Workers install solar panels on a 36,000 square meters solar panel installation, the largest in the world, spread over five hangars at a farm, used as a giant roof in Weinbourg, Eastern France on March 4, 2009. The solar panels will yield 4,5 Megawwats a year, which will enable to provide energy for a city of 4,000, said Mr Westphal, a farmer who is behind the project.
Workers install solar panels on a 36,000 square meters solar panel installation, the largest in the world, spread over five hangars at a farm, used as a giant roof in Weinbourg, Eastern France on March 4, 2009. The solar panels will yield 4,5 Megawwats a year, which will enable to provide energy for a city of 4,000, said Mr Westphal, a farmer who is behind the project.

Assistance for solar bonus scheme

THE State Government will spend the next two weeks working out the details of hardship assistance for those who signed Solar Bonus Scheme contracts, but yesterday ruled out tampering with the proposed cut to the feed-in tariff.

State Clarence MP Steve Cansdell said after a “robust” Coalition meeting yesterday, MPs reluctantly agreed to proceed with the controversial changes after they were told of a $755 million “shortfall” in the scheme's funding.

“They listened to us and there is always concern when things are ret-rospective – we will lose some integrity on this,” Mr Cansdell said, ruling out crossing the floor of Parliament on the issue.

“When you are in Opposition you can yell and blame and scream, but when you are in government if you have a black hole you have to find the money.”

There has been a massive public backlash following the CoalitionGovernment's announcement it would retrospectively change the scheme, slashing the feed-in tariff that homeowners are paid for the electricity they generate from 60 cents a kilowatt hour to 40 cents.

Mr Cansdell described it as a “tough” decision, adding his office had been inundated with more than 200 emails opposing the change.

“The simple fact is many people feel betrayed,” he said.

The media adviser to Ballina MP and Minister for Local Government Don Page, said Mr Page could not comment on the issue as he was a minister and all statements had to be made by the Premier or Energy Minister.

Mr Page's electorate has one of the highest uptakes of the scheme, with Alstonville installing thesecond-highest number of panels across NSW.

Lismore Nationals MP Thomas George was in the speaker's chair yesterday and unavailable for comment.

After yesterday's Coalition meeting, Premier Barry O'Farrell said the Government recognised financial assistance may be needed to help some people who invested in solar panels in good faith.

“We want those who invested in the scheme to get a fair return while protecting families across NSW from higher electricity prices,” he said.

News of the hardship provision came as it was reported Sydney law firm Neville and Hourn was organising a class-action on behalf of 1000 complainants.

Australian Solar Energy Society chief executive John Grimes said the hardship package could open up the Government up to a compensation bill from 120,000 people.


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