Natural Solar – Blockchain Powered Community Solar

Australian company Natural Solar have advised that they will be using the power of blockchain technology its its latest community solar offering – a new housing development just outside of Sydney which will see 12 homes share power with each other.

Natural Solar

Natural Solar - Blockchain Powered Community Solar
Natural Solar – Blockchain Powered Community Solar (source: naturalsolar.com.au)

Nine are reporting that each home will have a 5kWp solar system and an 8kwh sonnenBatterie 8 installed. Homeowners will be guaranteed up to 20 years of $0 power bills, but they will have a $30 / month bill to sonnenFlat for the program. Power will be shared between the 12 houses and any energy movement will be recorded on the blockchain to record and track the efficacy of of the project. Is 12 houses enough? What happens when it’s 4pm on a Tuesday and 8 houses have air conditioning on? 

If this is a bit complicated to understand, Chris Williams, CEO and Founder of Natural Solar,  explains the concept as a ‘super battery’:

“Utilising Blockchain technology, we are able to join all batteries together to create one larger ‘super-battery’ that can power all homes in one development.

“An advantage of this is for the first time ever in Australia, residents will now be able to borrow power from their neighbours who have excess stored in their own battery, creating a complete sharing economy amongst houses.”

What happens if the energy runs out?

This question was put to Williams who said that, although this model means the developer won’t have to pay for expensive grid upgrades, it’ll still have access at all times: 

“In the event houses need additional power and they can’t borrow extra from their neighbours, they are able to automatically draw this from the grid. If the home is signed up to the sonnenFlat energy plan, this will be free of charge for most houses, provided this fits within their annual electricity consumption.”

The project is set to launch by September – so watch this space and we’ll keep you updated on the progress of Natural Solar’s great project.

 

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Rooftop solar subsidies – ACCC calls for axe.

Rooftop solar subsidies should be completely removed and the solar feed-in tariffs should be managed at a state rather than a federal level, according to recommendations from the competition watchdog.

Rooftop solar subsidies in Australia

The Australian Competition & Consumer Commission’s electricity affordability report, which was released this week, highlights the cost of our National Energy Market, which include the large-scale renewable energy target, the small-scale renewable energy scheme and solar feed-in tariffs.

The ACCC said the cost of the LRET are expected to fall in the years after 2020, and were happy to leave the scheme to wind up on its 2030 end date. They said that the SRES, however, cost $130 million in 2016-17, and should be wound down and abolished by 2021, almost ten years ahead of schedule, to reduce costs for all consumers – not just those with solar installed.

The report, according to the Australian, found that households with solar panels installed earn $538 per year via feed-in tariffs, which doesn’t count the fact that they pay less for electricity as well:

“Meanwhile, non-solar households and businesses have faced the burden of the cost of premium solar feed-in tariff schemes and the SRES,” the ACCC said.

“While premium solar schemes are closed to new consumers, the costs of these schemes are ­enduring.”

With the New South Wales solar feed-in tariff to drop by 44% this financial year, the glory days of feed-in tariffs could be behind us. But at what point do we stop to count the social cost (i.e. the environmental displacement)? 

Rooftop solar subsidies in Australia - Opposition Leader Bill Shorten
Rooftop solar subsidies in Australia – Opposition Leader Bill Shorten (source: Wikipedia)

The 398 page report has ‘produced vital ammunition to reform energy’, has been ‘hijacked by zealots’ and doesn’t justify the building of new coal-fired power stations, depending on who you ask. About an hour ago Bill Shorten admitted he hasn’t read the ACCC report yet so it’ll be interesting to see what his thoughts are. Certainly just early days for this conversation, but it’s good to see Australia talking about our energy future and trying to come up with a plan. Watch this space! 

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New South Wales solar feed-in tariff to drop by 44%

The New South Wales solar feed-in tariff is set to drop by 44% after IPART, the state pricing regulator, confirmed previously drafted cuts to the state’s feed-in tariff benchmark for 2018/19.

New South Wales solar feed-in tariff

New South Wales solar feed-in tariff IPART
Click to view New South Wales solar feed-in tariff changes via IPART (source: IPART.NSW.GOV.AU)

The regulator, IPART (Independent Pricing and Regulator Tribunal for NSW) advised in May that they will be recommending heavy drops in the tariff with the release of a draft publication entitled ‘Solar feed-in tariffs: the value of electricity from small-scale solar panels in 2018-19. 

