A cut to the federal government’s Renewable Energy Target (RET) would threaten the viability of future solar energy projects in the region, according to not-for-profit community energy association Repower Shoalhaven president Chris Cooper.
A RET review report being considered by the federal government has suggested the eligibility for small-scale generation certificates be reduced from 100kW to 10kW systems.
“This would have a devastating impact in particular on larger solar systems which would be installed on the roofs of local businesses,” Mr Cooper said.
Mr Cooper referred to a recent Repower Shoalhaven installation at Shoalhaven Heads Bowling and Recreation Club which was funded by the group’s community funding model.
“About 30 per cent of the upfront costs for the 99kW system come through the RET scheme,” he said.
“Solar for small business is currently at a tipping point – if you scale back the RET now you’ll have many local businesses that won’t be able to get solar to reduce their power bills.”
According to Mr Cooper, the scheme has been a success for the local region.
“The Shoalhaven has seen over 5000 solar power systems and thousands more solar hot water systems installed with the support of the scheme,” he said.
“This equates to an estimated $50 million in investment, coming mostly from local householders.
“The collective bill saving is massive – up to $10 million per year, which stays in the local region.” he said.
“Solar transfers wealth back to the people – plus it’s clean energy – what’s not to love?”
Scrapping the program was unlikely to lower power bills as many studies found the RET was cost neutral, Mr Cooper said.
“Renewable energy has no fuel cost, meaning that wholesale prices go down on the energy spot market. This translates into bill savings for consumers,” he said.
“There are also jobs at stake as well obviously in the solar sector locally. Repower Shoalhaven will of course be affected, although it won’t kill us, it will make life a lot harder.”
Repower Shoalhaven develops solar projects for local business, financing each project via investment from community members.
It was founded entirely by volunteer members and has recently taken on its first two paid staff.
The group will officially open its first community solar project in a ceremony with the NSW Environment Minister, Rob Stokes on Friday, October 24 starting 4pm at the Shoalhaven Heads Bowling and Recreation Club.
The group raised $120,000 for the project which will deliver over $300,000 in bill savings for the club.