Clearing the air: What’s happening with the RET and solar subsidies?  

Dark clouds have hovered over the solar industry for the last eighteen months, however the government and the opposition are closer than ever to striking a deal on the renewable energy target, and regaining the trust of global investors. It may be a case of once bitten, twice shy for an industry that has been already been wounded by a disruptive parliament.

The deal

Last year a high profile and controversial review of the RET found that investment in renewable energy would increase power prices in the short term, however power would ultimately be cheaper for everybody in the medium and long term. The review overseen, by Dick Warburton, presented a number of scenarios, including reducing the current 41,000 GWh target to 31,000 GWh and giving it the axe altogether.

With a gridlock in the Senate, the two major political parties have been trading blows ever since while investment in renewable energy stagnates.

The opposition

Recognising that the best interests of the renewable industry are served by a clear target, Labor began negations with a high 30,000 GWh figure in mind, a position backed by the Clean Energy Council. After six months of posturing it appears that we are closer than ever on a deal, with Labor leader Bill Shorten hopeful of a resolution within the next two weeks.

This may be easier said than done, with Labor’s negotiating team stating that wheeling and dealing with the government was, “like wrestling with smoke.”

Where there’s smoke there’s fire

To be fair, the government has been fairly clear about their position on the RET, at least for the last six months or so, with the Warburton-endorsed 31,000 GWh figure still the preferred outcome.

Environment Minister Greg Hunt’s efforts to position the government as reasonable by suggesting that in fact they are “two thirds” of the way toward Labor’s ideal target have fallen on deaf ears. Comments alluding to a final projected figure of 46,000 GWh when combining projected household solar installations and the proposed 31,000 GWh ultimately flew in the face of the intent of the RET.

The issue was brought directly to the PM’s doorstep when a non-profit group crowd funded enough money to buy a small solar system that was to be presented to the Prime Minister for installation at Kirribilli House, however security risks, heritage listing concerns and (believe it not) cleaning costs were cited as reasons against the proposed installation.

Observers informed the Prime Minister that the White House has featured solar panels since the 1970s, and even Pope Benedict approved a large solar system for the Vatican in 2008.

For at least another few weeks we’ll be gazing into our crystal balls and despite the assurance that the Prime Minister that he, “won’t make any changes to small-scale solar,” his anti-renewable position is undeniable.

Ultimately the public have to ask themselves if they can you trust a man who turned down a free solar system!