Solar panels mounted on minister's office in budget protest

The electoral office of Climate Change Minister Greg Combet was targeted by climate activists this morning. A banner was hung from the roof of the building saying "Make Polluters Pay, Fund Renewable Energy!", and four photovoltaic solar panels were put in place on the building roof.

The protest in Cardiff NSW was to draw attention to the Federal Government winding back funding for solar programs in the budget just at a critical time for the renewables sector and as the Government negotiates implementation of a carbon tax from July 1, 2012. The banner and the panels were later voluntarily removed by the activists.

"We have put these solar panels up on Minister Combet's office to highlight the potential of renewable energy to power the nation," said Rising Tide spokesperson Naomi Hogan. "Australia has an opportunity to raise billions of dollars to go into clean renewable energy, but right now the big polluting companies are trying to make sure all the money stays in their pockets."

"We are calling on Greg Combet to assure the Australian people that the carbon price will actually bring down our pollution and deliver clean renewable energy - not give away funds for more of the same old polluting power." said Hogan "Every dollar that goes back to the billionaire coal companies is a dollar that doesn't go to ordinary Australians or into renewable energy projects."

The 2011 budget cut funding for renewable energy by over $500 million over four years. "On a day when the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change has released a report showing renewables can power 80% of the globe by 2050 with the right support, the Gillard government has shown that it still sees renewables as a cute niche industry, not a substitute for coal." said Greens Deputy leader Senator Christine Milne on May 10 in a media release.

"This is a budget that shows a government completely uninterested in renewable energy," said Senator Milne.

The Australian Solar Energy Society (ASES) said it was a disappointing Federal Budget for the solar industry. Cuts to rennewable energy programs include:

  • the National Solar Schools Program will close on 30 June 2013 with a saving of $156.4 million;
  • Solar Flagships funding will be reduced by $220 million over 2 years from 2012-13;
  • The Connecting Renewables Program will now be a $1.4 million commitment over the next 3 years to support the design phase. ASES said "there should have been $100 million over 4 years, and $1 billion over 10 years. Grid infrastructure investment is a critical component of a clean energy future and this program should have been fast-tracked, not delayed."
  • funding for the $100 million Renewable Energy Venture Capital Fund has been pushed out to 2023-24.

The Federal Government multi-party climate committee is presently consulting with the community and business regarding the compensation packages for the carbon tax. Just under 1000 large companies will be liable to pay the carbon tax with the majority of revenue being distributed back to households to compensate for cost of living rises, according to Greg Combet. The other half of the revenue is up for grabs.

The Government is being lobbied hard to compensate certain 'trade exposed' industries impacted by the carbon tax. Beyond Zero Emissions have called on the Gillard Government to instead fund renewable energy programs. 'The Gillard government must ensure that climate change and renewable energy initiatives get the remaining share of carbon price revenue. These investments are critical for Australia to transition to a zero-carbon economy,' said Matthew Wright from Beyond Zero Emissions.

"Giving the carbon price revenue back to the big polluting companies would completely undermine the purpose of the scheme" said Ms Hogan. "The scheme needs to make big polluters responsible for their pollution, and help Australia transition into a renewable energy future and away from fossil fuels."

"We have put up the panels today to highlight the strong community support for renewable energy. If the government stood up to the clamour of the loud, greedy CEOs of polluting companies, the money could help fund solar on rooftops right across Australia." concluded Ms Hogan.

* Greens MPs media release from Christine Milne, May 10, 2011 - Renewable energy funding - some time next decade
* Rising Tide Newcastle media release, May 15, 2011 - Energy Activists Mount Solar Panels on Climate Minister's Roof
* Australian Solar Energy Society, May 10, 2011 - Budget 2011
* Beyond Zero Emissions, April 13, 2011 - To Secure Climate Credibility, Govt Must Invest Carbon Price Revenue in Clean Tech
* Image Copyright Rising Tide Newcastle