Owning solar panels in South Australia has become more attractive!

This article describes the Feed-In Scheme for Small-Scale Solar Photovoltaic Installations in South Australia

Despite the expansive debate on reducing the world’s green house emissions, they continue to rise. As detailed by the Worldwatch Institute, in 2007, carbon emissions from fossil fuel combustion worldwide reached an estimated 8.2 billion tons, which was 2.8 percent more than in 2006-and 22 percent above the total in 2000. The United States and Europe accounted for roughly 4 and 3 percent, respectively, of the growth during this decade. India contributed 8 percent, and China, a staggering 57 percent. Despite the rapid increase, China’s 18.3 share of global fossil fuel emissions remained slightly behind the U.S. share (19.5 percent).

Human nature, politics and self interest being what they are, it would be unrealistic to expect any international agreement in the near future that will significantly curtail this rise in emissions. Indeed until the impossibility of the task in the face of rampant economic growth is recognised there must be a temptation to abdicate. However to do so would negate the fact that the rise in emissions would undoubtedly be faster in the absence of the many achievements by individuals, communities and some states in Australia and other countries. On July 1 this year South Australia introduced an innovative scheme of tarrifs for owners of solar systems. The Government of SA is to be commended.

In South Australia the Electricity (Feed-In Scheme-Solar Systems) Amendment Act 2008 is the first solar feed-in law in Australia that will pay a premium guaranteed tariff of $0.44 per unit of electricity (kilowatt-hour, kWh), to households and small customers who feed solar electricity into the grid. Previously the household or small business producer had received 14.5 cents, the same as the cost to the consumer. The law came into effect on 1 July 2008, and will extend for 20 years.

As stated on the “Tackling Climate change in South Australia” web site, the scheme rewards customers whenever they generate more electricity than they are using – NOT just the balance at the end of the month or quarter, but whenever generation exceeds consumption during the day. A meter is provided that separately records the electricity you return to the grid so that, even if it is only for a second, the meter will keep track of any electricity returned.

The scheme copies one commenced in Germany which has been in operation for several years. It was introduced by an MP, Hermann Scheer, who is now chairman of the World Council for Renewable Energy. There are now 300,000 contributors to the scheme and 15 per cent of Germany’s energy comes from renewable sources. There is a 45 per cent target by 2030.

To DEA members in other states we say please ask why your government is not considering such a scheme. You can write to your paper or better still, raise the matter by visiting your state member of parliament. Please invest in solar panels for your house or small business.

One can be very positive about the future role of solar energy. There are great advances in reducing the cost of production and efficiency of panels, and research on storage facilities is progressing fast. It is of concern that financial restrictions have been placed on the need to increase the uptake of panels, for the situation is too urgent to worry who buys them. A more rapid expansion of all renewable energy sources might just avoid another nail in the coffin, a new coal powered facility.

David Shearman

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