Australian Households With Solar Panels Might Pay Extra For Helping Generate Power

In Victoria, households that have installed solar panels on their roofs are facing an increase in the fixed rate they pay on every bill to connect to the state's electricity grid. An extra 14 cents per day, or $51 per year, is being proposed to punish householders for helping to produce electricity.

Image credit: Shutterstock

According to RenewEconomy, Simply Energy — an electricity retailer whose parent company operates the Hazelwood coal power plant — wants to raise the fixed supply charge for solar households from 96c/day to 110c/day, with a total yearly cost of just over $400 versus $351 for non-solar houses.

The reasoning behind the higher fixed charges, as given by Victorian energy minister Russell Northe on Twitter, is that energy companies have to bear the cost of transporting energy generated by rooftop solar around the state — so those houses producing enough solar power to meet and exceed their usage are putting extra strain on the grid. "Poles and wires cost money", according to Northe, but it is not immediately clear why houses producing energy and contributing to the state's base-line power production should pay more than houses that only consume electricity from the state's dominant coal and gas-fired power plants.

In Victoria, solar energy company SunPower is pioneering off-grid energy storage, and should imminently announce a pilot project in the state to install solar panels and lithium-ion batteries in homes and businesses. If these higher fixed rates for solar energy-generating customers are approved and passed into legislation, it could prove an impediment to the uptake of solar panels and small-scale energy storage.

Power companies' attitudes to clean energy production in Australia aren't completely backwards, though. One state over in South Australia, energy company Trustpower is finishing installation of almost 150 wind turbines to produce enough clean power for nearly 250,000 homes, and CSIRO recently hit a milestone in large-scale solar power production research.

The big news a fortnight ago was that energy prices in Queensland fell below $0 in the middle of the day — power generators were paying businesses and consumers to use power — in part due to the state's strong 1.1GW of rooftop solar energy installation. Australia has a total of 3.4GW of solar panels installed across the country on 1.2 million premises, some of which are IKEA stores, so Queensland's piece of the pie is relatively large.

Those customers with rooftop solar are preventing Australian power companies from making a profit, it seems, and in Victoria at least it looks like the companies are taking measures to prevent that happening. [RenewEconomy]


Comments

    greedy bastards making sure we can never be self sufficient
    does the cost of transporting this energy outway the cost of buying coal and transporting it themselves

    Last edited 15/07/14 4:20 pm

      If you want to be self sufficient you need to disconnect from the grid entirely, in which case you wouldn't get hit by this fixed supply charge. But that then raises a bunch of other expensive issues in terms of how do you generate power when the sun isn't shining (or store it when the sun is shining for use when it isn't).

        And the cost for ongoing maintainence and replacement of batteries storing your energy supply.

        Storing electricity is not that hard; we store electricity from our solar system in batteries which, depending on their relative level of charge, will power our house for from 3 to 5 days without sun. We have the choice of installing more panels and more battery storage too, should we need more "sunless" time.

        I would think that, in Victoria, everyone with solar panels should be telling the Victorian government and opposition how they feel about this bs; that will stop this kind of crap dead in its tracks.

          you got some more details? how much are you storing, where are you located, how much are you using?
          My power consumption for 3-5day would require some massive batteries...

        Forget power generation for second, disconnecting from the grid (i.e. power and water) in some council areas can cause the property to be listed as condemned or vacant as the planning laws don’t cater for self-sufficient dwelling.

        This becomes an issue when you try and sell the house… banks don’t like giving buyers a loan when the title search flags a “condemned” house or better yet a vacant block.

        So the idea, we'll just disconnect from the grid works well... until you come to sell (hopefully the council by laws all get updated sooner then later)

        any elaboration on what inverter and battery system you are using would be handy, im running an SMA sunnyboy and would like to add batteries

      Except that in Hazelwood's case, the open cut mine and the power station are co-located and co-owned. So, what was that about purchase and coal transport costs? Wait, do all coal fired power stations in Gippsland operate like this? (hint: they do!). Cost to purchase/transport coal: none. Cost to transport energy: extremely high (on Victoria's ageing infrastructure).

