SYDNEY, Aug. 8 (UPI) -- Beset by rising consumer energy prices, consumers in Sydney, Australia's most populous city, are looking to solar energy.
In 2010 the city introduced a solar bonus scheme, which was very popular in Sydney's more prosperous suburbs, with more than 14 percent of homes installing rooftop solar panels, compared with a New South Wales statewide average of about 3 percent.
Paul Myors is an energy efficiency specialist with Ausgrid, a state-owned electricity infrastructure company which owns, maintains and operates the electrical distribution networks to 1.6 million customers.
He said that the number of private dwellings with solar panels had increased from 2,000 18 months ago to 46,000 after the former New South Wales Labor government introduced a solar bonus rebate scheme.
That plan allowed for a 60-cents-per-kilowatt-hour feed-in tariff for consumers utilizing solar panels, The Sydney Morning Herald reported.
Myors noted that, while government statistics indicated that electricity usage increased every year from the 1950s, in 2007 usage peaked and since then has been shrinking by about 2 percent annually because of increased energy prices and conservation measures.
Analysts say high installation rates of solar energy equipment in certain towns are because a number of Australian solar panel companies manufacturing the photovoltaic panels have conducted an astute and intensive marketing campaign.
Strata Community Australia Chief Executive Officer Mark Lever said more than 70 percent of residents in many Sydney local government areas live in apartments, as do more than 50 percent in North Sydney.
So, he added, that while many resident were interested in installing solar panels to lessen energy costs, the federal and state governments had sufficiently considered their wishes when designing rebate schemes.
''Corporate entities are not eligible for federal renewable energy certificates and then they have to deal with the fact the Tax Office regards any income to the body corporate from solar schemes as mutual income that is taxable in the hands of individual owners," Lever said.
Strata, also known as "Strata Title," is a political mechanism introduced into Australia in 1961 for handling the legal ownership of a "portion" of a building or structure.
Bowing to increasing public interest in the issue, Ausgrid has begun publishing details of solar panel installations and other data on its Web site to allow councils, consumers and other interested parties to evaluate patterns of electricity usage.
Australia's climate is ramping up electricity demands, as in the past decade percentage of houses in New South Wales, Myors said, with air conditioning use in New South Wales soaring from 30 percent to 70 percent, placing additional strains on the electrical grid.
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