On 14 August 2008, I joined Greens MP Lee Rhiannon, as part of the Pollies for Small Business program, at the premises Solar Newcastle and its Director Adam Dalby and the Hunter Business Chamber CEO Peter Shinnick.
Solar Newcastle is a locally owned and operated business, that installs solar panels for residential and commercial customers.
The visit was opportune, particularly since the federal government slashed the solar rebate. By means testing the rooftop solar rebate the federal government injured the solar industry at a time when it should be encouraging its growth.
The Hunter is at a fork in the road - governments can choose to support renewables like solar which are reliable, clean and limitless or remain stuck in the dirty, polluting coal age. With its abundant sunshine the Hunter has enormous potential to harness solar energy, moving it away from a reliance on coal.
The slashing of the solar rebate was like a hit and run for the solar industry which comprises many small businesses. Families in Newcastle whose income is over $100,000 who are keen to do their bit for the planet are being discouraged from installing solar panels.
The Greens are calling for national feed-in laws to give certainty for solar businesses, households wanting to install solar panels and commercial investors.