        To be fair there is a cost of removing the coal from the ground and transporting it to the power-station. The cost of milk for a dairy farmer is not zero. There is maintenance of conveyors, wages machinery costs, etc. It is a non-zero number.

        Cost to transport energy from Power Station to your home; HUGE.
        Cost to transport energy from your home to your neighbor; negligible.

        They should be paying us.

        Yes, but the wires are running to all houses, not just ones that pump power into the grid...

    It might also be worth mentioning that Russell Northe is also the member for Morwell... so yeah... I'm sure he has a really unbiased opinion on where and how electricity is generated

      Correct.
      He is a huge fan of the power stations too. During the mine fire he was more interested in protecting the company instead of the people.

    And now in other news: rich people who own solar panels are now being subsidized less by the poor who can't afford to put solar on their roof / rental roof............................

      How about you reformulate that into a cogent argument or point and post it? It smells like there may be a valid point there but it isn't clear.

        I assume it's the common argument that the people who can afford systems to get such a big return on feeding back into the grid are already well off, and when power companies jack up the price to 'cover' that cost, it's people who are entirely dependent on the grid who are hit the hardest (e.g. those who can't afford to have home solar).

          That would certainly have been a reasonable position when feed-in tarrifs were >$0.50/kWh. That was crazy, and a very cost ineffective way to decrease emissions.
          Now that feed-in tariffs are $0.08/kWh I think that the power companies are probably doing reasonably well out of it. That's cheaper than the cost of coal generation.

            Which coal-fired plant in the NEM have an SRMC (or even LRAC) greater than $0.08/kWh or $80/MWh?

              Couldn't say specifically. I should have pointed out that those are levelized costs from US Department of Energy Estimates on Wikipedia. Thus, they may not apply to Australia where (shitty brown) coal is plentiful.

                Is not just the shitty brown coal plant that are well below 8c/kWh; black coal SRMC is also below 8c/kWh on average (ignoring the occassional excursion towards MPC, which neither retail customers nor hedged retailers pay), even including the 2014-15 carbon tax (based on ACIL Allen's recent estimates of fuel costs for AEMO's Fuel and Technology Cost review), but the lower solar PV feed-it tariffs are at least closer to the cost of other generation (coal, gas) than the, umm, "somewhat exuberant" 44c/kWh or $440/MWh seen previously.

                  Cool, thanks for the info.
                  I think most would agree with you that the previous feed-in tariffs were pretty crazy.

            The feed-in tarriffs should never have been as high as they were. 40c+ per kWh is just ridiculous. I know they did it to encourage take up of the scheme, but people would have jumped on board with a lot less than that amount.

              I absolutely agree that they should never have been that high. If nothing else, carbon emissions can be decreased much, much more per dollar that was achievable using feed-in tariff subsidies.

          I don't know about people with solar panels being "well off". My mum's an old age pensioner and she was able to afford to put a few panels on the roof of her townhouse.

            Didn't suggest that it was a valid argument, just that I'm sure that's part of the argument the OP is trying to make. Then again I don't think it refers to people who just have a few panels, but people who are investing well outside the subsidy to start their own solar power farms for the express purpose of making money out of it.

              I must have hit reply to the wrong comment, it was directed at OP

            A few years ago we got a small set of panels (only 1kW) and inverter which cost us nothing. So you didn't have to be rich to get solar electricity generation!

            But we paid $1500 to get solar hot water at the same time: we needed a new system anyway. Looking at the amount of power the PV unit has generated, it has paid this $1500 already, just in the offset and not including the feed-in tariff or the reduction of water-heating usage.

            Probably better here in Queensland though!

          Thats great for you to assume that people that have solar are well off. Please let me inform you most of the people I meet are pensioners trying to reduce one of the many costs of living. I personally only get 6 cents feed in rate and if you had any knowledge of the large feed in tariffs ie: 60c you would realize that they are stopping in 2017 as the rate are not sustainable. The systems that the people have that are giving the 60 cents feed in tariffs are very small and without the tariffs they are virtually useless. We should be thanking the people that are paying for their solar systems as they are helping a Country and Government achieve there carbon reduction targets. These people in their own way have already paid an extra tax.
          Knowledge is power

        Solar is at best a cost neutral proposition.
        As such, the government levies everyone's electricity/gas bills 4% towards their renewable energy fund.
        This money is then used to make solar more attractive to the rich doctor down the road who runs it to offset how expensive it is to heat his outdoor pool.
        The net effect does nothing for the environment because it is electricity that might not have been used in the first place because it was too expensive. And I have to pay bills that are inflated by 4%.

