Changes to solar legislation and what they mean for you

The Clean Energy Finance Corporation has been asked by the federal government to shift their focus away from wind and small scale solar onto other developing renewable technologies like vertical-axis wind turbines or ocean energy. But what does this mean for the average homeowner looking to invest in solar?

Who are the CEFC?

The Clean Energy Finance Corporation act like a traditional financier: they are funded by the federal government with $2 billion a year to aid in the development of clean energy solutions.

What this means is that the CEFC are able to invest in energy programs, so long as they are clean energy, Australian-based, and not a prohibited technology such as nuclear or a technology for carbon capture and storage.

The CEFC has invested predominantly in wind and solar PV technology, and has been involved in some of the biggest development projects in Australia.

The CEFC has invested over $200 million in solar projects, with over $3 billion currently in the pipeline.

What has happened?

Former Treasurer Joe Hockey and Finance Minister Mathias Cormann have written to the CEFC telling them not to invest in small-scale solar and wind power developments.

This comes with the suggestion that they should instead invest in “new and emerging technologies”.

What does this mean?

The letter from the federal government isn’t necessarily binding on the CEFC, as CEFC chairwoman Jillian Broadbent pointed out in a letter to Mr Hockey and Mr Cormann. The act that governs the CEFC states that they need to “facilitate increased flows of finance into the clean energy sector”, rather than solely focus on emerging technologies.

On top of that, the latest investment mandate from March of this year says that the CEFC should “mobilise investment in renewable energy, low-emissions and energy efficiency projects” – not just emerging technologies.

The Renewable Energy Target is still promising at least 33,000 GWh of Australia’s electricity will come from renewable sources by 2020, and this figure requires at least 6000MW of new renewable energy capacity to be built in that time. To put that into perspective, 33,000 GWh is enough electricity to power at least five million average homes for a year, and in the long run could save the average household up to $140 on their bills each year.

What happens next?

The shift in investment doesn’t mean that the CEFC will be doing any less work to support clean energy, though it does mean that their focus may change.

The CEFC are funded under the Clean Energy Finance Bill until 2017, so unless the CEFC is abolished, they will continue to invest in new energy. In fact, the mandate instead pushes for the CEFC to invest in large-scale solar, urging developments of solar plants such as the Nyngan Solar Plant – one of the largest in the southern hemisphere.

For consumers purchasing a solar plan for your home, the change doesn’t mean that solar will become any less available. The sun is still going to be there and panels are still one of the most cost effective ways to use distributed energy.

Solar PV is developed in Australia, and we has one of the highest degrees of penetration for rooftop solar of any country. This number is expected to only increase in the future, as battery storage is introduced and solar PV continues to develop.

Looking for a guide to solar? Read our 5 steps to solar installation.