence of the Australian Prime Minister has been rejected by the federal government, for reasons including concerns about cleaning costs and security.
The gift of 12 crowd-funded solar panels and free installation at Kirribilli House was offered to Tony Abbott last Christmas by a group of Sydney church leaders known as Common Grace – a rapidly growing movement of thousands of socially-minded Christians from various denominations.
According to Common Grace, that offer was officially rejected last week via a letter from Riverina MP Michael McCormack, in his capacity as the parliamentary secretary to the finance minister, for reasons including Kirribilli’s heritage listing, ongoing costs of cleaning and maintenance, and security concerns.
But the Christians are not taking no for an answer – arguing that the move puts the government out of step with one in five Australian households now using rooftop solar – and has issued an open letter encouraging the Prime Minister to reconsider.
“We are disappointed that the Government has rejected the gift of solar panels for Kirribilli House that was crowd funded last Christmas by 142 Christians,” the letter says.
“We had hoped you would accept them as a great first step to get Australia moving towards a strong Renewable Energy Target.”
The letter challenges the government’s reasons for declining the offer, noting that the City of Sydney had installed solar PV on various buildings with irreplaceable heritage value, inlcuding Sydney Town Hall.
“We discovered Australia’s own actress, Cate Blanchett, installed 1,906 solar panels on Sydney Theatre Company heritage building. I’m sure she’d be willing to give some pointers if you gave her a call?
“On cleaning concerns, John Grimes, CEO of the peak body of the solar industry in Australia (Australian Solar Council), informed us that solar panels do not require ongoing cleaning or yearly maintenance – they are cleaned by the rain. Some utilities require a check of the inverter, but this can be done on the ground every five years.
“Looking abroad, did you know that President Carter managed to get solar panels installed on the White House way back in 1979? And Pope Benedict negotiated the same kinds of hurdles when he accepted a gift of 2700 solar panels providing clean energy to the Vatican in 2008.
“Prime Minister, we believe that a man in your position can overcome challenges like heritage listings and cleaning concerns and choose a brighter future for all Australians. We therefore urge you to implement a strong Renewable Energy Target and accept the gift of solar panels for Kirribilli House, as a powerful signal to the world that Australia’s renewables industry is officially open for business.”
Common Grace says the letter, which is signed “Australian Christians and friends” has been co-signed by more than 600 Australians already, just four days since being penned. It was delivered to the PM’s office in Sydney on Tuesday morning (see image below).