Friday, 24 June 2011

I'm still knitting saucepans but this time under solar lights

Up here in National Party heartland, things are rolling along. To our delight, the feed in tariff in the Solar Bonus scheme has been retained, so we are not losing out. Since the new NSW Government proposed the changes, the Mid North Coast has been a hotbed of unrest. The solar industry here has now breathed a collective sigh of relief, along with their present and former customers, and solar panels continue to appear on rooftops.

Those of you regularly reading this blog would recall that we had been in correspondence with our local state member Deputy Premier and leader of the State National party, Mr “72%” Andrew Stoner. Mr Stoner saw fit to reply to our correspondence about the feed-in tariff by addressing John only and wiping me off the correspondence record. I expressed my feelings about this in a blog that referred to kitchens, knitting and saucepans.

I took the time to again write to Mr 72% and strongly expressed my outrage at being ignored in his letter. Many predicted that Mr Stoner would ignore this letter, especially my views on the National party and their relationship to the mores of the 19th century.

Surprisingly, he has responded. BUT (and it is a big BUT but not surprising) my objections to being obliterated from any correspondence between this household and his office was utterly ignored.

This most recent letter was addressed to me. Probably because I, and not John, had written it so there was no ignoring me this time. He even read my comments with interest, apparently. I confess I find this very amusing. Interest seems an unlikely word to use when one has just been upbraided for being a Victorian (the era, not the state) sexist. I sure he did read my comments with great interest – and probably with more than a few unuttered expletives.

If you are now reading with bated breath in the hope I will now reveal that he apologised for ignoring me, forget it. There was no mention of this. He did however, thoughtfully point out to me that the government in its generosity would continue the solar bonus scheme, despite being bankrupted by the former government incumbents. The NSW government is apparently even committed to achieving a sustainable future for the solar industry.

Mmmm. This last sounds faintly hypocritical from a government that a few weeks earlier had announced they were abandoning the solar scheme – and the industry with it. Now we have a new, no doubt deeply felt, commitment on the part of the State government to solar power. It is my breath that is now bated as I wait to see exactly what form this commitment to a sustainable solar future will take.

After bagging the former Labor Government for blowing out costs, Mr Stoner went on to tell me that the current government costing for the scheme (newly reviewed) is $1.44 billion, compared to the former government’s costing of $355 million which then was increased to 1.9 billion. It is, says Mr Stoner, to Labor’s eternal shame that they let costs get out of control.

Let us be clear about these costings. The reason that the original figure was $355 million is because the Labor government greatly underestimated the enthusiasm with which people would sign up to the Solar Bonus Scheme. They sold the concept so well that many people across the state, including apparently half the Mid North Coast, signed up to get panels on their roofs. Let me also make it clear that the feed in tariff rebate is not making anyone rich. Nobody would outlay the amount that the panels cost, even with the Federal government rebate, on the basis that they will get a cheque between $60 and $200 a quarter. People signed up because they genuinely wanted to help the environment, a fact that apparently escapes the current government.

The reason that their next figure was $1.9 billion is because they realistically took into account the enthusiasm for the scheme, and people’s desire to do their bit for renewable energy.

So I say it is to the current Coalition government’s eternal shame that they have refused to extend the scheme, thus bringing the costing back down. It does not augur well for that commitment to achieving a sustainable solar industry that the letter to me talks about.

Time to put your money where your solar mouth is, Mr Stoner. Support your local electorate and the terrific solar industry that is doing so well here on the sunny Mid North Coast.

In the meantime, I’ll just get on with knitting those saucepans, preferably under lights powered by some solar panels.

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