The federal government’s decision axe its solar hot water rebate has been met with anger and dismay by industry and green groups, who say the move will inflict serious damage on one of Australia’s leading clean energy manufacturing sectors. The Renewable Energy Bonus Scheme – part of the 2010 stimulus program, which provides a $1000 rebate for a solar hot water system and $600 for a heat pump – was due to be phased out in the middle of this year, but industry insiders had hoped it would be extended after it was allocated $24.5 million in budget forward estimates for 2012-13. Instead, news of the decision to dump it was announced via press release at 5.01pm on Tuesday, prompting warnings of job losses and calls for its immediate reinstatement.
“The disastrous solar policy rollercoaster continues,” said John Grimes, CEO of the Australian Solar Energy Society (AuSES). “Another solar scheme shut down without notice, more solar jobs lost.That’s bad policy and bad process,” he said. “The axing leaves householders and solar companies in the lurch putting at risk more than 1,000 jobs at companies that had planned for ongoing demand.” Indeed, Gareth Jennings, from the manufacturer Rheem, told The Age the move would leave ”tens of millions of dollars” of systems sitting in warehouses. “We could see the market halve overnight,” Jennings said. “All of that means jobs.”
And Australian Greens deputy leader Christine Milne was quick to add her party’s voice to those questioning the move. “The government likes to talk about transforming Australia for a clean energy future, and yet today they have dumped a key scheme supporting solar hot water manufacturing,” she said. “It seems that the only manufacturing jobs being actively supported in this two speed economy are those from the old economy,” Milne said. “This scheme should have been extended, not cancelled early, particularly not at such ridiculously short notice and with no reasons given whatsoever.”
More than 1 million Australians have invested in solar water heater systems, which significantly cut household power bills as well as reducing families’ carbon footprints. “Water heating is the single largest source of carbon pollution for Australian families, accounting for around 23 per cent of household emissions, so it makes sense to encourage Australians to invest in solar hot water,” Grimes said.
Landed gentry winning on wind
It’s a pity wind farms have been dealt so much bad press, and bad policy, in Australia, because according to new UK analysis of onshore wind power investments, there’s good money to be made for farmers or rural landowners who install turbines on their land. The Guardian reports that the 13GW of energy the British government plans to have installed by 2020 is expected to pay landowners upwards of £100 million a year in total rents. “They see windfarms as a new farm subsidy but they do not have to take any risk,” one agent told the paper. “Only 60 per cent of development applications may go through, but the returns if they do get built are enormous.” And when he says enormous, he means something like 5-6 per cent of the annual turnover of windfarms, or around £40,000 a year for each 3MW turbine. In return, the landowners can offer their local communities around £1,000 per MW installed.
And various canny Scots are already cashing in. For example, The Guardian notes that the Earl of Moray is believed to be generating about £2 million a year in rent from a 49-turbine windfarm on his Doune estate in Perthshire. The Duke of Roxburghe, meanwhile, could make £1.5 million-plus annually from his 48-turbine development in Lammermuir Hills. And in England, the landed gentry is well and truly in on the game, with the Queen’s cousin, the Duke of Gloucester, looking at reaping nearly £120,000 a year from four turbines on his Northamptonshire estate; the PM’s father-in-law, Sir Reginald Sheffield, set to earn £250,000 annually from the seven turbines on his Lincolnshire land; and Earl Spencer, brother of the late Diana, Princess of Wales, planning for 13 turbines on his Althorp estate.
Dyesol cuts credit line
Dye-sensitised solar cell maker Dyesol has announced that it will be cancelling the Equity Line of Credit (ELC) it established in 2011, due to what it describes as “significant progress made recently in the planning for commercialisation of the company’s technology.” The company said that recent testing in the UK and Korea had confirmed the effectiveness of its technology in the built environment, “where the results showed DSC consistently outperformed a range of competing PV technologies,” by up to 30 per cent in UK conditions; thus sparking the realisation it needs “to get this compelling and unambiguous message out more effectively.” To this end, the company has flagged a boardroom shuffle, saying that”the executive and board roles of the company founders must be changed” in order to progress the company’s proposed transformation. At the same time, Dyesol has announced the offer of a share purchase plan to existing eligible shareholders, of $A3 million new shares at 18 cents per share, and says it will accept additional share subscriptions to a maximum capital raise of $6 million under the SPP Offer.