COAG meeting vague on feed-in tariffs

By Ju Yeon Jung

The latest Council of Australian Governments (COAG) meeting has provided scant details on climate change policy, while hinting some agreements had been made on a national feed-in tariff scheme.

At the meeting, government leaders pledged significant capital injections into education, health and housing sectors, and signed an new Intergovernmental Agreement to better align federal-state financial relations.

With the main focus revolving around staving off the impacts of the global financial crisis, the renewable energy sector has been left wanting for a detailed outcome on a national feed-in tariff scheme. 

According to the COAG communiqué: “COAG agreed to a set of national principles to apply to new feed-in tariff schemes and to inform the reviews of existing schemes. These principles will promote national consistency of schemes across Australia.”

Environmental organisations have long called for the introduction of the feed-in tariff program, which ensures households with solar power systems are paid for any unused renewable electricity they feed back into the power grid.

While most Australian states have or are planning to roll out a feed-in tariff, it is argued the disparate systems fall short of providing a sufficient incentive for people to opt for solar power systems.

The current or proposed rates vary between around 14 to 60 cents per kw/h, with different qualifications set across borders.

In a latest move to introduce a state-based system, NSW recently announced the rollout scheduled for 2009. The specific conditions and rates are yet to be finalised by a task force.

COAG also delayed the establishment of a single policy framework for energy efficiency reform, saying the development process needed more time for consultation.

“COAG also agreed that the determination of streamlined roles and responsibilities under the National Energy Efficiency Strategy and a proposed single overarching framework for accelerating energy efficiency reforms should be deferred for consideration until early 2009 to allow for a more informed strategy in consultation with industry,” it said.

In contrast to Australia’s lukewarm move, the UK last week passed the contentious energy bill, including the introduction of a nationwide feed-in tariff. With the help of the bill, the UK aims to radically cut carbon emissions by 80 per cent by 2050.

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