Prime Minister Tony Abbott has enraged environmentalists with comments suggesting the federal government is looking to cut the renewable energy target (RET), although the news might not be entirely bleak for small businesses that install panels.
In an interview on ABC Radio, Abbott said the renewable energy target has “a very significant impact” on power prices, impacting adversely on the competitiveness of energy-intensive industries.
“The point I’ve been making pre-election and post-election is that the renewable energy target is very significantly driving up power prices,” Abbott said.
“I think we should be the affordable energy capital of the world, not the unaffordable capital of the world, and that’s why the carbon tax must go and that’s why we’re reviewing the renewable energy target.”
The Prime Minister’s comments come amidst reports of pressure to exclude aluminium smelters from the target, as well as a government review of the scheme.
The comments also come at a difficult time for a number of small businesses in the solar panel installation industry.
In June, The Solar Guys, a Queensland-based family-run solar panel installation business, collapsed into liquidation as the domino effect of a recent recall of Avanco-branded solar power circuit breakers.
During the same month, South Australian solar panel installers Gotta Getta Group received a $20,400 fine from consumer watchdog the ACCC, which alleged the company engaged in misleading advertising.
Meanwhile, earlier this year, a group of companies trading Euro Solar and WEMA were ordered to pay combined penalties of $125,000 by the ACCC for using fake testimonials.
Despite the gloom surrounding the sector, sustainability expert and Pangolin Associates joint managing director Iain Smale told SmartCompany any changes to the RET would predominantly affect larger operators.
“We’re seeing growth in the space…Clive Palmer [supporting the RET] adds certainty to the sector,” says Smale.
“I think at a domestic level, people will be purely looking at the bottom line… At a business level, the number one consideration is what the payback will be for solar – taking into account expenses and costs – over four or five years.”
“Really, the RET predominantly impacts on larger systems feeding a large amount of energy into the grid.”