Byron talks solar as poles and wires selloff vote looms

Professor Tim Flannery says the Abbott government's approach to the solar revolution is 'grim'. Photo Herald-Sun

Professor Tim Flannery says the Abbott government’s approach to the solar revolution is ‘grim’. Photo Herald-Sun

A major symposium in Byron shire tomorrow featuring climate scientist and author Tim Flannery puts the spotlight firmly on the solar revolution and community-driven renewable-energy projects.

It comes just a week before NSW votes on the coalition’s plan to sell-off the state’s publicly-owned electricity network (the ‘poles and wires’) and follows moves for the north coast to have a community-owned regional electricity retailer.

Professor Flannery will be joined at the Byron Solar Revolution forum in Tyagarah by some of Australia’s leading thinkers as well as regional experts in community solar power.

The symposium, also featuring Giles Parkinson, editor of the independent website and Colin George, CEO of the Australian Sustainability Institute, will have solar-technology displays and even a locally-built solar-powered car for test drives.

The symposium will be held at the Byron Eco Park, Grays Lane, Tyagarah, from 2pm-6pm. Byron shire mayor Simon Richardson will also speak on local government’s role in the solar and renewable-energyrevolution.

Professor Flannery told media this week that Australia was well behind other countries in developing clean-energy technologies, yet Australian households had embraced rooftop solar at an unprecedented rate.

But the internationally-acclaimed scientist said the Abbott government’s commitment to big projects was quite the reverse, describing the coalition government’s approach to climate change and renewable energy as ‘grim’.

Professor Flannery told APN Media that as a result of the prime minister’s regressive stance on the Renewable Energy Target (RET), just last year alone Australia lost out on $1.8 billion in foreign investment into large-scale renewable projects.

‘We have a very high reliance on a very polluting, antiquated electricity system. Some of our coal-fired stations are the most polluting in the developed world,’ he said.

He told APN that regional communities were keen on renewable energy because they could keep their profits local instead of funding ‘head offices’ in the capitals, and this was where solar technology was helping out in a big way.

He said Australia should be taking advantage of its massive solar resource, and new (battery) storage units coming onto the Australian market were affordable for most people.

The issue takes on more significance this week as the coalition in WA has flagged it will slug solar households with higher fixed network charges as it seeks to reign in its massive budget deficit and deals with large subsidies to the main energy retailer.’s Mr Parkinson wrote this week that ‘WA currently subsidises the cost of electricity to consumers – which in WA is almost entirely fossil-fuelled – to the tune of more than $300 million a year.

‘It has flagged higher fixed network charges – or possibly the introduction of demand charges – to try to reduce the subsidy and address declining revenue caused by falling demand, the result of an increase in rooftop solar and energy efficiency,’ he said.

‘But it is also flagging that those fixed network charges might be higher for households with rooftop solar. Right now, there are 175,000 homes with rooftop solar in WA, with a total of 430MW installed.’ (see for full story)

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