Solar Wars… Newman’s Class Action Awaits – My Letter To The Premier

I like to try and keep Self Sufficient Me global if I can but please entertain me as I talk domestic for most of this post (what's happening here may well happen in your part of the world too – I'd be interested to know if it is…).

In Australia, specifically in Queensland, the rising cost of living has been a heated debate which shows no sign of cooling in the short term. Unless you live under a rock, most people would know the rising cost of living is a problem not just belonging to Australians and I would agree with some commentators who say Australians have not been hit as hard as other countries (particularly during the GFC).

However, those who tell us (Australians) we have never been better off and are just a bunch of whingers had better close their mouth around that silver spoon before someone finds another orifice to stick it because we're fed up with being skint for cash by large corporations and governments.

Leave struggling solar families alone newman

In QLD, the previous Labor Government introduced a solar rebate scheme to help local industry and to encourage Queenslanders to install a solar PV system in order to reduce their carbon footprint and to save on the rising cost of electricity in this State. The scheme offered a rebate of 44c for every kW of electricity a households PV system generated and sent back to the grid for the expected life of the PV system (25 years). At the time, the cost of buying electricity off the grid was around 23c; therefore, it meant/means households were selling their power back to the grid at twice or more than they were buying it.

Solar PV Rebate a windfall? Hardly

This agreement sounds generous and I'd say it's a fair agreement but nothing more when you take into consideration:

  • Installation Costs – Solar systems were and still are expensive so many households borrowed to pay for the system. Thus, the interest and payments in the first several years and in some cases much longer means the householder either breaks even (or thereabouts) each quarter if the savings in their electricity bill is considered (and their system is big enough).
  • Size – The majority of households with a PV system do not have a system large enough to totally wipe out their electricity bill.
  • Rising costs – Each year the gap between the rebate and the actual cost of electricity gets less because the rebate amount stays constant as the cost of electricity rises.
  • Extra fees – Maintenance and grid upkeep costs increase annually and are added to the consumers bill.

Therefore, considering the above, the majority of the 190,000 Queensland households who have purchased a Solar system really did not do it for a "cash grab." Quite the opposite, they took a rather large risk and trusted the government of the day to honor their agreement by keeping cost of a solar installation viable. In return, jobs in the renewable sector were created and our State became greener and a cleaner energy user.  

When I heard Campbell Newman (our State Premier) blame the rising cost of electricity on people like me (solar PV owners) I was shocked! It reminded me of the odd Officer Commander I would occasionally come across when I was in the military – arrogant – shoot from the hip – untouchable – and usually wrong.

Here is the short letter I sent to the Premier

Dear Sir/Ma'am,

I saw the Premier on the ABC News tonight alluding to changing the solar rebate scheme for those who were able to have their systems installed before the drop down to 8c.

Just want to let you know my family out of desperation due to uncontrolled rising cost of electricity decided to get a LOAN to pay for a solar PV system to meet the deadline so we could "lock in" the 44c rebate.

I have been a Coalition voter since I was 18 years old and I promise never to vote for the coalition again if you change the solar rebate scheme!!!

Furthermore, I will actively seek a class action to be compensated for the damage these prospective changes will cause to me and my family.

I don't think you quite understand how fed-up the community is with politicians promising to curb the cost of living then doing nothing about it.

Your "reducing govt debt argument" is falling on deaf ears and you will be punished at the next election if you continue to pursue this line to justify cutting jobs and breaking agreements.

Like you Premier, I'm an ex-soldier too (21 years) and you've really let the team down – YOU look after your people like you were taught to look after your soldiers don't divide the troops mate just because some bureaucrat tells you all those with solar can afford to give the rebate back – it's just not true.

The words above don't even begin to describe how disappointed I feel about you and your government at the moment…



What others are saying about this issue

Courtesy of the Courier Mail website which has received 1144 comments to date, here’s what some others are saying about Campbell Newman’s bid to reverse the solar rebate agreement for people who had solar power installed under the previous scheme. Note, I've had to re-write their comments to negate direct quoting and avoiding copyright laws.

