Brace yourself for Solargeddon

18 Aug, 2014

OK, here’s the bad news.

Despite all our efforts, despite the jobs losses, despite the facts, despite the undeniable climate logic, tragically now I fear that Solargeddon is a big step closer.

As an advisor to solar businesses across the country and around the world, unless we are blessed with a shock announcement from our Prime Minister I now hold very little hope for the survival of the RET.

I have been warning all my clients to be very cautious about major investments or at least investments that can’t quickly be scaled back for most of the year, citing the need to understand the implications of the RET review. Based on news reports and unfathomable yet persistent diatribe from Government and its senior advisors I am officially moving my solar industry survival alert radar to Code Red.

Batten your hatches, tighten your belts and halt your spending for now.

There is only a single logical place to spend your money right now and that is on a campaign war against Government on this issue. It may not change the outcome (although we still have a strong chance), but one thing is sure; if we stand here waiting we will be overwhelmed.  We need to stand up and be counted and rally every single consumer we can muster to show the Government at a minimum that axing the RET is going to cost them 4 Million votes. Its going to cost them in the near term at a State level and in less than 24 months time, they will be reminded at a  Federal level by the most powerful voting bloc in Australia’s history. The Solar Citizen.

Now I get that many of us have already invested in campaigns both financially and in time. The Government is praying that we can’t keep up the cost of this fight and that we will be swamped, but we need not be.

If you work in solar, if you have solar or if you want solar, stand up.

There is good news, I hasten to add.

There are things we can do and things that on this issue are hugely in our favour. Here’s our list.

Things you can do that are low cost:

  • Email every customer you have on your database and implore them to sign a petition, write a letter or call their local member. If every solar business put one of your staff on this task this week, we could swamp the electoral offices.
  • Every solar business in Australia’s Managing Director should call their local member this week. Don’t delay, its ten minutes of your time and could save your business.
  • Use social media to extend your reach. Social media is low cost and reaches a very wide section of cross section of the community. Email campaigns, Facebook, Instagram, Twitter and LinkedIn can all help. Make sure the community knows what the Government is trying to do.
  • Call your local journalist and tell them you have a “huge and important issue to talk about”. Describe who you are, what you have invested, how many staff you have and what is at risk if the industry collapses.

Things you can do that cost a little money:

  • Divert your marketing budget for the next 30 days to RET campaign supporters. The Australian Solar Council, Solar Citizens, Greenpeacethe Clean Energy Council, GetUp and the REC Agents Association have all made huge contributions and efforts and can all leverage your money to get more results than we individually can right now.
  • If you advertise regularly in your local paper, change your ad to a public call to support the RET and point readers to where they can find out more or attend events.
  • Attend an event. Events make a difference because everyone who bolsters the numbers strengthens the message. As a general principle, every single extra attendee can influence 20 people who didn’t make it.
  • Embed the Save Solar video on the front page of your web site (I’ve just done it to mine) or add some of the infographics that you can easily find with google searches

If you need materials, fact pacts or templates, contact any one of the bodies mentioned above for help and resources. I’ll help where I can too and have a previous guide here and helped develop a Fact Pack for SolarJuice which you can find here.

I’m very much like many of you; a small business making ends meet with no spare cash and I’m dependent on the solar industry for survival. At minimal cost I  have managed to attend events, done research, speak to my local members office, write letters, signed petitions, made submissions, post blogs, send email campaigns, pull fact packs together and even educate a politician or two. I even signed a pledge for a monthly donation.

We can win this issue and the single biggest thing we have in our favour is the millions of people in our industry and who are powered by solar.

There is one other final point I would like to make. Inevitably, it is all too often the same businesses who over and over again support this type of activity, despite how essential it is for the greater survival of the industry.

The businesses that are actively supporting campaign activity are readily identifiable and that means that its also pretty obvious who is simply sitting back and riding everyone else’s coat tails. Some are small business but many are large businesses who stand to benefit substantially from the efforts of many others who are contributing.

