The Abbott government’s ideological opposition to renewable energy could wind up costing it votes at the next federal election, with a new survey revealing more than half of all voters believe the Coalition has failed to give enough support to Australia’s renewable energy industry, and particularly rooftop solar.
In a survey conducted by Essential Research, 60 per cent of respondents said they thought coal had received enough federal government support, while more than 50 per cent believed renewable energy technologies like wind farms (56%), big solar (55%) and rooftop solar (57%) had not.
The survey also indicated that this lack of federal support for renewables could be a vote-changer, with 55 per cent of respondents saying they would be more likely to vote for a party with a policy of increasing renewables support, such as Labor or the Greens.
The results of the survey also indicated that this voter support was more than ideological, with 56 per cent of respondents agreeing that the renewable energy sector would deliver more jobs for Australians in the future than coal industry would.
Interestingly, the renewables sector respondents felt most passionately about was rooftop solar for low-income households, which 63 per cent of those surveyed said had not been given enough support by the federal Coalition.
Funding programs that enable low-income households to access cheaper, cleaner energy like rooftop solar – as well as those who can’t physically install rooftop solar, such as inner-city apartment dwellers – has been a key plank of the US Obama government’s latest policy announcement on renewables.
The plans, announced by the Obama Administration in the first week of July, aim to effectively triple the amount of rooftop solar installed on low-income housing in America, as well as to boost the development of community or “shared” solar projects.
The policy includes clearer guidelines on how local housing authorities can access federal funds to finance PV installations, as well as $520 million-plus in new capital from foundations, local governments and social impact investors, set aside to pay for solar and energy-efficiency projects for lower-income communities.
While Obama has struggled to get certain environmental policies past the Republican-heavy House of Reps and Congress, support for solar energy has been on the rise in America’s Conservative political circles.
In particular, a faction of the ultra conservative US Tea Party – the Green Tea Coalition – has championed the solar cause, as the ultimate example of free-market principles.
Not so in Australia, however, where the Abbott government’s latest directive to the CEFC, the federal government’s green bank, was to cease funding any and all small-scale PV projects.
Dan Scaysbrook, the national campaign director for lobby group Solar Citizens – who commissioned the survey, said the poll results once again illustrated that the majority of Australians wanted more solar not less.
“Sixty-three per cent of participants overwhelmingly support a program to help low income earners install rooftop solar to take control of their electricity bills,” Scaysbrook said in an email to RenewEconomy on Tuesday.
“Despite this community mandate we have seen the Abbott government constantly attack renewable energy in Australia.
“Nearly 1.4 million Australians have already shifted to take control of their electricity bills and go solar. The Australian people want to see leadership from all of our political parties around this energy transition,” he said.
Solar Citizens last year launched a Stand Up For Solar campaign, which calls for a fair go for solar owners and includes a renewable energy goal of at least 50 per cent by 2030, and a national plan to help low income earners and renters go solar.