It looks like the solar feed-in tariff drops will be going ahead – so let’s take a look at what this means for people with solar, and people without:

As per Renew Economy, IPART justified their slashing of the prices in advising that all customers would be affected if they didn’t act.

“We set the benchmark range based on our forecast of the average price that retailers would pay for solar exports across the day (weighted by solar output) if they were buying this electricity on the wholesale spot market,” the report, released yesterday, said.

“We consider that this is reasonable, and that a higher benchmark would lead to unacceptable outcomes.

“Specifically, if retailers were required to pay more than this for solar exports, they would be paying more than they pay for wholesale electricity on the NEM.

“As a result, retail prices for all customers would need to be higher to recover the difference,” the report continued.

Those who have already invested in solar are a little less magnanimous about the changes – with Shani Tager from Solar Citizens conveying her opinon via email to RenewEconomy: 

“The decision to cut the feed-in tariff punishes solar owners, it’s like getting a pay cut for working overtime,”

That particular analogy might be a bit of a stretch but it’s interesting IPART aaren’t considering the ‘social price’ of carbon like Victoria are currently doing. This has raised the ire of the Greens as well:

“If the NSW government are serious about supporting renewable energy then they should be change the criteria to assess solar feed-in tariffs to recognise the multitude of benefits solar energy brings,” Greens MP Tamara Smith said.

To sign off, IPART gave us a hint of things to come and how they plan to deal with the situation in the future:

“We consider that solar customers should be treated like any other generator in the competitive electricity market, which means that they take or pay the market price – and are not otherwise compensated or penalised for their impact on these prices,” the report said.

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Victoria solar feed in tariffs to vary based on time.

Victoria solar feed in tariffs – the state’s Essential Services Commission has this week released the details of a brand new feed in tariff (FiT) which changes depending on the hour of the day. It will be introduced to Victoria on July 1. Whilst not compulsory to begin with due to their complicated nature, the tariffs will likely be enforced in 2019/20.

Victoria solar feed in tariffs overview

Victoria solar feed in tariffs - Essential Services Commission
Victoria solar feed in tariffs – Essential Services Commission (source: esc.vic.gov.au)

Changing from a flat FiT to one that is more in life with electricity demand makes sense given that a major problem for solar energy is dealing with supplying power in peak times and during heatwaves. Previously solar feed-in tariffs were calculated on a flat basis, and, although they’ve been raised recently, it’s been neglecting the idea that offering more money for people to feed power back into the grid via a ‘virtual power station’ is likely to help mitigate periods where electricity is unavailable or at a ridiculously high price. 

The idea of a ‘virtual power plant‘ is something being worked at via a supplier level (The AGL Virtual Power Plant‘), a state level (ACT’s Next Generation Energy Storage Program) and a combination of the two (Tesla’s virtual power plant in South Australia). This marks the first time they’ve tried to do this via varying FiTs, however., 

According to RenewEconomy, the regulations will require retailers pay a minimum of 29c per kWh for those who exporting power between 3pm and 9pm, a minimum rate of 10.3c per kWh those feeding power back into the grid between 7am and 3pm, and a minimum rate of 7.1c/kWh (which is actually less than the current price of 7.2c) for those exporting energy during off-peak hours – during 10pm and 7am. So, if people want, for 2018 they can pay an alternative flat rate of 9.9c/kWh, down 1.3c/kWh from the previous flat rate. 

The ESC said that the lower cost for the flat rate from modelling from ACIL Allen. This modelling showed that the “any-time price”of electricity has fallen, but the evening peak price is now higher, and that the constant addition of solar connections will lead to even lower day time prices.

 

 

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Solar Citizens call for 10-18c/kWh for rooftop solar

Solar Citizens, a “people-powered movement bringing together millions of solar owners and supporters to grow and protect solar in Australia”, has penned an article calling for a fair price for solar, advising that a reasonable cost is between 10-18c/kWh for PV rooftop solar feeding back into the grid via an FiT (feed-in tariff). Today we’ll take a look at what Solar Citizens think is a fair range for those helping shore up the grid and which states are coming to the table with regards to this range.