          Cool, thanks for the clarification. I agree with you on some points, and disagree on others.
          You're assuming that someone is using solar to heat their outdoor pool when they wouldn't otherwise, but provide no evidence for that. That is basically the sole basis for you to say that the net effect does nothing for the environment: if consumption decreased as a result of solar enough to cover the environmental cost of production of the solar panel at all, then it is a break even. Anything more, and it is a positive outcome.
          Also, the transition to solar isn't purely cost related: whether it is a cost neutral proposition or not is not really important on its own.

          That said, I do see your point about those who are not in a position to take advantage of subsidies for home solar installation (because they don't have the capital to cover the gap, or live in rental accommodation) having to pay for the subsidies. I could argue that those people are essentially buying decreased emissions (through paying for solar installations, assuming that people don't increase their power consumption enough to offset the benefit of the installation) but I can see your issue about the fairness (or lack thereof) of such a scheme structure.

          1.2 million premises have solar power according to the article. I don't think there are really that many doctors in Australia nor do I believe that the majority of these premises are occupied by the "rich", perhaps middle class yes but assuming its a scheme for the rich is stretching it. Incidentally, most pool heating I have seen involves pumping water through solar tubes, so whilst there is some power used for the pump I don't really feel its a good example you raised even if it was tongue in cheek.
          When we installed our solar generator a few years ago it cost us around $10k out of pocket, money which we had to draw back from our previous overpayments on our homeloan, so it did hurt us financially but the thinking was we would have earn't enough from the generated power to pay off the system within about 5-6 years, after which point it would start paying us real dividends over and above our investment (albeit much slower due to the NSW feed-in tariff being drastically reduced). I personally don't use more power now simply because Im generating power to feed back to the grid and getting paid for it, that would defeat the whole purpose of me getting it installed, perhaps I'm in the minority.
          I do agree though that the system does lack equality across all income levels, unfortunately that applies to many aspects of our society (fines for instance).

            The example was intentionally evocative.
            But you haven't explained to me Why I am paying a 4% premium on my power bill so that you can own an asset that makes you money?

              Because you're too impoverished to afford to take the next step and install solar panels to reduce emissions, so instead you contribute to someone else with more financial capacity doing so?

              I broadly agree with you that the SRES may not be very fair, but saying 'so that you can own an asset that makes you money' is no less intentionally evocative than the previous commenter's post.

              Because you have your priorities wrong and you pay for that? Because selfish slobs can't expect to stay on their foxtel and be protected from the future forever?

            When we installed our solar generator a few years ago it cost us around $10k out of pocket

            That's not the sort of money everybody has laying around. I don't necessarily agree with him but I think if you're lucky enough to have both the money and control over where you live (renters don't exactly have much say in the matter) you've got to at least agree to stand up against the power grid they depend on being turned against them. These people don't all refuse to upgrade because they hate the environment.

            The entire thing is about environmental impact, and while it's not naturally formed there is an ecosystem here. When we stop participating in the agreement we're putting more of the load on them. It's just selfish to say that because we can afford to jump off the power grid we can forget about it all. Everybody here relied upon it at some point, we may not have intentionally done it but we did play a part in the current dependence on it and everybody here would be pissed off if their bills were going up because more fortunate people were able to jump ship.

              In our case the $10k wasnt money that we had "laying around" either, but was money that we had scrimped and saved to get ahead on our homeloan over the last few years. So whilst it meant that we went backwards on the homeloan and would ultimately mean paying more interest, we could see that ultimately it would benefit us (hopefully) a few years down the track. How much it actually will benefit us remains to be seen and relies on the system not breaking down, power companies playing fairly and us choosing not to move from the home where the system is installed.

