RET Review panel member wants solar subsidies to end, installs own system | RenewEconomy

RET Review panel member wants solar subsidies to end, installs own system

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.


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.

fisherDr 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.”


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  1. Pedro 6 years ago

    The hypocrisy of Dr Brian Fisher is absolutely astounding. I wonder how he can sleep at night or if he even knows the meaning of integrity. There is a song about such people, “I’m an A….hole”

    • michael 6 years ago

      you probably rail against anti-FF protesters and there use of cars/buses to get around using petrol? Christine Milne taking plane flights…. Global Warming conferences not being completely online events to prevent the need to travel… the list goes on

      it would actually be astounding if he didn’t take advantage of an assistance package he deemed to be overly generous. you would probably find it is the higher income earners in society who have most taken advantage of the schemes due to being able to assess how generous they have been

      • ChrisEcoSouth 6 years ago

        “probably find it is the higher income earners in society who have most taken advantage of the schemes”
        I humbly beg to differ – in most capital cities it is the mortgage and retirement belts that have the highest statistical penetration of solar – and not the ‘highest-income’ suburbs; – as reported through Australian Solar Council, this website and no doubt many others.

        • Peter Campbell 6 years ago

          Some years ago the posh town of Dubbo had the highest rate of PV systems on houses.
          The leafy green expensive suburbs tend not to have PV perhaps because the home owners don’t notice a electricity bills or perhaps because the roofs are too shady.

      • Pedro 6 years ago

        An anti FF protester is also probably a clean energy supporter perhaps even a tree hugger who happens to live in an urban environment with perhaps more concrete than trees. Point being, much of the time our only choices that we can make are for the least worst option. Most people (including clean energy supporters) that commute to work require a vehicle of some description. At this point EV’s are comparatively expensive up front, not much variety and with a limited range. Dr Fisher does not need to have PV, he is just being hypocritically opportunistic by getting a good deal while trying to wreck it for others further down the track.

        As for Dr Fisher, isn’t it just wonderful how he can get paid by an anti RE government to sit on the Warburton review panel, come up with what he knows is a biased report and actively be part of the machine to monkey wrench the RE industry by causing business uncertainty. Then turns around and puts solar on his house while the RET is still in place because it’s an economic no brainer.

        I often read your posts and rarely do you make a positive contribution. I would guess your angle is that of a FF stooge or at best devils advocate. Well done.

        • michael 6 years ago

          just a devils advocate mate, can’t help myself but comment when obviously tenuous arguments are put forward or the whole ‘everyone else is so dumb’ articles. however, don’t get me wrong, I think the whole renewables industry is needed and growing strongly, just wonder why people get caught up in the whole ‘hate’ of the industry which has brought so much good to the world, but that’s their right

          justifying the FF protesters decisions based on the ‘least worst option’ is hardly in the spirit of the purety being requested of Fisher in this article.

          you are saying that protesting against an industry and then taking advantage of their products is justified. Then, you are saying that advocating to remove a scheme, then taking advantage of it is not ok. Those two situations are very similar.

          you may think it is rarely a positive contribution, however the alternative is everyone just commenting from the same hymn sheet and not actually disputing anything or critically thinking about the information being presented. that’s ok if that’s how you like to operate, however it’s not for everyone

          • Pedro 6 years ago

            Its good to dispute and be critical of issues, it keeps us all honest. In my opinion to equate Dr fisher’s hypocrisy with the hypocrisy of FF protesters (myself included) because they drive a petrol car is cynical. I find Dr Fisher’s hypocrisy several orders of magnitude higher. It is like comparing someone parking for 1 hour in a half hour zone to someone drink driving. The consequences of people like Dr Fisher’s actions on the RET review panel affects us all. The RET review has crippled large scale RE investment leading to all our carbon foot prints increasing.

            I am not saying that protesting against the FF industry and using FF products is justified. I am saying that it is virtually impossible not to do so, there is simply no alternative. If you buy your groceries from a supermarket or for that matter use a computer there is no avoiding the use of FF.

            I don’t demand purity of Dr Fisher, but I do expect all public servants who we pay to do a job to be fair, base their decisions on evidence and those decisions to be transparent and not pander to the political agenda of the day.

          • Chris Fraser 6 years ago

            That old chestnut of renewable advocates jumping on flights and driving FF-powered cars is some time from being resolved. But resolve it we will. I trust that people like Milne are conscious of their use of planes to do business, otherwise we denigrate their ordinary capacity for reason.The problem of not having transport fuels lumped in with our short-lived ETS is a problem that really belongs to all of us, because as a nation we haven’t voted for a political party in a majority of seats, that includes fossil transport fuels in their ETS policy.In the short to mid term and though not perfect, we are still free to offset FF use in cars, plan to reduce FF use, or buy PHEVs powered by Greenpower. Right now now transport is not the biggest target we can hit. It’s stationary energy and deforestation.

          • michael 6 years ago

            you’ve nailed the argument for the feeling of many towards these overt campaigns against FF companies while there is no reasonable alternative, these companies who command so much financial and intellectual capital should be encouraged to change, not restricted in their lawful activity by unlawful actions based on moral crusades.

            I guess I just can’t help commenting on overly absolute statements which aren’t true. most of the time, the commenting person/entity is using some level of hyperbole to make a point and actually doesn’t believe in the entirety of their position

          • Pedro 6 years ago

            I thought the RET is an excellent way for FF companies to be encouraged to move their significant intellectual and financial capital away from FF generation in a modest and orderly way.