About Solar Citizens

Solar Citizens
Solar Citizens (source: solarcitizens.org.au)

The report, entitled “A fair price for rooftop solar“, is part of the “fair value for distributed generation project” created by Solar Citizens. Solar Citizens are, as per their website, an ‘independent, community-based organisation bringing together millions of solar owners and supporters to grow and protect solar in Australia’.

The report delves into detail about the current FiT situation in Australia (it’s currently set state to state) and notes that the total ‘value’ per kWh should be anywhere from 10.6-18.2c. This is as a direct result of the wholesale price of electricity skyrocketing over the past 18 months and, although FiTs have increased as a result, many states aren’t reaching the 10.6c/kWh mark or are only just there.

Solar Feed-In Tariff State Comparison

On January 1, 2017, many Solar Bonus Schemes ended and feed-in tariffs were substantially affected for those not on a grandfathered plan. What does this mean for the future of solar power in Australia? You can read an article on the Solar Citizens website entitled ‘Life After Feed-In Tariffs‘ which is very helpful.

Additionally, there have been myriad changes in July 2017 as the retailers update their pricing – while we’ll try to keep this list updated please double check with the retailers to get their most recent pricing options.

Regional Queensland, Victoria and Tasmania have regulated minimum tariffs – see those prices below and then we’ll compare them with the ‘market-set’ tariffs to see if the system is working. All prices are ex GST unless noted.

Regional Queensland

  • For the 2016-17 year, the regional feed-in tariff was 7.448 cents per kilowatt hour.
  • For the 2017-18 year, the regional feed-in tariff is 10.102 cents per kilowatt hour.

Victoria

  • For the 2016-17 year, the Victorian feed-in tariff was 5.0 cents per kilowatt hour.
  • For the 2017-18 year, the Victorian feed-in tariff is 11.3 cents per kilowatt hour.

Tasmania

  • For the 2016-17 year, the regional feed-in tariff was 6.671 cents per kilowatt hour.
  • For the 2017-18 year, the regional feed-in tariff is 8.929 cents per kilowatt hour.

South Australia, New South Wales, The Australian Capital Territory and South-East Queensland don’t currently have a regulated FiT; the government and regulators argue that the market will dictate these terms. Let’s have a look at how well it’s working:

South Australia

New South Wales

IPART (Independent Pricing and Regulatory Tribunal) advised in June 2017 that a ‘fair and reasonable’ value is between 11.9 – 15c / kWh. 

  • AGL offer 11.1c cents per kilowatt hour.
  • Lumo Energy offer 11.1 cents per kilowatt hour (effective July 25, 2017).
  • Energy Australia offer 12.5 cents per kilowatt hour.

ACT

  • Origin Energy offer between 9.0 and 17.0 cents per kilowatt hour.
  • Energy Australia offer 15.0 cents per kilowatt hour.
  • ActewAGL offer 11.0 cents per kilowatt hour.
  • Powerdirect offer 6.1 cents per kilowatt hour.

South-East Queensland

How to compare Feed-In Tariffs

The Australian Government have created a website, Energy Made Easy, where you’re able to compare energy offers from gas and electricity retailers. Click here to visit.

Do you have any information or questions about FiTs or do any of our prices need updating? Please leave a comment below and we’ll fix it up.

Want to shop around and don’t want to use the Energy Made Easy website? Here’s a list of the Energy retailers in Australia and their phone numbers:

Energy Retailer Phone Numbers

ActewAGL 131 293
AGL 131 245
Alinta Energy 133 702
Aurora Energy 1300 132 003
BlueNRG 1300 599 888
Click Energy 1800 775 929
CovaU 1300 026 828
Diamond Energy 1300 838 009
Dodo Power and Gas 133 636
EnergyAustralia 133 466
Energy Locals 1300 693 637
Ergon Energy 131 046
ERM Business Energy 134 376
Lumo Energy 1300 115 866
Momentum Energy 1300 662 778
Next Business Energy 1300 466 398
Origin Energy 132 461
Pacfic Hydro Retail 1800 010 648
Pooled Energy 1300 364 703
PowerDirect 1300 307 996
Powershop 1800 462 668
QEnergy 1300 448 535
Red Energy 131 806
Sanctuary Energy 1800 109 099
Simply Energy 138 808
WINenergy 1300 791 970

 

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