                I'm not suggesting that you're rich enough to just casually wake up one morning and throw $10,000 at a problem, you mentioned how you got together the funds in your previous comment, but the point is that you had access to the resources to make it happen. Last month I spent about $3,000 at the Vet fixing my mums cat. I wouldn't say I had the money laying around but there's a difference between my stretching my resources thin and simply not being able to afford something.

                When I was a kid my mum drove a terrible car. Absolute piece of garbage. Long term it cost more to keep it running than to replace it, but the option to just pull down the money for a new car just wasn't there. I had the same problem with shoes back then. She'd buy me cheap K-Mart shoes that fell apart right away because good shoes were expensive enough to be out of the question. It wasn't until I managed to get myself a decent pair of shoes that we broke that cycle.
                Finance sounds simple on paper, especially when you're ahead of it all, but it's very easy to find yourself in a position where you don't just struggle to make ends meet but you routinely fail to make ends meet. There are a lot of people out there that can see how getting away from the power company makes total sense, it's not a hard concept to grasp, but still have no way to actually take advantage of it.
                Where you and I make a sacrifice to pay the Vet or buy some solar panels a lot of people, through no real fault of their own, simply have nothing to sacrifice to make that happen. Again, I'm not trying to belittle your sacrifice, even when it works out screwing with your home loan is stressful, but while their finances may not be our responsibility if left unchecked the void we leave will create problems for them.

                  A well thought out reply thanks. I do understand that there is a big difference between having access to funds even if it means hardship and not having access at all. The system is not fair to certain groups and for some people its a seemingly impossible task to ever get the money together to pull themselves out of the hole. What I was getting at was the money we used to purchase our solar gen was not simply pulled from our disposable income as your "money laying around" comment seemed to suggest and I wasn't sure if you had read my initial comment properly.

                  Another thing to consider regarding renters is not all of them are in that position because they cannot afford to purchase a property, for some its a lifestyle choice, or they may be investing their income in other ways. Some renters also get other govt benefits that home owners don't have access to as far as I'm aware, rent assistance for low income earners springs to mind, so in some ways its very much swings and roundabouts. Ultimately I think its the middle class renters, apartment owners and the homeless that are really affected as the really low income renters are provided with other assistance.

                how much was the subsidy that the government kicked in above your $10k?

                  To be honest I cant remember exactly as I was mainly just interested in what it was costing us, but I have the feeling the full cost before subsidy may have been around $18000 at the time, dont quote me on that though. The same size systems are a LOT cheaper these days though.

                  It benefits you with cleaner sir to breathe and children without teratogen induced cancer, genius

            Better to use any excess energy right at home than exporting for no good. Heard of a pv load diverter called solarimmersion that does that. Am planning to have one in my home.

      We don't have poor people in Australia, just lazy and stupid ones.

        *leaners*

          I can't tell whether people are being sarcastic or not, which I think reveals a bit about the current political climate.

      Part of the reason to uptake fitting solar panels is to reduce the energy bills. Its not that the rich benefit, but that the people who have the money to are actually making an investment that is somewhat good for the environment too, though ive read that tge materials used to make solar panels still are almost as bad as using fossil fuels, though I cant find any reasearch saying thats true.

      However on the flip side power companies are offering us the service of electricity for profit, so I can see why they want to jack up the prices given these news reports. Maybe CSIRO should work on efficient means of energy storage so we can make better use of our best energy resource

        You can find the research because it's all myths. Things like hydroflouric acid are used. But it's filtered and reused its not liked it's being poured down the drain.

          Can't ever discuss HF without remembering s1 of breaking bad. ☺

          Aha, so I can take my fossil fuel conspiracy hat off then

      I feel your pain @dal
      I've watched so many home owners put up solar panels, right at the same time as the cost of home ownership slipped beyond mine, and many others grasp. Being a renter (with no alternative due to the high cost of ownership), means the power companies will just squeeze what ever they can out of those who can least afford it.
      Same goes for the insulation. All these value-added government subsidies were handed out, while renters continue to hand out money for someone else mortgage/investment. It's the rough end of the stick.
      As for @vj9c9 - it's hard to make a 'valid' point when you're enraged and cheated by a system that's supposed to be fair for ALL.

