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Australia's biggest solar farm was officially connected this week. The 10-megawatt Greenough River Solar Farm in Western Australia-a joint project of First Solar, Inc., GE Energy Financial Services and Western Australian state-owned power utility Verve Energy-is expected to generate enough solar energy to power 3,000 homes, eliminating 20,000 tons of greenhouse gases each year.

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Middle Class Free Electricity Scheme Over

It was inevitable. The NSW solar gold rush is over with the NSW Government suspending the current gross feed-in tariff scheme after it was sold out five years earlier than originally planned.

What needs to happen now is pressure on the government to come from the other end of the buying spectrum and uncap the feed-in tariff to cover any amount of energy production and not a limit of 10KW as is the current limit.

This will set commercial farm development on fire and drive solar installation off the roof and onto farms across the state.

The NSW Government is very sensitive on this issue, and if the solar industry calls for reform of the wholesale power market whereby the utilities have to buy all green power at the 15-20 cent KWh level - then that would be the best outcome possible.

The other reform is to allow energy co-ops to be formed via pooled investments that would fund the development of solar farms all over the state in sizes from 50KW-1MW and above. With a timeshare style investment over the Internet used to scoop up all that guilt money in the inner cities.

NSW Labor is extremely keen for a Green preference deal and this is the sort of move that could bed that down. As such, the NSW Government has a lot of self interest to be leveraged by the industry.

The NSW Libs will say anything to avoid the issue and will simply spend the next four years selling off the power stations and energy retailers. And the last thing they will do is load them up with low-margin compulsory green power purchasing at the 15-20 cent per KWh level.

The hard truth for the solar industry, the Greens and NSW Unions is that the only argument for having a gross feed in tariff above the retail price is to encourage energy savings in the home by giving the homeowner skin in the game and therefore a financial reason to bother turning off modern low-watt lights.

30 cents a KWh is a compromise level for a feed in tariff that could be sold to the government if there is any real heat generated over the issue. Which I doubt there will be beyond the industry and Greens.

The hard reality of rising electricity prices is too hard for any government to ignore and the cost of this scheme was never sustainable above a certain point, and directly highlights the cost of so called direct action. Take note Mr Abbott.

With that all said, I was only saying to my wife this week we should get some more solar...before the scheme is killed. I guess we'll just have to make do with our current 1.5KW system and the zero bill it generates for us and not actually a credit (profit) on our electricity bill.

But seriously, there is a silver lining in this move if the local industry can articulate to government a bigger vision that goes to the heart of the problem for the renewable energy industry - namely wholesale power purchase agreements that pay real money for the power produced and not the pennies they are currently paying - if you can get an agreement.

A situation that only favours the big power producers and does nothing for fostering a jobs-rich renewable energy industry - based on real numbers and not the tiny amounts home-based systems can supply.

And despite what some would have you believe it does not take a carbon price for this to occur. We can clean up the renewable power purchasing market separately from the carbon price issue - if the industry would look beyond the easy money that comes from home owners feeding at another middle-class welfare bucket.

All news on renewables in Australia from 22.09.2010 - 25.10.2010

Wednesday, 22 September 2010
WA gets Australia's biggest solar plant

- Australia's biggest solar power plant will be built in Western Australia next year. WA also flagged an expansion of a wind farm near Albany.

- The government has responded to a review of WA's power sector.

- State energy minister of Western Australia Peter Collier refused to back a call to adopt a policy of having 5 per cent of the state's energy supplied by solar power by 2020. He said, the high costs of solar power remained an impediment to its borad-scale adoption.

Friday, 8 October 2010
Groups at odds on cause of rise in electricity cost

- Clean energy groups argue investment in infrastructure not in renewables is driving up household power bills. A conservative think tank, the Institute of Public Affairs, claimed yesterday electricity prices in parts of Australia had increased at nearly four times the rate of inflation.

- The Climate Institute claimed increases in bills were due mainly to investment of $42billion in poles and wires over the next five years.

Thursday, 14 October 2010
Quantas boss takes aim at carbon levy

- Quantas chief executive Alan Joyce has become the latest critic of a carbon tax, arguing it could distort competition for business if Australia moves faster than other countries.

- Government prefers implementin a carbon tax rather than ressurecting its failes emissions trading scheme.

- He calls for a global approach from the aviation sector to tackling climate change.

- He also criticised the EU's attempt to charge airlines for emission permits from 2012. More could be achieved by focusing on developing new aviation fuel to reduce carbon emissions.

Tuesday, 19 October 2010
Carbon price advisers announced

- The federal government's approach to climate change issues will be broadened by creating two advisers roundtables on the topic of climate change, under terms of reference that specify the importance of the introduction of a carbon price into the economy.

- One of them is a business roundtable group including Quantas chief Alan Joyce, Woolworths chief Michael Luscombe, National Australia Bank chief Cameron Clyne and BlueScope Steel chief Paul O'Malley and many more, chaired by Treasurer Wayne Swan and Climate CHange Minister Greg Combet. Furthermore The Australian Chamber of Commerce and Industrz, the Australian Industry Group and the Business Council of Australia and others, like the Farmers Federation or the Clean Energy Council, will be represented at this table.

- The second one comprises unions and environmental groups like the Australian Conservation Foundation, Climate Institute, World Wildlife Fund Australia, ClimateWorks Australia and more will be chaired by Mr Combet and Sutainability Minister Tony Burke.

Monday, 25 October 2010
Controversy flares over biofuel taxes

- Treasury has warned that motorists will face even steeper taxes on ethanol and biodiesel fuels from next year if a Gillard government plan to overhaul the fuel tax system fails to become law.

- Grants and tax concessions on alternative fuels are due to expire and phase out from July 2011.

- Motorists who buy "cleaner" fuels will be taxed at the same rate as petrol and diesle users within five years unless new legislation is passed bevor the end of the financial year.

- Criticism grows, that the Treasury focuses on tax implementation, but not the role of alternative fuels in energy security and reducing carbon pollution.

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