Prime Minister John Key says the Greens’ plan to install solar panels on homes will be more costly than using other renewable energy.
The Greens announced the policy on Sunday, proposing cheap government loans for installing solar panels on homes.
The loans would be for up to $15,000 and cover the full cost of installation.
They would be attached to the home, not the homeowner, and would be repaid through rates over 15 years.
After that, households would have free electricity for the lifetime of the panels and excess power generated would be sold back to the grid at a “fair price”.
- READ MORE: Labour backs Greens’ solar panel policy
The Greens say there are no government subsidies involved and the interest rate on loans would be 4.1 per cent.
But Mr Key says solar is expensive, and will have to be subsidised.
“There’s no free money,” he told TVNZ’s Breakfast this morning.
“What is true at the moment is that wind and geothermal and hydro are considerably cheaper than solar.
“You’d really be saying you’re going to spend a lot of money subsidising something that’s a lot more expensive than current renewables.”
- Act party leader Jamie Whyte and Labour MP Jacinda Ardern spoke to Firstline about the solar power policy. Watch in the video player above.
But Greens co-leader Russel Norman believes Mr Key and Economic Development Minister Steven Joyce have either “failed basic fiscal accounting or they are deliberately trying to mislead the public”.
The party’s proposal is not a subsidy, he says.
“The truth of the matter is that Mr Key is just interested in defending the big electricity companies’ massive profits and their stranglehold on generation. Mr Key’s more interested in dividends for power company investors than he is in affordable, clean options for families to generate their own power.”
New Zealand Solar Power Systems Managing director Ben Stanton says there’s no guarantee any unused power will be bought back.
“In reality they’re running a business and it doesn’t benefit them to accept solar power back into the network. There’s going to be a bit of a fight because the growth I see is going to increase.”
But one independent energy consultant, Molly Melhuish, believes solar is the way of the future for New Zealand.
“The country is the largest country of solar installations is Germany and they have only about three-fifths as much solar resource as New Zealand does.”
About 75 percent of the country’s power comes from renewable energy.
In 2012, 53 percent of New Zealand energy came from hydro, 20 percent from natural gas, 14 percent from geothermal, eight per cent coal, five percent wind.
Dr Norman says the panels are efficient and the value of the power they produce would be about $100 a year more than the cost of repayments for a typical system.
“It lets Kiwis take the power back, and break free from the big energy companies,” he said.
“Solar Homes will underpin dramatic growth in the industry with a target of 30,000 installations in the first three years.”
Energy and Resources Minister Simon Bridges says if the loans have a lower interest rate than normal, the plan must involve a government subsidy.
3 News/ NZN