Monday, 11 October 2010 10:13

Alleged cost blowouts in the NSW government’s solar bonus scheme are tiny and will not be noticed by households, say renewable energy experts.

The solar bonus scheme was attacked recently by the NSW coalition climate change spokeswoman, Catherine Cusack. She said the scheme cost bungle was a Keneally government that would ensure a blowout in energy prices for seven years.

But the director for the Institute of Environmental Studies at the University of NSW, Mark Diesendorf, said the costs of the scheme were dwarfed by the huge increase in electricity bills necessary for new infrastructure.

“They won’t be noticed in the noise,” he said.

Household bills are expected to rise by $250 to $600 a year by 2013 to pay for investment in the electricity network.

In comparison, the total cost per household of the solar bonus scheme was initially estimated in a report to ministers at about $7.50 per year.

The chairwoman of the Australian PV Association, Muriel Watt, said solar energy offsets the demand for electricity during peak periods, which reduces the need for expensive network infrastructure. “People are getting hysterical about something that is trying to alleviate why those costs are happening in the first place,” she said.

Opponents of the scheme have criticised it for providing income for the rich – those who can afford solar panels – at the expense of those who cannot.

But Dr Watt said there was no evidence to indicate that installations are skewed towards those on higher incomes. “It’s like saying those who don’t have children subsidise those who do. The benefits of reducing our carbon intensity accrue to everybody,” she said.

By August, more than 30,000 households had signed up to the scheme, attracted by the $1,500 a year that a household, with an average 1.5kW solar electricity system, can earn until the end of 2016.

Source: AuSES.