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The Hon Peter Garrett AM MP
Minister for the Environment, Heritage and the Arts

Transition from Solar Homes and Communities Plan to Solar Credits

Transcript
Interview with Derryn Hinch, Drive Show 3AW Melbourne
9 June 2009

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DERRYN HINCH: Now if you paid close attention to the budget last month, you would know that the solar panel rebate, the Government contribution was going to end, $8,000 grant was due to end at the end of this month.

Today I started - and put some copies of some commercials that are running on 3AW in the next few hours, saying the Government has cancelled the solar grant as of today, and if you don't get in before - first of all they said it's 4:30, then changed it to 7:30, bit of confusion here - then you will miss out.

To try and clear all this up, I have on the line the Federal Minister for the Environment.

Peter Garrett, good afternoon.

GARRETT: Hi Derryn.

DERRYN HINCH: Now the - in the budget we knew this was coming - that you were going to end it. But wasn't it meant to be June 30?

GARRETT: Derryn, we always said that we’d transition to Solar Credits and we'd work with the industry to do that, but we never provided a specific deadline in the statement that was made by the ministers in December. And I think the industry's known all along that there was going to be a point where the Government said, we think the rebate has done its job and now it's time to go to Solar Credits and we believe that time has arrived given the record number of applications there are and the amount of money that we've spent significant amounts in excess of the amount that we budgeted for.

DERRYN HINCH: If it's done its job, why are there so many people cramming the system and clogging the system today to try and get in?

GARRETT: I think one of the reasons is that the rebate itself has proved very popular as the price of one kilowatt systems has come down a little bit, and some of the people who have been promoting their systems have been saying, you've effectively got a free solar panel system here.

We looked and monitored quite closely this growth and we can see that there's now about 63,000 installations that are yet to happen, Derryn. That's about on 1,000 a week that the industry does, about a year's worth of work of installations yet to go.

And the intention of the rebate was to provide the opportunity for the industry to have a sure-footing. We've means tested the rebate. You will remember, I think you and I spoke briefly when we did that.

DERRYN HINCH: Yeah.

GARRETT: When everyone said the industry was going to go to the wall, of course it didn't. And now what we're saying is that we have spent significant amounts in support of this rebate.

DERRYN HINCH: Yeah, I recall being critical of you in our previous conversation about why, if you're that keen on solar energy, were you putting a limit on of $100,000 on it? But, the new system that's come in, the new rebate, that will - it will vary in a value won't it? And also, depending where you live et cetera, et cetera and it takes away the $100,000 limit? Is that right?

GARRETT: Yeah that's right. It's not a rebate in the future. And look, you're right. We said that the solar industry would go through a period of growth as a result of our earlier decision, others said it was going to go to the wall. You were right. We put more solar panels on roofs than at time in Australia's history, but the Solar Credit will operate as part of the renewable energy target. It will be non means-tested. It will provide for - depending on where you live, where your climate zone is - approximately between $4,400 or $5,100 for the smaller system, up to $6,600 or $7,700 depending on where you live for the bigger system.

And it will apply to families, community groups and businesses and it will also apply to wind power as well. And we've always said that we've wanted to transition this industry from rebates to the renewable energy target, renewable energy certificate support. And given that we've spent now $700 million from a $150 commitment, and there's a year's worth of installations out there waiting to be done, this was the right time to make that call.

DERRYN HINCH: All right now, there's one final question though. Why is the industry calling us all day today saying, we thought it was June 30? Why the confusion?

GARRETT: Well look, I think they took the view that if there was going to be legislation introduced, that it would happen naturally at the end of the financial year. I can only say that all we ever said in our release was that we would continue to meet demand and work with industry to ensure a smooth transition. We met demand, but demand has gone at such an extraordinary level, and there's no so much work in the pipeline, that it's appropriate for us to make our transition and incidentally, when we talked about making a transition in the period of time, the solar credits will be applied for, applicable for tomorrow.

DERRYN HINCH: All right now - I think I've got this clear. If somebody who falls between the cracks today, because they didn't get in in time and if the deadline came at 4:30 or 7 o'clock, whichever one it is, they will be able to step up to the new system in a few weeks time? Would that be right?

GARRETT: They'll be able to step up to the new system tomorrow. What we will do is we will secure the passage of the legislation through the Parliament. We want the - obviously we want the Coalition parties to support that, and we will provide in the regulations that from tomorrow, anybody who has applied and is eligible for those Solar Credits meets the guidelines and the like, non-means tested, we'll be able - we'll be entitled to receive those renewable…

DERRYN HINCH: And they may get, they may get - you say they won't get $8,000, they may get between - depending where they live, they may get in Melbourne, they'd get something like six and a half thousand?

GARRETT: They'll get about six and a half thousand for the 1.5 kilowatt system which is the bigger one and around four and a half for the smaller system, and that's transitioning to an industry which has experienced record growth and record applications under the Government. We're very committed to solar. We'll continue that commitment.

DERRYN HINCH: Yeah. All right Mr Garrett, thanks for your time. I appreciate it.

GARRETT: Thanks Derryn.

DERRYN HINCH: Thanks, bye-bye.

Federal Minister for the Environment, Peter Garrett.

Take some of your calls, 96900693 on this. I mean it was announced in a hurry. I noticed that the Environment spokesman, Greg Hunt has accused the Government of quietly [INAUDIBLE] the old rebate. It was expected to go - or the industry was expected to go until June 30. I hope that clears it up.

ENDS

Commonwealth of Australia