As we prepare to fire up our barbeques for Australia Day, I’d like to take a moment to reflect on the state of the clean energy industry in Australia and the things we can celebrate.
1. Things are looking up for solar
At the start of 2014, we faced a hostile Australian government, seemingly hell-bent on dismantling every piece of legislation intended to address climate change and sustainability. Much like the atomic era’s ‘armageddon clock,’ the team at Green Energy Trading was diligently updating a sentiment index of environmental policy settings and, by May, things were looking grim.
After the decidedly one-sided Warburton review delivered its findings, Abbott looked to have the numbers to decimate the renewable energy target (RET) along with the carbon tax, not to mention ARENA and the CEFC. Adding to these woes in Victoria, our hugely successful energy efficiency scheme was also under fire from the Napthine coalition.
While many dedicated individuals and organisations, such as the Solar Council and Clean Energy Council, were lobbying hard for the continuance of the RET, Clive Palmer experienced his very own Damascus Road conversion uniting with Al Gore to declare the Palmer United Party firmly opposed to any changes to it. And with Labor and the Greens’ staunch support, the RET remained untouched in 2014 and is looking in a good position to retain another strong target in 2015.
These developments, combined with other policy changes and commentary, ensured our sentiment index ended up in a much better place and today we can be thankful for a more optimistic RET outlook.
2. Energy efficiency has got a serious boost
It’s good news all round for those working in the energy efficiency field. The convincing win in the Victorian state election by Labor put an end to the coalition’s promise to phase out the VEET scheme by the end of 2014. Markets responded to this optimism by climbing to levels not seen for 12 months, and there are signs of a strong resurgence of interest in commercial and residential lighting activities.
North of the border, the NSW Energy Savings Scheme is also enjoying a positive outlook, with environment minister Rob Stokes announcing in November that the scheme is to be extended to 2025, and the target is to be expanded to help businesses and homeowners to save on their gas bills.
The most exciting news, though, may be the expected provisions within the emissions reduction fund, incorporating methodologies for popular energy efficiency activities, such as commercial lighting and project based assessments. What does this mean? Basically a national energy efficiency scheme, which will support energy savings in all states and territories, is now within reach.
3. The solar market is innovating
Despite the political headwinds our industry faces, I am constantly amazed by our industry’s ability to innovate and grow. This year, aside from the continued improvements in technology, like export control and storage, there have been two key areas where businesses have shown their willingness to change and adapt.
The first is in commercial systems. As recently as two years ago, commercial systems (which we call systems over 10kw) were a blip on the figures, just a couple of per cent of total installations. Fast forward to 2014, and we saw commercial systems rise to over 25 per cent of installed capacity in some states. I’m grateful to have seen so many great solar companies make the changes needed to their processes, GST treatment and funding arrangements to enter this market successfully.
Many of these businesses have also taken the step of offering finance to system owners, supercharging the return on investment and delivering cash flow positive results from day one. It has been our privilege to work with a number of these businesses, helping build their capability in this exciting, yet often confusing new space.
So as we gather our chops and sausages for the long weekend ahead, let’s be primed to face another challenging year with the spirit of optimism and excitement which characterises our industry.
Happy Australia Day.