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NSW: Solar users to be paid for excess energy, NSW govt

By Adam Bennett
23 Jun 2009 5:28 PM

SYDNEY, June 23 AAP - Solar-savvy households will be paid up to $900 a year to generate their own electricity under a NSW government plan to boost renewable energy.

Under the 20-year scheme, residents plus some schools, small businesses and community groups will be paid 60 cents per kilowatt hour - four times the average cost of electricity.

The net feed-in tariff, which NSW Environment and Climate Change Minister Carmel Tebbutt described as the most generous in Australia, could result in some solar panel owners receiving $900 a year for unused electricity they feed into the electricity grid.

But environmental groups, the Greens and the opposition have bemoaned the failure to implement a more generous gross tariff, which pays for all the power generated, not just what is put into the grid.

They say Tuesday's announcement is a missed opportunity for the state's burgeoning solar energy industry.

Ms Tebbutt said the scheme, which will begin on January 1 and apply to solar systems up to 10 kilowatts in size, could create 500 environmental jobs across NSW.

She said the scheme would potentially allow households to pay off solar energy systems within 12 years.

"The scheme that we are announcing today will provide a significant boost for solar energy, encouraging households, small businesses and others to put solar panels on their rooftops, and they will receive a return for the amount of energy they feed back into the grid," Ms Tebbutt said.

She said the government had decided against a gross tariff because it would be a "disproportionate" financial burden for those without solar power.

A gross tariff has been adopted in the ACT.

Greens MP John Kaye said the government had squandered an opportunity to boost NSW's solar industry by choosing a net scheme.

"They've undermined the future of the solar industry in NSW," he said.

"They're throwing away jobs. They're throwing away the opportunity to build a world-leading, export-based industry."

Opposition climate change spokeswoman Catherine Cusack derided the scheme, saying the coalition would introduce a gross tariff if elected in 2011.

"The announcement is a small, second-rate, inequitable scheme that will not give industry the kick start it needs in NSW," she said.

"Families and businesses who use electricity during the day will get nothing back from the government."

Although the NSW Nature Conservation Council welcomed the solar bonus scheme, it said it was disappointed the government did not adopt a gross tariff.

"This decision will see more people installing solar panels on their homes, but the uptake will be slower than if the government made the decision to reimburse them for all the green electricity their system produced," said its executive director, Cate Faehrmann.

Defending the solar bonus, Energy Minister Ian Macdonald said the feed-in tariff would lead to a $50 million-a-year investment in the solar industry.

"We estimate that there will be between 42,000 and 202,000 households adopting this scheme over the next few years," he said.