I don't usually like spruiking for the corporate media, but channel 7 is doing something good with their Sunrise solar panel petition. I don't make any comment on the rest of what channel 7 does - I usually avoid it like the plague.
But they're right, a means test on the solar rebate scheme is bloody stupid. There are lots of people out there who want solar panels, but for the rebate, you have to have the money upfront. Not many people on a median wage (~$25,000/annum) have thousands of dollars just lying around. If they have a mortgage, neither do people on an average wage (~$57,000/annum). So means testing the rebate has already meant a massive drop in household solar installations(1).
But a means test could be a good thing. If the government wants to do something that has a real impact, and is actually equitable for people of all socio-economic classes, it should means test. But don't means test down, means test up. For the rich, leave it as it is, or perhaps leave it at $8000 for households on $100k/annum or what ever other arbitrary measure you want, and reduce it in small increments as wages go up. For everyone else, offer an increasing rebate as wages go down, and a low-interest (0%, inflation adjusted) loan>here was a loan something like this in the budget this year (not sure how "low interest"), but only for solar hot-water, and only for a couple of hundred thousand homes(2). Expand this to include all homes and photovoltaics, and by all means means-test the loan.
A good idea might be to cap the loan at a calculated value - say enough to buy a system that could power a small family house - and then offer normal, or slightly lower than normal interest rates for any money needed over that cap. That would allow even mcmansions to go solar, but without encouraging excess energy consumption.
Obviously this solution wouldn't be perfect, but it would sure be better than what's currently on offer. The main thing at this stage is to wean ourselves off fossil fuels at quickly as possible. And that means spending big now - it won't seem like much of a cost later, especially when it pays itself off in a few years anyway.
- Rethink solar rebate, industry urges Govt. (2008, May 17).ABC News. Retrieved June 30, 2008, from http://www.abc.net.au/news/stories/2008/05/17/2247721.htm.
- Simon, D. (2008, May 14). "Green" budget passed and pasted in Australia. Retrieved June 30, 2008, from http://de.indymedia.org/2008/05/217318.shtml.