Brace yourself for Solargeddon

The survival of Australia’s Renewable Energy Target hangs in the balance, with high stakes for solar businesses, says Nigel Morris.

australia solar discs
Australia's Renewable Energy Target scheme aims to ensure that at least 20 per cent of Australia's electricity comes from renewable sources by 2020. Image: Michael Leslie /

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 Renewable Energy Target (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, Greenpeace, the 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

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.

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.

Nigel Morris is the Director of Solar Business Services. This post originally appeared on the Solar Business Services blog.

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