Canning’s solar rooftops and Abbott’s unstable perch

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There’s been a steady stream of attacks on renewable energy, launched with via thought-bubbles and shock-jock interviews, from the Abbott government. The September Canning election might be the first time this attitude really starts to bite back.

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There’s a great opinion piece [$] in The Australian about the way in which an upcoming election in Western Australian electorate of Canning will impact Abbott’s leadership. Nikki Savva writes that:

“The Canning by-election on September 19 will help decide all their [the frontbench] fates. Much as the locals want to keep it local, to keep the focus on their first-class candidate Andrew Hastie, it will become a referendum on Abbott. A loss would shatter any illusions that Abbott can recover, a win would buy him time”

rsz_1mujaksanpi4gwy7gvjox3wCanning has been earmarked as a key electorate by the Solar Council, Australia’s foremost group representing small and big solar owners. John Grimes, CEO of the Solar council, told news outlets that:

“This is a golden opportunity to give Tony Abbott the kicks that he deserves. He is leading the Liberal Party and Australia in the wrong direction. He needs to embrace good solar policy”

It’s part of a broader campaign, being spearheaded by the Solar Council, to target marginal seats and turn some focus back on a government that has launched a multi-pronged attack on the renewable energy industry over the past few years.

There’s a surprising amount of detail out there about Canning’s population, and solar installations within the electorate (thanks to the Clean Energy Regulator’s great book-keeping around new solar). Let’s compare Canning’s total household count to the current number of solar installations:

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It’s a lot of solar, much of which would have been built under the old ‘feed-in tariff’’ schemes in Western Australia. The Australian Bureau of Statistics outlines the history of these policies well:

“Western Australia started a FiT scheme on 1 July 2010 under the renewable energy buy-back scheme. This was a net FiT arrangement under which the state government contributed 40 cents per kWh and a further 7 cents per kWh was paid by the customer’s electricity retailer (either Synergy or Horizon Power). This scheme was closed to new applicants on 1 August 2011. The FiT is now determined by the Western Australian electricity retailers, Synergy and Horizon Power. Horizon Power, for example, offers a different FiT for different customers based primarily on the location of customers”

The Australian Photovoltaic Institute make solar uptake, by postcode, available on their website, too. The time series data go further back than the CER — below are the postcodes for the electorate of Canning:

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There’s a nation-wide scheme called the Small-Scale Renewable Energy Scheme (SRES). Systems built under the scheme create Small-Scale Technology Certificates — every megawatt-hour generated by small-scale system is equal to one STC. Liable entities (people who sell electricity, mostly) have to buy a certain number of STCs per year — in 2015, they’ll have to buy 20.57 million of them, or 11.71% of total electricity.

It’s a finely balanced piece of policy, and recently, the Abbott government launched a series of badly-timed attacks on the Renewable Energy Target(RET), including large-scale wind farms and small-scale solar. Public perception matches statements made by politicians: the government is deeply opposed to all forms of renewable energy.

It makes sense that voters in Canning might be nervous about a government ideologically opposed to a popular technology — they’re one of the top electorates for solar. I’ve grouped postcodes into electorates, and compared the total installed rooftop solar capacity. The top 20 electorates are listed below, with Canning coming in at #12 (out of 151):

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People form real connections with the energy generation technology they’ve been able to buy through state and federal schemes, and making the link between owning an effective appliance and the government’s attacks on solar and wind policies isn’t a stretch. Solar electricity would have been powering TVs blaring the latest news of Abbott’s attacks on renewables.

Canning’s seen a significant swing against the Liberal party, leaving only a 2% margin. Newspoll’s ‘Two-party Preferred’ figures are shown below.

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There’s been a steady stream of attacks on renewable energy, launched with regularity through thought-bubbles and shock-jock interviews, from the government. The September Canning election might be the first time this attitude really starts to bite back. This won’t be solely due to direct attacks on renewable energy policy — the very real, tangible connection people have formed with their own clean technology will also form a part in the swing against the Liberal party in this seat.

If Abbott is unseated due to loss in Canning, future Liberal leaders might want to consider the logic of attacking a well-loved form of electricity generation technology. Solar works, and it’s popular, and it should already be quite clear that there are no benefits to attacking a technology due purely to the fact it’s not reliant on compressed dead old plants we’ve dug from the ground.

Data sources

Clean Energy Regulator — small-scale solar, wind and hydro by postcode (up to Aug 2015)

Australian Bureau of Statistics — Census data for Canning (electorate)

QPZM Localstats — The postcodes within the electorate of Canning

APH government — Postcodes by electoral division

Working — My file, here

Source: Medium. Reproduced with permission.

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8 Comments
  1. john 4 years ago

    As can be seen from the opening picture Tone is on the job showing his support for solar by getting up a ladder breaching safety rules in not having the correct type of footwear.
    The wider picture of his statements on RE in general are probably not noticed by the people in the electorate, however the picture opportunity is squarely aimed at heading off the Solar Citizens efforts.
    One usually sees a swing against any government in a by-election so the inference that some decrease in support for the present government should be treated with a grain of salt.
    Having said that a loss of support will be a huge worry for the LNP and Tone will be squarely blamed even if the seat is retained.
    A loss of the seat will have some ramifications for the leaders position.

    • Jacob 4 years ago

      Not to mention wearing a tie.

      A tie serves no purpose and can get stuck in machinery in a factory and injure men.

      • john 4 years ago

        True.
        However as I see it the picture was to give a message job done.

    • brucelee 4 years ago

      Shouldnt someone be holding that ladder? … Oh wait, maybe we should let natural selection play out here.

      • Chris Fraser 4 years ago

        These doorstop poses are getting interesting. I think he’s trying to mimic Putin.

  2. mick 4 years ago

    ppe =hi vis hard hat harness etc I reckon the boys wanted him to drop also q and a hosted by Virginia trioli tonight so any sort of propaganda [mistake] slipping through ?

  3. Kevin Gleeson 4 years ago

    Maybe Abbott’s grasping for straws in Canning as it has one of the highest uptakes of solar power in W/A those good people know when they are on a good thing …Tony wants to get rid of solar and burn more coal ….

  4. Dasha's View 4 years ago

    This is a Liberal held seat so I don’t see it changing hands.
    It has been in the hands of the Liberal party and the Country party for most of its history.
    Labor has held it three times but the majority of the time it has been held by the conservatives.
    I expect a swing against Liberal there has to be.
    Tony Abbott is such a liar and his plans of more coal and beef as the way forward is failing.
    His attacks on green energy ‘ the death of the metal and car industries while he signs
    free trade deals that will see people brought in to do Australian jobs is just disgusting.
    Everything he has touched has gone bad’ His Australian of the year choice’ His choice of Speaker ‘ His choice of knights and dames ‘ His choice to back coal and beef
    both have failed ‘Beef prices so high Indonesia has cut its import numbers and coal
    is in such supply with the down turn in use its just not worth backing.
    I cant wait for the chance to get rid of him.
    Bring on an election for ONE TERM TONY.

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