When its all said and done, no matter which way the result goes I would reasonably anticipate that solar dealers will support those who supported the industry’s survival when it counted most and also that consumers will choose companies who have  demonstrated a willingness to support the communities interests, not just their own.

To start the ball rolling on this issue, I hereby invite every solar business who HAS made a contribution to reply to this blog with examples of what you have done and I’ll put it up here for the world to see. 

 

 

 

 

Post expires at 2:28pm on Tuesday August 18th, 2015

About the author

Nigel Morris
Nigel Morris

Nigel is the Director of SolarBusinessServices. After almost 20 years working for other companies SbS Director Nigel Morris, established the company in 2009 with a view to providing other organisations with the benefits of his wide experience in the renewable energy industry.

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21 Comments

  1. August 19, 2014

    Nigel, well done to you for talking an active role throughout the RET review process.

    At SMA Australia, we have been actively petitioning to #savetheRET. We have a dedicated web page available: http://www.sma-australia.com.au/en_AU/news-information/renewable-energy-target-review.html and have been active on Facebook and Twitter. Additionally, we have sent information emails and encouraged industry players to take action. Lucy Clayton, who looks after our communications is our internal champion.

    Our Managing Director, Mark Twidell, is also Deputy Chair of the CEC so we have been aligning closely with their activities. We are one of the local Solar Cluster champions.

    • Nigel Morris
      August 20, 2014

      Awesome to hear that a manufacturer is investing in the long term survival of the industry. I saw Mark personally doing a community event just last Saturday night on a wet and dark evening too, so kudos to SMA!

  2. August 20, 2014

    Hi Nigel, inspiring post hope we can all fight the good fight. For my part I have arranged on 2 occasions meeting with a local environmental group known as ECCA ( Environmentally Concerned citizens of Orange ) to talk about the RET and my part in the industry as well as what I stand to lose. These guys have also taken up the fight with letters to the editor as well as local members.. Good luck to all of us

    Rob

    • Nigel Morris
      August 20, 2014

      Rob,

      Outstanding work mate and it goes to show that small businesses can have a widespread impact too without a huge cost, fantastic work. Engaging with the community and doing public talks is exactly the way to rally Solar Citizens and letter writing is gold. Five stars! Make sure you remember to tell your potential customers how you have been doing such committed work on your web site

  3. Nigel Morris
    August 20, 2014

    I also got this response from the good guys at SolarJuice via email which I’m posting on their behalf:

    Hi Nigel

    Solar Juice has taken an active role in providing its loyal customers with a discount for demonstrating their involvement in campaigning to support the RET. We have also taken on an active role in advocacy by supporting lobbying activities to try and deliver the facts about the benefits the RET has provided to Australians and would continue to do so if left in place.

    We believe the current policy framework allows for the RET to be phased out in 2020 which gives business sufficient time to ensure a smooth transition. A premature, knee jerk reaction to this now would result in enormous disruption to business, consumers and workers involved in one of the fastest growth industries and be a political time bomb.

    Andrew Burgess

    • Nigel Morris
      August 20, 2014

      Solar Juice are a great example of how to get creative in this campaign and their email to me undersells the enormous efforts and investments they made. They came up with a clever strategy to incentivise marketing support for their customers towards RET activities, created a Fact Pack so that they all had concise information and ran concerted and consistent campaigns across their entire dealership. They also made numerous visits to politicians and financially contributed to many campaigns.

      Is there another wholesaler out there that can beat this level of engagement and investment ?

  4. August 20, 2014

    I completely agree Nigel, I have been running a non stop social media campaign on my personal social media pages and asking every friend I have to help me out and make people aware of how ludicrous this situation is.

    It doesn’t cost much and is quite powerful in my opinion. nothing like getting some debate going to get FB to think its something it should show others in the feed ;)

    we have to be prepared to stand up and do something.

    leon

    • Nigel Morris
      August 20, 2014

      Leon

      Nice! Using the power of friends and family to help engage on this issue is an ideal way for small business to invest and FB is a tool just begging for use this way. Clever work, good on you.