            What unlawful activities are you aware of by anti FF protesters? I can think of one exceptional case in Australia, but the vast bulk of the protests/campaigns so far have been peaceful and lawful.

            At least the so called ‘moral crusade’ of anti FF protesters is backed up by undeniable climate science. Whereas the demonisation of the RE industry by the FF industry is backed up by vested interests.

          • Martin 6 years ago

            I agree with the clear thinking sentiment.

            Fisher has invested in something for financial gain while promoting policy that would prevent others from participating in that very same investment. We cant avoid some use of fossil fuels while trying to promote policy that would allow us to reduce our usage – not for financial gain but to save the planet.

            The only way that you can make those propositions seem similar is to strip them of any moral/ethical content.

          • michael 6 years ago

            there’s no doubt that once you colour your assessment of whether something is hypocritical with the “saving the planet” glasses, most things can be explained away. no point going down that path as pretty much anything can be justified once you believe in the moral basis for it

          • Martin 6 years ago

            You missed my point. I expressed it poorly. I was trying to add the moral dimension to the behaviors you were contrasting and now you are telling me to take them out again!

            I understand that your support for renewables is not driven by a moral basis.

            If you were to allow that some see the notion of saving the planet as a real dimension of the debate then I’m sure you would agree that it is something that you could indeed think clearly and morally about.

            But just to complete your own reasoning, you may be able to justify many things on a moral basis but you must agree that you can justify many more without one.

          • Michael D'Andrea 6 years ago

            It hypocrisy at it’s best. Instead of subsidising the FF industry to the tune of around 10 billion dollars a year (,,, , move *some* of that money so as to leave the RET where it is. It makes so much sense it’s unconceivable that even this inept, limp government would attempt to undermine the system *THAT’S WORKING EXACTLY AS DESIGNED*. This is economics 101 and the liberals are behaving absolutely inexcusably.

          • Alen T 6 years ago

            The article by the Guardian is quite interesting, thank you for the link

          • Harry Verberne 6 years ago

            Sorry but when you trot out the tired and pathetic lines about AGW activists using petrol to get around I get annoyed as its sheer BS.

          • michael 6 years ago

            Bullshit because it doesn’t count? Or bumkshit because they don’t use Ff?

          • Harry Verberne 6 years ago

            Its a form of ad hominem attack which is often indicative of the lack of other credible argument. It is a diversionary tactic. The reality of AGW will not be any less so if people who accept the science use fossil fuels in the conduct of their lives. Often there is no practicable alternative at this stage but there will be in the future.

      • Harry Verberne 6 years ago

        Hand waving and largely off-topic Michael.

      • Harry Verberne 6 years ago

        Its not a good look. You argue hypocrisy: how about Fisher’s “do as I say not do as I say” behaviour.

      • Harry Verberne 6 years ago

        I live in a low income industrial area. Most of who have installed solar are far from well off and are trying to insulate themselves from soaring prices of FF electricity.

  2. Alen T 6 years ago

    We all know the saying ‘talk is cheap’ and as Abbott demonstrated many times now saying one thing does not mean it will be backed by action. Another reason the divestment campaign is terrifying the FF industry, the talk on CC action has now (successfully) included action in the form money, hitting them where it hurts the most.

  3. Peter Campbell 6 years ago

    “and possibly even accept a deferral of the target date to 2020.” Is that a typo? The target is supposed to be for 2020 but there was talk of a deferral to 2022. What benefit they think might come from that, I don’t known.

  4. Rob G 6 years ago

    Translation: if you have plenty of money you can enjoy the savings solar brings, however if you are not well off then you should be forced into paying big coal what they want. No handouts.
    Seems like your typical liberal party attitude. The last thing they want is an empowered public and declining profits for their mates.

  5. Chris Fraser 6 years ago

    As fossil fuel developers we are consistently needy for subsidies to bring down the price of coal and like to withhold payable tax because of line items like the diesel fuel rebate. We don’t really need them – and it appears to be applied as tax smeared across the whole country’s tax base – however as reasonably minded corporate interests and knowing that everybody does it, if there are incentives around, we respond to them.

  6. John McKeon 6 years ago

    michael says “however, don’t get me wrong, I think the whole renewables industry is needed and growing strongly, just wonder why people get caught up in the whole ‘hate’ of the industry which has brought so much good to the world, but that’s their right”

    The fossil fuels component of the world’s economy is thoroughly entrenched, having enjoyed massive cooperation from governments and taxpayers to become so established. Now after over 25 years of serious warnings about human induced world climate destabilisation, it is well OVER time that the fossil fuels moved over to let other players become established. The entrenched fossil fuels don’t want to move over. They have paid millions for some seriously nasty propaganda machinery to retain their embrace of civilisation. I’m not surprised that there is anger and hate out there.

  7. Dadpad 6 years ago

    Abbot gov will cut subsidies for small scale (household) renewables but
    maintain the subsidies for big energy companies. I betcha.

  8. David Rossiter 6 years ago

    A review by 31 December this year, the statutory date, will be brief indeed but Bernie Fraser and his team will not be starting from scratch – they will be an expert, experienced and independent panel which trumps an “independent” panel any day for capability.

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