        It's totally understandable that you and others are frustrated by the way that the SRES subsidies work: there is, to some extent, a channeling of funds from your pockets of those who can actually install solar on their homes.
        However, looking at it from the perspective of carbon dioxide abatement it is a bit different: if the goal is to reduce CO2 emissions through power production without the government having to outlay cash then subsidies aren't a bad strategy. The householder fronts up the cash for the carbon abatement and eventually gets a return on it.

        (Mind you, I think that the SRES might be better rolled into the LRES. However, that may well require more government investment in order to get larger projects operational, and I imagine that would be a challenge)

      In Australia it's been lower income households that have taken to solar the most. Higher income households can afford the up to 250% increase in electricity prices (fixed and consumed costs) over the past five years, lower income households are trying everything they can to reduce those costs.

      Source: http://reneweconomy.com.au/2014/rooftop-solar-uptake-still-highest-in-low-income-australia-63263

    All they are going to is force people to go off the grid sooner, then there won't be as many customers to foot the bill, so they will try to figure out another way to sting the consumer. Its just prolonging the inevitable, the business model that a number of electricity providers cling on to is nearly a decade out of date, instead of treating your customers as a cash cow to be gouged as much as possible, work with them and charge a reasonable price for your product, and they might find people aren't so desperate to go to alternative sources for power and switch off every power switch they can find. Renewable energy and the Customers that own it are not the enemy.

    Last edited 15/07/14 4:32 pm

      I think you'll find it's transmission that has been increasing the price of electricity and not generators. Generators are subject to competition, transmission companies are not. Furthermore their profits are based on a percentage of their expenditure, so it's currently in their favour to spend revoltingly excessive amounts. Hence the term 'gold plating'. The connection fee is purely transmission costs, and it's also the most significant part of most peoples bills.

        Currently in Vic and nsw they're starting an upgrade cycle so they're spending a lot of cash and in Vic there has been gov enforced upgrades on the single wire earth return system that will cost millions. Rather than dipping into profits they're upping prices to cover as transmission is not as profitable as generation.

          Your statement about transmission not being as profitable as generation is incorrect. Transmission is guaranteed to be profitable, generation is not. Generation is subjected to real competition and furthermore competition from state owned utilities that are heavily subsidized and commonly run at a a loss. I'm not sure which network you're referring to but in Victoria at least the opposite is true.

          http://www.smh.com.au/business/goldplating-the-power-grid-20120705-21iv5.html

          http://www.businessspectator.com.au/article/2012/8/17/climate/paying-price-gold-plating

            State owned utilities in Victoria? News to me.
            Unlike generators who make money off the amount of power they sell, distributors have constant revenue as it's done by time not amount. Regardless of how much power is being run though the wires the rental rate is a flat rate. All you have to do is maintain and upgrade equipment.
            Sp ausnet had 0.6% growth in profits last year and it's been a 5 year trend in increasing profits.
            Gdf Suez has remained stable over the last 5 year's so yes I was wrong transmission is more profitable.
            The government subsidies aren't necessarily a sign of failing, there are many government regulations generators and distributors must follow and there is monetary compensation for that, plus the rebates for the carbon tax which is Fed government legislation not a hand out.

              Yep! When I was talking about state owned utilities I was talking about NSW. Because the grid spans the east coast and the pricing of each state impacts the others it means that private corporations are competing with government funded stations, which is not really a free market. The $/MW prices at the moment are ridiculously low. Meaning generators are really under the pump. As the article stated it's actually resulted in a negative payment (generator pays to provide electricity) during the middle of the day, which until recently is nearly unheard of.

              Also in addition to that transmission companies can also base their profits on a percentage of their capital expenditure, which is what led to their excessive spending and the term gold plating. So unless I'm completely missing something or the rules have changed utilities such as SP or Powercor are actually making a profit which is based on their expenditure. It's basically a guaranteed profit on what they spend, hence they can't actually lose money.

              Last edited 17/07/14 9:13 pm

      Victoria did the same thing with water. They banned the use of rain water tanks to force more people to buy extra water. I wouldn't be surprised that in the future they ban solar panels completely. Got to protect the revenue of big business.

        They banned the use of rain water tanks to force more people to buy extra water

        whaaaat? A rain water tank is (or a solar hot water system) is REQUIRED to be installed for any new homes or significant home renovations in Victoria for the building permit.

