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AAP | June 10, 2009 – 10:35AM

Climate Change Minister Penny Wong has defended the federal government’s decision to axe its generous solar panel installation rebate.

Environment Minister Peter Garrett on Tuesday announced applications for the $8,000 rebate were set to close that day, three weeks ahead of schedule.

The move ensured a smooth transition to Labor’s Renewable Energy Target (RET) scheme, which allows households installing solar panels on their roofs to apply for a new rebate, Senator Wong said.

The value of the rebate will vary over time and according to where a residence is located, but no one can apply for it until laws to set up the RET pass parliament.

The laws will be introduced to parliament next week.

”It’s a smooth transition because we are ensuring that there will always be support for solar panels,” Senator Wong said.

”We are changing the nature of the support as we said we would.”

The government had provided ”unprecedented” support to the solar industry and there were still 60,000 rebate applications in the pipeline which the government would honour.

”That’s almost a year’s more work for the solar installation industry,” she said.

But Opposition environment minister Greg Hunt says the Rudd government has axed the generous rebate for solar panels because its budget is in chaos.

The government indicated in the May budget that the $8,000 rebate would last until June 30, opposition environment spokesman Greg Hunt said.

”You don’t make a promise which you can’t hold for four weeks,” Mr Hunt told ABC Radio.

The rebate was hugely popular and it’s understood it was axed because it was costing the government too much, he said.

”The reason this has been cancelled is because the overall budget is in chaos.”

Households will be able to access a new, smaller rebate once laws to set up a Renewable Energy Target (RET) pass parliament.

The laws are to be introduced next week.

Mr Hunt said the new rebate would deliver about $4,000 to $4,500 less for households installing an average solar panel system in Melbourne, Sydney, Adelaide, Brisbane and Perth, he said.

”So it makes affordable energy much less affordable for the vast majority of people.

”Having said that, it’s the only scheme on the table now that the budget’s been blown.”

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