Sunday, March 25, 2012

Federal Solar Hot Water Scheme to Close

The federal government is closing a rebate scheme that has provided $320 million to householders who install more environmentally-friendly hot water systems.

Junior climate change minister Mark Dreyfus says Labor's renewable energy bonus scheme will close at the end of June - but systems must be ordered by Tuesday.

Under the scheme the government offers rebates of $1000 to install a solar hot water system or $600 to install a heat pump hot water system.

Mr Dreyfus said to date 250,000 households had replaced older more carbon-polluting hot water systems under the scheme.

"To be eligible for the rebate before the scheme closes systems must be installed, ordered (and a deposit paid) or purchased on or before February 28," Mr Dreyfus said in a statement.

"Applications lodged up to June 30 will continue to be processed. Applications received after June 30, 2012 will not be eligible."

Mr Dreyfus said the Gillard government was continuing to support households to install climate-friendly hot water systems through the small-scale renewable energy scheme.

The Australian Greens were quick to criticise the government's decision to wind up the scheme.

Deputy leader Christine Milne said it shouldn't have been cancelled on Tuesday evening without any notice when it was scheduled to be phased out in the middle of the year.

"This scheme should have been extended, not cancelled early, particularly not at such ridiculously short notice and with no reasons given whatsoever," Senator Milne said in a statement.

"This decision demonstrates the government hasn't learned the lessons of the stop-start rooftop solar schemes, the green loans debacle and so many other examples through the Gillard, Rudd and Howard years."

Senator Milne said the solar hot water industry had invested in stock, parts and production schedules and the decision to axe the scheme "treats all those investments with contempt".

Opposition climate action spokesman Greg Hunt later accused the government of committing "solar vandalism" by shutting down the hot water rebate scheme after shops had closed on Tuesday.

"In a repeat of the damaging sudden closure of the solar panel rebates by then minister Peter Garrett the Labor Government has again, without notice, abandoned a key solar program," Mr Hunt said in a statement.

"This will be devastating for families who had been contemplating installing a solar hot water system."

The opposition spokesman said it was contradictory for Labor to scrap the solar scheme when it was happy to slug families with a carbon tax from July.


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