Solar city plan under threat

Solar heating at the Lismore Memorial Baths.
Solar heating at the Lismore Memorial Baths.

THE progress of Lismore City Council's push to rely on 100% renewable electricity by 2023 could be stopped in its tracks if changes to the national Renewable Energy Target (RET) go ahead.

There has been mounting speculation the RET, which helps subsidise rooftop solar and reduce the wholesale cost of electricity, will be weakened following a review led by climate change sceptic Dick Warburton

The council's proposed community solar farm, a key project of the renewable goal, would have to be "fully reviewed" according to Starfish Initiatives' Adam Blakester, who is co-ordinating the collaborative project.

The proposed farm would install the largest solar system in the region on the roofs of the Lismore sewage treatment plant and the Goonellabah Sports and Aquatic Centre

"If the RET changes significantly we would need to review the project fully," Mr Blakester said.

"It will mean re-crunching the financial model.

Mr Blakester said the subsidies currently in place as a result of the RET were expected to provide between 20-30% of the income of the proposed project. "It's a very significant financial aspect of these projects," he said.

Sharyn Hunnisett, Lismore City Council's environmental strategies officer, said any changes to the RET could have a "catastrophic" effect on the 100% renewable goal.

"A lot of the projects we would be looking at implementing in the short term wouldn't be economically viable," she said.

"We really want them to leave the target as it is. It just creates investment uncertainty."

Mr Blakester described uncertainty over the future of the RET as a "massive handbrake" on the wider renewable energy industry, citing the wind industry virtually stopping in its tracks two years ago.

"It really is incredibly serious and incredibly disappointing," he said.

"Is that what we want for our nation and our children and the world... statistically there's a super majority of Australians that say no.

"It's extraordinary to think that the wishes of a super-majority are not followed through by our purportedly elected representatives."

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