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Right place, Wong time
CANBERRA – THE closure of an Australian Federal Government off-grid energy rebate scheme 18 months early has removed all support for the solar sector and left industry plans in disarray, a solar power trade body (the Clean Energy Council) has claimed.

In a further setback to eco policy, hundreds of employees in the emerging solar PV industry face immediate layoffs as a direct result of last weeks decision by the Senate to defer the government’s Renewable Energy Target (RET) bill. Australia’s emerging solar PV industry will bear the immediate brunt of the latest political posturing.  after it became clear the government’s Green ministers had failed to play their political cards correctly.

The Renewable Remote Power Generation Program, which offered up to a 50 per cent rebate on off-grid power systems in rural areas, was suddenly closed to new applications this week, except in Western Australia, where the funding has not been fully committed yet. All that was left of it was a terse announcment on it sofficial web site: “As of 8.30 am Australian Eastern Standard Time on Monday 22 June, pre-purchase applications are no longer being accepted for the Renewable Remote Power Generation Program” The program is essential for power supply in rural areas although it has handed out only about 3,500 grants since its inception.

The Department of the Environment, Water, Heritage and the Arts which ran the program, defended its early closure and lack of notice, saying the “industry has been aware for some time that RRPGP has finite funds and full commitment was imminent”.

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Clean Energy Council policy manager Russell Marsh said the solar industry had lost all support with the closure of the RRPGP, the solar homes and communities plan and the solar rebate scheme. “We are unclear when the replacement solar credit scheme will come in; discussion on it has been deferred to August,” he said.

“The RRPGP was expected to continue for another 18 months. Businesses made plans with that in mind. The question is whether this will have long or short-term impact. The longer the delay the more industry will suffer.”

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