The former CEO of the Clean Energy Finance Corporation and independent candidate for the Victorian electorate of Kooyong, Oliver Yates, has promised to push for the removal of financial barriers to encourage more widespread rooftop solar and battery storage uptake,.
Yates, who is taking on Australia’s Treasurer Josh Frydenberg in the safe Liberal seat in upcoming federal election, said over the weekend he would seek to work with all councils to help households and small businesses access solar and “dramatically reduce” their power bills.
The idea is to use a scheme pioneered by the likes of the Darebin shire council and others in Victoria to help people access and install rooftop solar panels, home batteries, and upgrade their home or business allowing everyone to achieve savings.
The program would be based on the Environmental Upgrade Agreements currently being used in Victoria, South Australia and NSW, he said, by assisting households and small businesses to access their own solar power and dramatically reduce their power bills.
“This proposal would not only create thousands of local jobs and economic benefits, but dramatically assist with the costs of living challenges that many Australians are currently facing.”
And to finance all this solar and battery storage, Yates said the federal government could use money currently being wasted on excessively high electricity costs.
“With a little planning and forward thinking, there are very simple things that the federal government can do in working with state and local governments to dramatically bring down power bills,” said Yates, who was the founding CEO of the CEFC and – until last year – a card carrying Liberal Party member.
“Solar is an abundant resource in Australia. Yet the current Liberal government is too busy arguing internally to genuinely help people manage their own electricity needs and demonstrably reduce their power bills.”
Yates said the federal government could fund the program establishment and operation costs, which were estimated to be just $15,000 a council a year. It could then either fund itself, or work with the private sector to establish low cost loan arrangements administered by the local councils – presumably through the CEFC.
The loan facility would be linked to the property, allowing residents and small businesses to gradually repay it through their rates over the next 15 years, Yates said.
The cost of the loan would be more than offset by electricity bill savings, he added, and with the loan attached to council rates, it would also be well secured, carrying low risk and therefore a low cost.
“Installation of appropriately sized roof top solar will improve the bottom line of most families and businesses in Australia, benefitting the economy as well as the environment,” Yates said.
“With solar panels on my own home, I am supplying power for my own needs as well as exporting electricity into the grid.
“My power bills therefore, are significantly reduced. It does not make sense that people fail to access the cheapest and most accessible and available form of energy in Australia, solar.
“For example, the concern in Queensland about high power prices is inexcusable when it has the best solar resources in the country.
“When I was in Mount Isa last year, I noticed that most homes and businesses still don’t have solar on their roofs. It makes no sense that they haven’t installed solar to secure energy savings, so removing any financial barriers needs to be a priority.”
Yates’ proposal has been welcomed by the CEO of the Smart Energy Council, John Grimes, who described it as the kind of “bold” policy plan we needed to see more of in Australia.
“We are facing a climate emergency and we need to do whatever we can to accelerate the uptake of solar and renewable energy.
“Oliver Yates’ solar plan is exactly the sort of smart policies that we need to see in Australia.”
Solar policies have been highly popular across almost all parties in the latest round of election campaigns, including this weekend’s New South Wales poll. You can read about the latest solar policy announcements from the NSW Coalition and Labor parties, as well as from federal Labor, here.