  5. August 20, 2014

    Good work Nigel. And we agree everyone needs to pull together to make a difference. On our part we have done a considerable amount of localised contact direct to the general public, particularly to support the Australian Solar Council rally in our district this week; written to politicians and used social media using both Facebook and LinkedIn to assist in getting the message out. For us this effort has been ongoing now for some time. This is contribution even small companies such as us can do

    • Nigel Morris
      August 20, 2014

      Doug

      Great to hear! Supporting organisations and helping out with rally’s by volunteering staff is an awesome activity and really helpful. I have been blown away with the time people give at lots of events I’ve been to, fantastic!

  6. August 20, 2014

    Support your efforts 100% Nigel. I shall be compiling an email to our database this week. Never under estimate the power of public opinion!

  7. August 20, 2014

    Completely agree Nigel! It is all about power in numbers and making sure we are all accountable for spreading the word!

    Since June (this year), Solar Choice has written and published over 15 articles in relation to the RET (http://www.solarchoice.net.au/blog/?s=RET) . We are also extremely active on Social Media (both Twitter & Facebook) as well as frequently emailing & informing our database of over 70,000 customers across the country of the importance of its survival.

    As well as the above Solar Choice has also directly contributed financially to a number of campaigns.

    The onus is on all of us within the renewable industry to contribute in one way or another to ensure the RET stays!

    • Nigel Morris
      August 20, 2014

      Rob

      Thanks for your feedback. Its great to hear that SolarChoice are contributing and leveraging the assets you have; your database is powerful weapon for good!

  8. August 20, 2014

    Great work Nigel. Solar couldn’t ask for a better advocate to shake things up and get the industry engaged.

    The Enphase team is engaged on social media, promoting across the major networks. We’re also supporting one of our installers, Going Solar, alongside Australian Conservation Foundation for their Cuppa Sunshine event on Friday morning. Solar industry representatives as well as government, non-profit, and environment editors from major press will be there to see strong support for solar and the RET. We’re proud to be part of it!

    In addition, the event will launch ACF’s new solar system powered by Winaico and Enphase, on the roof of their iconic 60L Green Building.

    http://www.goingsolar.com.au/blog/9am-friday-22-august-60l-have-cuppa-sunshine-save-ret

    Keep up the brilliant work! #SavetheRET

    • Nigel Morris
      August 22, 2014

      Niiiice! Engaging with groups like ACF & Going Solar is a fabulous way to spread the word, saw your boss interviewed in several broadsheet newspapers too.

      Keep it Rockin!

  9. August 22, 2014

    Hi Nigel and everybody heavily concerned about the RET review.
    Please see below my email copy (unedited) and the Ministers response below. 22/8/14

    Terry, thank you for your email regarding the Australian Government’s review of the Renewable Energy Target and I would like to remind you that I’ve been part of the process every step of the way since RET was established by the Liberal/National Party Howard Coalition Government at 14 years ago.

    Ensuring Australia’s energy security and addressing long-term questions relating to energy policy are a key priority for the Australian Government. Australia is blessed with a diverse energy mix which incorporates a broad mix of generation sources including renewable energy. The Government is working to ensure that appropriate frameworks are in place to enable Australia’s energy markets deliver efficient outcomes that are in the long term interests of consumers. This is essential for Australia’s economic competitiveness and for our high national standard of living.

    The RET creates a financial incentive for the deployment of renewable energy in Australia and has already underpinned billions of dollars of investment in renewable energy technology. By January 2014, Australia had installed more than two million small scale renewable energy systems under the RET. The scheme has also been a primary driver of investment in large scale renewables, predominantly wind energy. The cost of new technology, however, tends to fall over time as the technology becomes available more widely. This has been occurring for wind turbines and solar photovoltaic panels since 2009. Since the establishment of the RET, Australia’s energy market has also experienced a decline in electricity consumption which has reduced the need for further investment in large scale generation.

