Sympathetic Stupid

Tuesday, January 17, 2006

Hasta La Sola, Baby

In California, they've just scored $3b over the next 10 years in rebates and incentives for solar paraphenalia. It's funded the obvious way, with a miniscule fee tacked onto power bills - like $1.10 a month. And you save up to $7k on a $20k system. This is thanks in no small part to the Governator. I admit I haven't been following his reign of Austrian terror closely, but seems like when the clock inevitably ticks round to Republican, he's of the bearable type.

Though, in fact, there's even some federal US incentives for renewable energy. They'll pay you 30% of the cost of the system - but only up to $2k. This was thanks to the 2005 Energy Policy Act. Yeah, it didn't do heaps to transition to clean energy, but the bill wasn't all bad. Better than nothing, anyway.

Which is approximately what we get in Australia. Canberra slashes solar power rebates! Rebates were halved from $8k to $4k at the start of the year, and next year they'll be gone - "replaced" by the token "Solar Cities" program. That's $75.3m (fuck-all) over 6 years, across four limited locations (like, say, the size of Coburg), which they haven't even got around to choosing yet, well over a year after the first announcement.

That's a shit program. It's an ineffective sop to industry, which is complaining (with good reason) that they'll have trouble selling any solar systems without the rebate, because they definitely won't be price-competitive. While it may debatably help industry, it's gonna do four-fifths of five-eighths in the short-term for emissions. There's only the vaguest of possibilities that it may provide impetus for development of more efficient solar.

The real problem is that our power's among the cheapest in the world, thanks to metric shedloads of coal. Solar can't play on this field without some serious economies of scale - which reducing the incentives seriously mitigates against.

So, as always, the real real problem is government policy.