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ACT government deem solar scheme a success despite slowing growth

A review of the territory's solar feed-in tariff scheme has found it contributed to a rapid growth in small-scale installations.

Minister for the Environment Simon Corbell​ said the scheme, which existed between 2009 and 2011, had reduced the costs of rooftop solar and made it affordable for many families.

"The ACT went from less than 1000 connections prior to the start of the scheme in 2009 to 10,175 feed-in tariff supported connections with a capacity of 26.0 MW in operation today," he said.

Those homes hooked up to the scheme in 2014 received an average of $1690 each, or $17 million in total.

The report, commissioned by the ACT government, found the cost of installing rooftop solar power fell from $9.62 per watt in 2008-09 to $2.42 per watt in 2010-11.

Mr Corbell said the scheme contributed 2.3 percent to retail electricity charges and had not affected the reliability of the ACT electricity network.

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"While it may have contributed to a reduction in the summer peak demand, winter peaks are still a significant driver for new network investment, and reductions in required network investment have not been material," he said.

Greens minister Shane Rattenbury said the scheme was a success but the growth of the solar industry had slowed since 2012.

"We clearly need to kick start the rooftop solar industry in the ACT again because it has hit a brick wall, that's what these figures tell us," he said.

"In the last two to three years there has been limited growth – virtually no growth."

Mr Rattenbury said solar power remained an attractive option for home owners facing expensive electricity bills, although consumers needed to be given more confidence.

"We believe there should be a guaranteed price provided from the retailers over an agreed period of time to provide confidence and security for consumers and investors," he said.

"When you put solar in you sell electricity to the grid and at the moment, both ACTEW and Origin run voluntary schemes that they could turn off at any moment."

Higgins homeowner Leigh Incher and his wife, Beryl, invested in rooftop solar panels last month. The Incher's home is the seventh on their street to turn to solar power.

Although Mr Incher's feed-in tariff isn't as high as some of his neighbours', he still thinks the investment is worthwhile.

"At the time [of purchasing the solar panels] I knocked on a couple of doors. Some of our neighbours got them when the feed-in tariff was very high," he said.

"I think we get 7.5 per cent but that's not fixed. I guess we're at the whim of Actew [but] I still think it's worth the investment.

"I know a couple of other people who have put them on last year and come in at 7.5 per cent – they're either single people or couples. They thought it was worthwhile."

Mr Rattenbury said a tumultuous national debate about the merits of renewable energy may have had a negative impact on consumer confidence.

"The general mood around renewable energy has probably put a dent in people's confidence and that's why having a guaranteed price is really important," he said.

"A lot of this is about confidence and consumers feeling they have made the right decision and the signals from the federal government would have had an impact."

Mr Incher said the prospect of cheaper electricity bills was a major drawcard.

"We haven't received an invoice from our utility company yet so, time will tell. We expect to see a benefit," he said.

"If we're home, and with my wife home during the day, you've got things like the dishwasher and the washing machine going when there's significant sun."

Mr Corbell said the success of the scheme was another step towards his target of generating 90 percent of electricity from renewable energy.