    The Government committed to an independent review of the RET to ensure that the scheme is working efficiently and effectively. The Review examined the broader impacts of the RET, including its costs and benefits, while managing sovereign risk for renewable energy investors. The independent panel which conducted the Review has engaged in significant consultation with business and the community in an open and transparent process.

    The Panel has sought and received around 1,000 general submissions and over 23,000 campaign submissions from the public and industry. These are available on the Review website at http://www.retreview.dpmc.gov.au. It has also conducted more than 100 face to face meetings with over 200 different stakeholders. The Review has been supported by a secretariat based in the Department of Prime Minister and Cabinet involving specialists from the Departments of Environment and Industry. A report has been recently presented to the Government, and it will be considered and released in the coming weeks.

    The Government has also committed to releasing an Energy White Paper that will set out an integrated and coherent position on energy to support a stable and predictable policy environment to give households and businesses confidence about their energy future. More information can be found at http://ewp.industry.gov.au/.

    As I have been the person responsible for the Energy Portfolio for the Coalition since the RET began and have been part of every negotiation on the RET since, I understand the issue better than most and remain confident we will get the balance right.

    Thanks you for contacting me on this matter.

    Regards
    Ian
    Ian Macfarlane MP
    Minister for Industry
    Federal Member for Groom
    From: Terry Davis [mailto:terry.davis@excelsolar.com.au]
    Sent: Friday, 22 August 2014 1:48 PM
    To: Macfarlane, Ian (MP)
    Subject: Contact from Toowoomba Excel Solar Terry Davis

    Hello Ian,

    Thank you for your time and consideration.

    I am aware that the Prime Minster is likely going to scale back or abolish the RET.

    I wish to voice my concern to you, our local member, as a local employee that the renewable Energy Target via the STC and LGC scheme is integral to our continued success and local employment.

    Our employees, company and many clients, with over ten thousand solar systems installed on the Darling Downs 20% of residents, on the Darling Downs, cant not support any MP who is seeking to undermine to scale back the target. It has been a helping hand in getting our industry to move from never considered technology to viable options.

    We will collectively support a block to a scale back of the RET.
    These are your people, in your electrocute. Please gather peoples view , who have a solar PV system or a solar hotwater system,what they think about the environment , the energy charges, the technology, and if they would have self purchased without the help of the RET.

    The RET adds very little to the end user energy cost and is beneficial to all in QLD and Australia. It is not directly paid by the government , it is paid via liable entities. The reduction the the RET will not save any money on the Budget.

    Ian please voice our concerns to the Prime Minister , many thousands of jobs across QLD will be lost and locally many companies and customers are totally disillusioned.

    I have two very large prestigious private schools, who are willing to close a deal , that involves commercial solar systems but will not with the RET under review of being scaled back. Consistency and clarity is required.

    At the moment Excel Solar is taking on international renewable works, also due to this concern, and as a company owner should the RET be scaled down or abolished we could likely move our operation, as the work wont be here but is overseas.

    Points of interest , to be raised which I hope you are aware of are

    The Renewable Energy Target works. The introduction of the RET has created thousands of jobs, and has boosted investment in renewable energy by $10.6 billion. It’s also critical for reducing Australia’s emissions, and necessary to reduce the impacts of global warming. 2

    We can’t afford to scale back the RET. Modelling suggests a softer RET could in fact cause wholesale energy prices to rise an average of 15 per cent and retail prices 2.5 per cent by 2030, adding around $80 a year to the typical household electricity bill.2 Even former Victorian Liberal Party power broker Michael Kroger has even chimed in to agree with the cost savings of the RET, saying that “renewables are in fact driving competition and driving lower prices in the energy sector”, and that “the RET, quite frankly, is good for consumers.” 3

    The Renewable Energy Target has long been a bipartisan policy, having been conceived by the Howard government, and it should stay that way.

    Ian thank you and please do voice our concerns and vote No, to the RET scale back or abolishment.

