One of the key members of the Warburton Review that recommended the end of subsidies under the renewable energy target has just installed a large solar system on a rural property – using the very same subsidy that he wants abolished.
Dr Brian Fisher confirmed to RenewEconomy on Monday that a solar system had been installed this month at a rural property he owns near Wallaroo, near Canberra. He said it was one of a number of solar systems (both PV and hot water) that he had on his private properties.
RenewEconomy believes Fisher has a system of at least 5kW on a residence in the Canberra suburb of Red Hill, and that the Wallaroo installation is at last 4kW in size. Fisher declined to provide details on these and his other properties.
The now controversial Warburton Review in August called for the immediate closure, or rapid wind back, of the small-scale renewable energy scheme, which supports rooftop solar and solar hot water.
The SRES scheme offers an up-front rebate on the purchase of rooftop solar systems. It can account for up to one third of the cost of the system.
Asked if there a danger of a perceived conflict between availing himself of a subsidy (in October) after recommending (in August) that it be ended, Fisher said:
“I have got solar on a number of my properties. I have had so for quite a while. I don’t think the decision to do that is related in any way to the (Warburton) review.”
“I’ve consistently written that subsidies are not necessarily the best way forward in terms of public policy. But as a private individual, if there are incentives around, I respond to them.”
“I personally think, and I’ve said so publicly, the way in which previous state governments ran feed in tariffs are really bad policy. But they did exist and various people have taken advantage of those arrangements.”
Indeed they did, when the Coalition government in NSW recommended the end of the state’s feed in tariff, National MP (and more recently deputy premier) Andrew Stoner was caught out asking his installer to rush through his application for a solar system so he could cash in on the higher tariff.
John Grimes, the chief executive of the Australian Solar Council, said it was a reminder that people should “watch what people do, rather than what they say.”
“We welcome him (Fisher) as one of Australia’s solar heroes. He knows that it will save him a massive amount of money and help bring down electricity prices for everyone.”
The revelation comes in the same week that the Abbott government and Labor are due to hold negotiations over the future of the RET.
The Warburton Review recommended that the target be effectively closed to new entrants – capping the scheme at around 17,000GWH – or reducing it to a “real 20 per cent” target, which would mean around 25,000GWH by 2020.
Labor says there is no reason to change the target from its current level of 41,000GWh, although it has indicated it is prepared to cut a deal on the aluminium industry, and possibly even accept a deferral of the target date to 2022 from 2020.
The Coalition, according to some reports, has “dumped: the findings of the Warburton report, although its starting position for negotiations appears to be the “real” 20 per cent target, which the industry says would be catastrophic for renewable energy investment in Australia.
Fisher said he was not aware of the government’s position. “I haven’t seen a formal response from the government in terms of what they have or haven’t decided with respect to the panel’s recommendations, or for that matter what going to be done about target, either the small scale or large scale components.”