Solar panel being fitted to house in Valla.
Solar panel being fitted to house in Valla. Trevor Veale

Solar still cheapest energy option

AS solar power companies held crisis meetings yesterday, the industry continued to assure the public that solar power is still the cheapest energy option.

Under the 60-cent tariff, existing customers would pay off standard solar panelling within six to seven years.

But under the Government’s revised 20 cent tariff, it will now take new customers investing in similar configurations between 18 and 21 years to earn the same investment return.

Most companies guarantee solar panels will last up to and beyond 50 years.

If units stand the test of time, households would still earn a big return on their investment long-term, especially under rising electricity prices.

Over a 25-year life span, one megawatt of solar power produced saves up to 44,597 tonnes of greenhouse gases and 5.7 billion litres of water, which would otherwise be used in the generation of coal-fired power stations.

A snapshot of the Coffs Coast solar industry shows local companies have averaged between 10 and 20 solar panel installations per week since the subsidy scheme was introduced 10 months ago.

Local companies say their workforces have tripled to keep up with demand.

The Australian Manufacturing Workers Union (AMWU) said local manufacturers would immediately reconsider their investment in the scheme following the government’s announcement.

“As well as cutting production of clean energy, it puts skilled jobs at risk,” AMWU secretary Tim Ayres said.

“Damaging the solar industry in NSW won’t stop big electricity price increases, but it will cost jobs and damage confidence in this important clean industry,” Clean Energy Council chief executive Matthew Warren said.

He said the cost of improving the electricity network in NSW would cost more than $14 billion over the next five years.

“By comparison, the cost of the solar bonus scheme is less than eight per cent.

“Whatever the issues may be, there is no excuse for cancelling the current scheme without industry consultation, with no notice, thereby creating an immediate crisis in the NSW solar industry,” Solar Energy Industries Association NSW Chapter chairman Ted McCarthy said.

“Thousands of people will lose their jobs overnight, which is an extraordinary about-face for someone recently espousing the importance of workers’ rights.”

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