        In the past maybe? But not for many, many years

          Yes, that was only when Steve Bracks was premier. He fled when they started investigating him. He's also the dog that got victoria hooked on speeding traps for a revenue source.

    Sorry, but the company the generates the power in Victoria is not the same as the ones that transmit it. SP-AusNet transfer the power from the power stations via the High voltage power lines, then the 3 distributors then distribute it around the suburbs and towns. Now where is the cost to the power generator????

    I will go off grid the day after my pfit expires
    Premium feed in tariff
    Is pfit fair ? No
    But I don't make the rules ;)
    Haven't had a elec bill for a long time
    My solar system paid for itself years ago
    The gov should mandate that all suitable roofs have solar panels installed
    But governments are greedy and stupid

      But governments are greedy and stupid
      Greedy, yes. Stupid, no. They are cunning as a fox. I am waiting for the day that they dictate that every building in the Melbourne CBD has solar panels installed to assist in the generation of power, and every new housing development also have solar powers installed as a mandatory requirement. But why let the environment get in the way of making money, right?

    Quote from the MP in the article:

    By this logic, any home which is a frugal user of power, not just solar customers, should be hit with higher fixed charges so that power companies get their money regardless.

    Well, yeah, this is what the water companies already do. Where was the outrage then?

    On another note, it's a little ludicrous that a retail company can tinker with the fixed network charge that should just get passed straight through to the distributor. Makes you wonder how much cut they're already taking off the top of every connection before any power is even used.
    I'm curious enough that I'm going to have to look this up further - these are specific numbers being quoted, but there are different charges with the same retailer depending on where you live.

    Here's the problem with privitising. People are given access to resources and protected profit.

    People use less water. So they charge more.

    People generate their own electricity it's less money the power companies can make, they charge them more.

    Granted soon people with water tanks will be forced to pay money for water they collected.

    For all this talk of free market behind privitising. Which the body of evidence is clearly showing that in many cases it's less efficient. They aren't even operating in a free market situation.

    So where is the incentive? Here in Victoria. We had a drought everyone is told to save water. It works, usage goes down. So they increase the cost of water. So where was the incentive?

    These things can't be run effective in the best interests of the community as long as their profit is put above what benefits the consumer and society as a whole.

    With electricity, how is it better for me as a consumer when there are many companies selling me the same power from the same power plant. Especially when most of my bill goes to facilitate that aspect. Not the generation of power and it being transported to me.

      I somewhat agree, but at the same time these public utilities have to have some kind of return so that they can go back into maintaining, improving or extending services. If you were totally off grid, you wouldn't be paying anybody since you don't access their service. That's not to say that the prices they charge are reasonable or fair, but at some point they have to charge something for people who do access the grid, otherwise it isn't going to be maintained. That goes for whether it's privatised or state-owned (and IMO it should be state-owned).

    I can't speak for other states as I don't know which states have privatized their utilities. But this is just another reason essential utilities shouldn't be privatized, because it ALL becomes about their bottom line, customers are just pinatas filled with money that they're legally allowed to hit.

    Victoria's energy is made mostly through the use of coal burning and contributes a dominant portion of Australia's greenhouse emissions, shouldn't companies try to help with clean energy take up and not kick and scream at those who want it?

    Even if Australian's were to 100% go off-the-grid, utility companies still make money because they're entitled to claim any and all moneys they deem appropriate just because the access to the utility is there, whether you're connected or not.

    Those customers with rooftop solar are preventing Australian power companies from making a profit, it seems, and in Victoria at least it looks like the companies are taking measures to prevent that happening. Ah, no. Take your conspiracy hat off and look at some of the issues.

    It begins with your local neighbourhood sub-stations. Roof-top generated power can only supply power to users of the same sub-station. Power companies are forced to buy excess power from home-solar, but they can only sell it to your neighbours. PV power from my own suburban roof-top doesn't keep the lights and air-con running in the city. If the power companies want to sell that to city users, the entire grid needs to be basically re-built. It just wasn't built with distributed power generation in mind.