Knucklehead: “ He hopes they kill the whole scheme.He reckons In NSW the poorer suburbs have hardly any systems, whilst the rich suburbs have a system every two houses! He believes housing commision areas pay much more for power today than millionaires. He says the most efficient solar schemes are the large commercial not the inefficient panels on residential houses. Thinks that: These schemes were always a redistribution of wealth scheme and politically motivated. And, reckons this scheme is unusual for a Labor/Greens government.

Me: Wrong knucklehead… Many people including pensioners, battlers, and people living in poorer suburbs have taken loans to buy and install solar. In many cases, the repayments for this loan only just balance the savings in electricity but it’s still worth it on principal and struggling low/middle class Australians are hoping once they pay their solar loan off they will finally reap the money saving rewards they deserve.

Just because YOU didn’t get off your lazy backside and get solar don’t jealously criticise those that did/are.  

Cool guy: He reckons the comments by Campbell Newman make a joke of Abbotts (the Federal Opposition Leader) promise of 'direct action' to cut greenhouse gases when people who make the change are being penalised. He comments about having had solar hot water since 2006 and this alone reduced his power bill considerably. He was encouraged to put electricity solar panels on the roof by the government and his intention simply was to reduce his bill and do his bit to help the planet, but no he says, the government committees have stuffed it up yet again. He believes the government instead of designing a horse has come up with a camel. He threatens if Newman fiddles with the power rebates he will find that it isn't only the people in NSW who can raise a class action.

Me: Well said mate! I’m in with you on the class action.

Knucklehead 50 something female no kids: She says that she is tired of people crying about electricity costs and wants us all to have a think about what life would be without it. She reckons electricity costs are not so bad when you consider that nowadays every room in every house now has a computer, a tv, sound system, aircon, lights blazing – all the non essential items that run 24/7. She thinks, kids do not play outside anymore, and instead they are inside using gadget after gadget. And she also reckons, the use of electricity is a lifestyle choice and she can guarantee very few people/families actively make an effort to reduce their costs but choose to whinge instead. She believes, most kids, and their parents would not even understand the concept of electricity and is grateful to have it and doesn't mind paying for it!

Me: You selfish out of touch knucklehead.

Knucklehead “I’m a genius CSIRO scientist just ask me”: He say's, those people with solar PVs seem to think that domestic generated electricity can be stored like money in a bank and that their energy is being saved somewhere for use in peak demand times. He comments about being sorry for bursting peoples bubbles and reckons the energy produced by PVs goes into the grid at a time when it is not needed and it can't be stored. He thinks, PVs only produce energy in daylight (at low network load periods), so it has very little practical use and he believes it is generally forgotten that PVs don't work for a period of about 16-17 hours every day and those households with it need to draw power from the grid at the times of peak demand like everyone else. He goes further by saying, if solar PVs were made to compete in a normal business environment (without massive government subsidies, paid for by the taxpayers and other users), they would be shown to be a grossly expensive and inefficient. He keeps going… basically saying solar is a big con.

Me: Stored like money in the bank hey? Well knucklehead, if Newman does keep pushing down the road of making solar households “pay” then he may well be staring down the barrel of people DIY their own battery storage banks in their backyards and indeed storing the energy their solar systems make so it CAN be used at night. Put that in your conspiracy pipe and smoke it.  

Thinker and cool guy: This guy believes, Newman is wrong in declaring only those with high incomes install solar. He says, in his town there are dozens of installations all put in by pensioners who wanted to get their expenses under control. And he reckons, it made sense when the amount you saved was more than what you paid out each month. He goes on to say, the entire power network is flawed because it has no storage system for the excess power it gets back on sunny days. He thinks, more small hydro schemes like Splityard Creek on Wivenho Dam would be ideal. And he comments further saying, all that is required is to pump water up into the dam with the excess power generated during the day and then use the hydro power during peak load. He believes, water used this way is an ideal storage medium and that the alternative is for all with solar power to install battery backup to store energy during the day and a 24 to 240 inverter at night.

Me: You champion! I couldn’t have said that better myself – in fact, I would have never even thought of such a great idea. Are you running for Premier next election? Because, I’m voting for YOU!

