Wednesday, May 28

Letter to Kevin Rudd: please change the solar power rebate


Hi Mr Rudd,

First, congratulations on the first few months. Generally, you've made me proud I voted Labor - the reconciliation apology in particular was awesome.

I'm generally in favour of means testing - I think a well designed means test used appropriately ensures fairness and makes sure public money is allocated efficiently and equitably.

However, I don't think your announced means test on the solar panel installation rebate is well designed, or being used appropriately. It also conflicts directly with your 20% renewable energy target.

As a family of three we've already spent thousands of dollars of our own money to minimise our use of water and power and reduce our waste output. In each case, it's been simple to demonstrate that the expense will pay for itself soon enough to make it worthwhile, even without the benefit to the environment.

We're keen to take the same step with solar electricity generation and would like to aim for generating 30% of our electricity via solar. However, to make the economics work, we'd need a sensible rebate, and even the maximum rebate on offer would leave us waiting 15 years to see that investment pay off. Have you ever seen any kind of modern technology last 15 years unrepaired or replaced? No. It needs to repay itself much sooner than that.

That's bad enough, but the means test you've introduced means we're not eligible for the rebate at all, which means it would be financial lunacy for us to do it. Your means test drives away the very high income families who might consider installing a solar power system. Doh!

A good mate of mine was the CEO of Australian solar startup, Ausra, which the Howard government drove overseas by failing to support the development of a local renewable energy industry. Now I'm very disappointed to see the Rudd government making it even harder for a renewable energy industry to grow by driving rebate-motivated customers like me away and instead wasting money on the mirage of ''clean coal'' technologies.

I can forgive a few early slip-ups - you're a new government and it's a tough job - but I'd like to see you admit to your mistakes and correct them quickly once it's clear you've made them. Ignore the media and the opposition reaction - the opposition are a sad joke and you have mandate enough to make - and undo - many more mistakes without jeopardising your re-election chances. That won't be true in three years time, so please act now.

Keep up the good work,

- alan

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