    As it stands, if more power is generated in a suburban area than is consumed, that excess power can and does damage the infrastructure. That's why home-owners get the $0 charges during the middle of the day in sunny Queensland when everyone's at work and no one is at home. The power company wants people to use this excess power that it can't transport to where it could be used (like, your workplace), so it doesn't burn the infrastructure out. Equipment failure is a real issue in some parts of SE-Qld thanks to roof-top PV.

    If home-owners are also power-generators, then in my opinion, they should be contributing to the cost of distributing that power that other non-generating users are not. So far, having home PV has been a one-way street of installation-subsidies (from the tax-payer pocket) and ongoing tariffs that result in higher power costs for everyone.

    I'm not in Vic, but if I were, it wouldn't affect me much. I am a PV profiteer. I'll just get paid less. I am contributing to the problem, I should be contributing to the solution.

      The problem with that argument is that this charge applies to anyone with rooftop solar whether or not they are net feeders into the system. Most people do not account for all of their power needs via rooftop panels so their power is not required to be distributed. Presumably the difference is the feed-in tariff (8 cents) and the supply tariff (25? cents) is the profit for the energy companies to compensate them for the distribution costs associated with excess solar generation.

      Nope, this is a cash-grab plain and simple.

        in qld I now get 8 cents and to take it out is 28 cents.. that's a huge amount of cost to transport my 1kw an hour of excess energy.. despite the fact that i paid 4000 dollars to have it installed. as well as the fact that i have to pay the same amount as the people who are just using the power.. i should be getting 15c out of each kw i generate and be changed 25c to get it out..

        The fact remains, if you have the infrastructure to feed into the system, you're a power supplier. Most systems, even use more power 'net' than you produce, you are still at some point feeding excess power into the grid. For me, ALL my PV goes into the grid and is metered and everything I use comes from the grid, not my roof. So even if I never produce more power than I use, in any moment, I am still feeding the grid.

        Additionally, most early adopters get a feed-in tariff that's higher than supply cost. I think it's ridiculous myself, but thank the Greens for that state-of-affairs. If I were to change my contract now, I think I only get the wholesale price, which is quite reasonable really, and exactly how it should have been to start with.

          I recall seeing some numbers somewhere saying that of the approximately 300k solar installations in qld around 250k of them were on the ridiculous 44c feed in tariff.

      Lies, as someone who works in the industry, you are completely correct. The grid was never designed for distributed power generation. The PV inverters create harmonics and other electrical noise that damage rotating machines (like your fridge compressor). While a half dozen in a neighbourhood is fine, saturation can cause massive electrical issues. Solving this is the pressing concern.

    There was a discussion on this issue in a lecture last week. Because solar panels are not a constant load on the grid they introduce a significant strain on the distribution infrastructure as the load is not constant.

    Our current power generation and transmission systems can only barely cope with fluctuations as they currently stand, but with more people going solar these transient loads will only increase and more expensive control systems will be required. By feeding electricity back into the grid in an unpredictable manner you aren't actually helping anything, most of the power is not usable and could actually cause more problems.

    So I think its fair enough to charge extra even if it seems counter-intuitive, the original idea of selling electricity back to the grid was introduced as a marketing gimmick to get more people to sign up and was decided by people who have no concept of how power systems actually work.

      Yep. I think you got it.

      A factor to consider is that the energy providers are required to provide plus or minus 5 percent of the power (240 volt) to every house, regardless of distance. The further from the generator, the more the power bleeds off. Imagine a garden sprinkler hose that has little holes in it, the further from the tap, the less water and the lower the pressure. The infrastructure system has to support that +/- 5% rule. If you start adding in additional taps (solar) at random spots on the hose, the system requires additional infrastructure in order to maintain that 5% rule. The system was not designed for additional power sources at random intervals.

      The system has to stand up to peak days, say in the middle of summer, or middle of winter, regardless of the solar systems installed.

    Wow. Just wow. Talk about a policy designed to keep us in the past. Renewable energy should be encouraged. We're still burning coal for energy in this country. That's cr4zy.

      Australia use to be the lucky country but then the politicians got involved and screwed everything up. We must kill the politicians

        you do realise the quote "lucky country" is actually meant to be negative. The person that originally said it was Donald Horne. In essence it goes: "The lucky country run by second-rate people who share it's luck."