Very angry cool guy: He starts by saying, how he shelled out thousands on a solar system based on a government guarantee. He said, if the government renege or shift the goalposts after the contracts have been signed and the money paid, as far as he is concerned this will be THEIR, 'There will be no carbon tax under a government I lead' moment. He believes, this will be a game changer, and easily enough for him to change his vote to Labor, both state and federal. He was NOT told other users would be subsidising his bill, he was told the reason for the generous tariff was because he would be feeding locally produced, excess power back into the grid, which he feels that he is doing, thus SAVING the government from having to upgrade the grid, and he also thought this excess power would SAVE them from having to build new power stations. He goes on to say, he saw McArdle interviewed on the news last week, and the minister said there is no way he would allow pensioners to subsidise those with solar. The origional author of this post reckons the minister has not even considered how many actual pensioners, or those with retirement looming, would be the ones who had a system fitted and are now paying that system off because they wanted to be able to turn on a bloody fan in summer, or a heater in winter? He states he will DEFINITELY sign up to a class action over this, and believes "he" is NOT to blame.

Me: Well put, I agree it's a vote changer… you better listen Can Do.

Uneducated knucklehead: In a brief comment says, clearly judging by the comments, there are some solar panel owners that have no conscience. Asks the question, contract or no contract, do solar owners really feel comfortable having those less fortunate than themselves supporting their lifestyle.

Me: Clearly, you lack the knowledge to comment. Lifestyle? Oh yeah, my PV system allows me to quit work and go on holidays…

Cool lady from battler suburb: She says, that she doesn't believe any of the sh#t. And said, tens of thousands of houses are feeding clean energy into the grid and no more costly power stations have had to be built. Also says, the problem with our ridiculously costly power is all the layers of grubs that think they can make a fortune out of it because its an essential commodity not a luxury. She says, her family went without for a long time to be able to afford solar and they are not well off but she had a contract and she warns if they dabble with it she will be the first to line up for a class action!

Me: Go get’em girl! I’m totally with you on the greedy grubs.

Green view guy: Reckons, Campbell Newman and his ministers do not believe in the science of climate change. He thinks if they did they did understand, they would know the scientific consensus that using fossil fuels for energy is driving our climate into dangerous territory. He believes, Queenslanders already know what extreme weather events can do. And warns us to expect worse if we continue to pump carbon pollution into the atmosphere. He says, renewable energy is the only safe alternative and it is available now. And that, solar PV puts energy into the grid reducing the need for new infrastructure. He goes on to comment about how Campbell wants to bring down the renewable energy industry and our children will pay for years to come.

Me: Tend to agree mate, well said.

Hates everyone Jan: She said, all the whiners bleating here that its not fair having a subsidy for solar panels, guess what , nothing is fair. She believes, the same low income whiners get many benefits paid by those better off, and why should those who are better off continually subsidies solar owners? She says, if you want it to be fair, stop child support, rent assist, unemployment benefits etc etc, and then she reckons things will be fair. She also thinks, Australians are a bunch of whiny, immature, self centred bad sports. And, doesn't think it's the "lucky country" at all but it's become the most overpriced, overtaxed, over governed nation on earth, populated with greedy worthless politicians and an apathetic general population.

Me: OK Jan, time for a gin…

Logical guy: He says, that the other states also threatened to pass retrospective laws, the public revolt and the potential class action saw the end of that. He reckons, if everyone gets on board, this government will do the same. He says, the people of QLD want honesty and consistency and they made decisions to borrow money to invest based on the terms and conditions on offer from the government of the day. He believes, most solar PV owners will not get a return for up to 10 years. And say, the QLD government has effectively killed the industry when they were elected and reduced the feed in tariff to 8 cents. But he then says, at least those people knew what they were getting into…… Finally he said, the government will pass retrospective laws at their peril.

Me: Agree, should be an interesting few months debating this solar rebate issue – I’m predicting a backdown from the LNP threat to ditch the rebate for those who already have the solar agreement under the previous government solar scheme.

Edit: After the QLD State Budget was released on Tue 4th June 2013, a statement was made by the energy minister confirming solar households will NOT be incurring any extra fees nor will the rebate scheme be altered for existing contracts. Nice to here… Public pressure is a beautiful thing 🙂

You can make a comment below or join our forum and go to the "energy" section post a thread and start a conversation there if you wish.

Mark Valencia Editor SSM

Look, and see the Earth through her eyes…


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