Solar power to the people

THE ACT Government has guaranteed a price of 20 cents per kilowatt-hour (kWh) for electricity generated by community-owned solar power projects, like SolarShare, a cooperative which has already attracted over $1 million in investment from about 270 local residents.

Minister for Environment and Sustainable Development Simon Corbell.

Minister for Environment and Sustainable Development Simon Corbell. Photo by Stephen Easton

The feed-in tariff for community-owned solar power was announced today by Minister for the Environment and Sustainable Development Simon Corbell, and means that the ACT Government will make up the difference between the spot price when the electricity is sold, and the 20c/kWh tariff, which is guaranteed for 20 years.

Mr Corbell said the tariff would allow people who could not put solar panels on their rooftops to help generate renewable energy.

“So if you live in an apartment, if you’re renting or if your home simply doesn’t face the right way, you will have the opportunity to buy into a community owned solar generation facility,” Mr Corbell said this morning.

The government’s financial commitment is limited to providing the tariff for up to 1 megawatt (MW) of community owned solar power, he added, which is roughly equivalent to solar panels on 500 rooftops.

“The government is about supporting the deployment of renewable energy in our city and this is about democratising renewable energy in our city,” Mr Corbell said. “It’s not just the big renewable energy companies that are able to access the feed-in tariff, it’s not just individual homeowners in their own properties, it’s also renters [and] people in apartments.”

Lawrence McIntosh from SolarShare, at a small solar array in Kambah.

Lawrence McIntosh from SolarShare, at a solar panel array in Kambah. Photo by Brent McDonald

The SolarShare project is on track to become Australia’s first community owned large-scale solar power project, and is considering buying into an existing large scale solar farm, establishing a single new solar farm, or several smaller banks of solar panels. These could be either built on the ground, or on the rooves of large buildings such as warehouses, according to project leader Lawrence McIntosh.

SolarShare director Bob Clark.

SolarShare director Bob Clark. Photo by Stephen Easton

SolarShare director Bob Clark was also at the announcement, and said that the feed-in tariff announced today was a “critical part of Canberra’s sustainable future”.

“[The tariff is] really levelling the playing field to allow all Canberrans … to take advantage of an investment which will both yield them an outcome in a sustainable future, and a financial one,” Mr Clark said.

Today’s announcement follows the release of the Solar Auction Review report yesterday and the introduction of new legislation to raise the renewable energy cap from 210 megawatts to 550 megawatts, to provide for large-scale renewable energy investments that will support the achievement of the ACT’s 90 per cent renewable electricity target by 2020.

Mr Corbell also said today that achieving the ACT’s greenhouse gas reduction targets will be “cost neutral to Canberra households” on average, with the cost of meeting the target estimated to peak at around $4 per household per week and the bulk of costs expected to arise during the period 2016 to 2019.

The savings to offset the cost would come through the Government’s Climate Change Strategy, AP2, which “prioritises energy efficiency to reduce emissions and costs to households and businesses”.

“It is through these energy efficiency measures that consumers can expect to save money, in many cases covering the minimal $4 increase – or in some cases exceeding it,” Mr Corbell said.

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