By ALLISON HORE
Ahead of the deadline for public submissions for the next federal budget, a grassroots movement of Aussie parents is calling on the government to prioritise funding for solar panels on every school and early childhood education centre.
The group, Australian Parents For Climate Action (AP4CA), say supporting their Solar Our Schools is “a no-brainer.”
“If every school in Australia had the money and ability to install enough solar and storage to be fully renewables-powered, they would save thousands of dollars that could be put towards teachers and better educational resources,” said Suzie Brown, the National Director of AP4CA.
By having solar panels installed, schools can save between $12,700 – $114,000 a year depending on system size, says AP4CA. Additional benefits from the initiative would include the creation of thousands of jobs and improved electricity system stability and energy security.
The call follows an open letter to the Prime Minister Scott Morrison highlighting the “obvious benefits” of solar panels in schools. The letter, which was signed by more than 11,000 parents, did not receive a response from Mr. Morrison.
A practical solution to existential worry
One Clovelly mum who has got on board with the Solar Our Schools campaign is Amanda Collier. She told City Hub a national solar panel scheme would help make the transition to solar, which she believes is inevitable, equitable for all schools.
“It means no school is going to miss out, and that it’s going to be an equitable transition to solar,” she said.
She said her 8 year old daughter already knows a little bit about climate change from hearing things at school and in the media. She thinks a campaign like Solar Our Schools offers a practical solution, and is something parents can get involved in with their kids.
“At this age children are already learning that the world is getting warmer, and what they’re hearing is quite negative. I wonder how that’s impacting them,” she told City Hub.
“When you’re feeling kind of helpless just to be able to do something is really empowering.”
Almost 5,000 schools had solar panels installed under the federal government’s National Solar Schools Program (NSSP) which ran until mid 2013. However, many of the solar systems installed are limited compared in their output to the technology available today.
While the federal government lags on solar panels for schools some local councils are taking the matter upon themselves.
The Solar My School program was launched in 2016 by the Waverley Council alongside the Randiwck and Woollahra councils. The council-run initiative provides guidance to primary and secondary schools on sourcing, funding and installing solar panels.
Solar My Schools says the program helps schools “reduce energy bills, educate students and shrink their carbon footprint.” Since its launch, 11 more councils across the Sydney basin have gotten behind the program including the City of Sydney and the Inner West Council.
Ms. Brown said supporting the installation of solar panels in school should not be a partisan issue and noted the 14,000 members of AP4CA come from all across the political spectrum.
“Regardless of political affiliations, there is everything to gain by supporting this campaign and nothing to lose,” she said.