        In other words a bunch in competent people who's are fortunate enough to rely on it's natural resources. Doesn't look like much has changed since he made that comment in the 60s.

      Renewable should be encouraged. But that doesn't mean we should ignore that the way it's being done is really expensive. Someone has to pay the extra cost. "Renewable" isn't all sunshine, lollie-pops and rainbows. There are real costs involved that most people pretend don't exist.

    Costing energy companies to "transport electricity"? WHAT CRAP.
    Any excess energy produced by my panels is used by neighbours without solar panels - at most, those poor little electrons travel 50 metres! Electrons travelling from the Hunter Valley to Sydney - that's a different matter, and NOT the responsibility of my panels.
    I can't wait to add batteries to my array - and to add more panels when my existing "locked-in", "we won't let you generate any more that you currently do" agreement expires.
    What (some) Australian governments and energy generators is doing is simply: criminal.

    Well... what can I say. That's what happens when you privatise key government infrastructure assets. Rather than being able run certain segments at a loss to encourage green behaviour ever things has to be run at a profit. And those profits needs to go up every year to satisfy share holders.

    Do solar panels ever produce MORE electricity in their working lifetime than was used to make the panel in the first place?

    Electricity Produced > Mining materials + Refining Materials + Manufacturing + Transportation
    ???

      EROI for the current type of technology is 3.5 years on average. They will reliably last in excess of 20 years. So in terms of energy they pay for themselves 5x.

    energy companies have to bear the cost

    Fine, I'll just cut my wires then. Fuck you

    Last edited 15/07/14 8:49 pm

    regarding water, the Vic government has this logic (or used to) that they own the water that falls on your land so they can charge you if you build a dam or divert the flow of water into your tank.

      But I always return it in the end, and since it is their water going down the sewer they shouldn't be charging me to get rid of it ;)

    Let the houses usse solar to lower their reliance on the grid. Power companies should now divert their efforts to bolstering the electric car market ! Start installing outlets everywhere !!!

    If you want to know the real reason behind high energy retail prices read this: http://www.themonthly.com.au/issue/2014/july/1404136800/jess-hill/power-corrupts

    Some of the recent publications from the Grattan Institute are also informative: http://grattan.edu.au/home/energy , in particular their recent report: http://bit.ly/1mJrQgp

    Last edited 16/07/14 1:56 pm

    Just buy enough panels and batteries and you won't even need the grid.

    Tony's reverse carbon tax.......
    Will this be included with the $550 savings from removing the carbon tax.

    The main issue here is peak power utilisation. Most of the PV power is not generated during peak usage periods so during the off-peak periods there is a great amount of PV power being fed into the system so the normal generation methods of coal and gas (and hydro where available) need to idle much lower than they used to but then they have to really crank up the output during the peak usage periods which are usually outside the peak PV generating periods. Without catering for peak loads you end up with brown-outs or temporary power outages.

    To get the best out of your PV system, you have to use most of your power during the peak PV generating times which is usually at odds to normal behaviour.

    I had a rather lengthy talk with a guy who works for Western Power and he told me about a discussion with some counterparts in England where they have to really crank up the power generation and even import some capacity from the French grid near the end of popular evening soaps on TV as half of the UK makes themselves a cuppa at the end of the show.

    It's a far more complicated issue than most people realise. If you want to generate PV power and go off the grid by storing it in batteries well then good on you but if you expect to share the infrastructure to import power when the sun goes down, you have to contribute to the infrastructure costs. That's not to say that the mechanism proposed above is the fairest or the best but it is worth considering.

    I have a 10kW SMA Sunnyboy system. My FIT is 8c/kWHr, however SFA went in today due to overcast conditions. The system cost me $11k out of pocket. I think there may have been a subsidy of a couple of k's which the supplier pocketed. With regard to the cost of electricity, how come people aren't screaming for it to be free. Charging $7 to see a quack has created a shitstorm of protest, while several hundred bucks a month for just as essential electricity is OK! Even an old age pensioner warming a can of Pal on the stove has to pay for the electricity they use. I guess the executives in the power companies need million dollar salaries too, and money, like electricity, doesn't come out of thin air.

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