    Regards
    Terry Davis
    Managing Director
    Excel Solar Pty Ltd
    http://www.excelsolar.com.au

    • Nigel Morris
      August 22, 2014

      Terry

      You legend. Personal letter to your local member and a personal reply – exactly the way to do it.

      Imagine if every solar company in Australia did this!

  10. August 24, 2014

    Hi Nigel,

    Sunday Energy has always been a strong campaigner for renewable energy and the industry that supports it. In doing so, we’ve used a number of different methods.

    Senate election Rerun

    Sunday Energy started thinking about a RET campaign early on, due to the potential of a WA senate election re-run (no need to explain the importance of that one). We approached the Australian Solar Council, Alternative Technology Association, Sustainable Energy Now and Sustainable Energy Association with ideas to get solar installers, retailers and the public engaged.

    Weeks later WA voters were told they were going back to the polls for the repeat of the WA senate election.

    The Result: Sustainable Energy Now (with the support of all of the above) hosted a pre Senate election forum on Renewable Energy at the Perth Town Hall, to a full house. Palmer United was the only Party that wasn’t represented. This event was a massive success and the solar industry was well represented, asking questions of the senate candidates.

    Some background to Sunday Energy’s RET social media campaign

    Sunday Energy was involved (with the support of our customers) in the fight to save the WA Feed in Tariff last year. On the first day of the campaign we contacted John Grimes – CEO Australian Solar Council, asking him to speak on ABC 720 – the biggest talk back radio station in town. That interview triggered a massive public response and set the wheels in motion for the biggest public backlash the Western Australian government had experienced.

    Within a blink of an eye, Solar Citizens had created an online petition that received 9,000+ signatures in 4 days! I personally believe that if we didn’t have Solar Citizens on board, 75,000 Western Australians would’ve had their Feed-In-Tariff contracts torn up.

    During that campaign, I sent an open letter to our customers via email that went viral – WA style. It was at that point we recognised that Sunday Energy needed to engage more widely through social media. We now use social media to educate the public about the Australian solar industry and promote Renewable Energy in general.

    The RET campaign

    For the RET campaign, we decided to go visual, so we employed the services of cartoonist Kevin Schaffer. This was very effective. The cartoons have been picked up by print publications and also used in presentations on the RET around Australia. More surprising was the success of our in house graphic design work (we are not graphic designers) which was also picked up and published in magazines promoting the RET – basic but effective.

    Engaging with local federal members of parliament

    The other week I meet with Federal Member for Pearce, Christian Porter. We had a robust discussion on the energy sector in Australia and the benefits solar power provides to the local community. Christian definitely appreciated the benefits of solar power at a local level but also felt the need for the RET review to run its course. He said he would write a letter to clarify his position further. We’ll keep you posted.

    We are passionate about Renewable Energy at Sunday Energy but on our own we are a small solar company. Without people like you Nigel, our industry would be fragmented in voice. We have a number of associations with slightly different priorities and member bases. We need that central voice that listens and understands the perspectives that come from installers, manufacturers, retailers, lobbyists and industry associations.

    Nigel, you sit in that incredibly important position.

    Keep up the great work..

    Travis Hargreaves

    http://www.sundayenergy.com.au
    https://twitter.com/SEtext
    https://www.facebook.com/SundayEnergyAu

  11. August 22, 2014

    Sungevity have been showing their support for the RET through various channels, including attending Solar Citizens and Greenpeace events, social media posts and hosting a Cuppa Sunshine in the Sungevity office. Sungevity’s Co-founder, Danny Kennedy and Sungevity Australia founder Nick Lake have been offering their time and voice to media outlets such as Sky News, ABC Four Corners and 7:30, Channel 7 Sunrise, The Age, Sun Herald and Canberra Times. It hasn’t taken much effort but we’re sure it is making a big impact!

  12. Nigel Morris
    August 22, 2014

    A+ Sungevity – TV is a goal kicker, great contribution.

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