“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”
“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:
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:
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):
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.
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.
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.