Western Australia Solar Subsidies may be cut – Wyatt

Western Australia Solar Subsidies look like they’re in the firing line right now – with Energy Minister Ben Wyatt advising that he supports either completely scrapping or winding back rooftop solar panel subsidies.

Western Australia Solar Subsidies

Western Australia Solar Subsidies - Synergy
Western Australia Solar Subsidies – Synergy (source: synergy.net.au)

Earlier this year the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission called to axe rooftop solar subsidies Australia-wide by 2021. Ben Wyatt said he has asked the Public Utilities Office to have an in depth look about the buyback scheme which could probably do with a bit of an overhaul, or at least a step in the right direction, technology wise.

“While the cost of solar PV systems has reduced significantly since the introduction of the Renewable Energy Target and is now considered economically viable in the absence of government subsidy, the implications of such a change need to be fully thought through, including the impact on the local solar industry,” Mr Wyatt said.

In WA, Synergy currently pays a feed-in tariff of 7.1c/kW to 240,000 households with solar – and over 70,000 customers entitled to the premium solar feed-in tariff which is 40c/kW (there’s no indication that the gov’t is looking at winding back the premium FIT). This is known as the Renewable Energy Buyback Scheme (REBS). Mr Wyatt said that Synergy are paying ‘over the odds’ for this power during hte middle of the day, when demand is low and output high. If you’d like to learn more about WA’s unique energy situation please have a look at this article.

We’re all for furthering the cause of solar, but is it worth taking a look at maybe moving some of the subsidies and tariffs towards energy storage rather than energy generation?

Ray Challen, who was the top energy adviser as the head of the Public Utilities Office up until the end of last year, said he thinks it’s time to consider the best way to continue improving our renewable generation:

“The reason for subsidising any form of behaviour is to produce some sort of greater social good, and it would be difficult to say at the moment that there is a greater social good from subsidising small-scale solar because people could do it anyway,” Mr Challen said. “Not only that but if you wanted to subsidise anything in the power sector then you would be probably subsidising batteries.”

So will we have a solar battery subsidy? It’s hard to say at this point, but many people are talking about making a change to the way we currently reward solar generators. Would a carefully managed solar battery rebate help? Watch this space…

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South Australian Virtual Power Plant Launched

Tesla’s South Australian Virtual Power Plant has begun deployment, with the first 100 Powerwalls combined with a 5kW solar array rolling out across a group of South Australian households this month. This rollout is in conjunction with the Household Storage Subsidy Scheme in South Australia.

South Australian Virtual Power Plant

South Australian Virtual Power Plant Tesla
South Australian Virtual Power Plant Tesla (source: Tesla / YouTube)

Housing SA are working with Tesla to install the distributed Powerwall tech which is going to start with a focus on public housing and will end up with arrays and Powerwalls/other batteries (read on to learn about the Household Storage Subsidy Scheme) on up to 50,000 homes. 

Another 1,000 South Australian households will have the Tesla batteries installed before July 2019, but potentially ‘in a few weeks’, according to Electrek. Lots of different figures floating around right now so we’ll update you as we hear more.

It’s actually quite similar to the 100MW / 129MWh Powerpack project in that the whole system will help stabilise the grid and provide a strong baseload of power so we don’t see the blackout issues South Australia suffered through in 2016. In this case it’s not one big project, however – many homes working together will decrease cost of electricity and ensure grid stability improves (and continues to). 

There’s also a separate scheme for other battery subsidies – underwritten by the $100 million Household Storage Subsidy Scheme. The push to help renters and low-income earners enjoy the benefits of solar has been fantastic and we’re excited to see some stats and results after the estimated 40,000 SA households receive on average $2,500 each. Please note that this particular scheme is for people who already have solar power installed and want energy storage as well and is not related to the Tesla virtual power plant.

You can watch a video Tesla released about the South Australian Virtual Power Plant – it’ll explain what the plan is and what we can expect to see next from SA and Tesla!

There’s also a video on Twitter from Nine News Adelaide where the current (Liberal) SA state government seem happy to take credit for this scheme (which was totally organised under the previous (Labor) government). Bit of an eye-roll, but then again it’s par for the course for our beloved Australian politicians.

Regardless of that, the tenant in this video had a $500+ bill for electricity every quarter, which has been reduced to $175 since having the solar system installed. So those are some fantastic numbers!

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Latrobe Valley solar: 30 public buildings to get PV.

Latrobe Valley solar energy is set to get a boost with 30 public buildings in the area to have rooftop installed at no cost, thanks to a bit of help from the state government in Victoria.

Latrobe Valley Solar Scheme

Energy and environment minister Lily D’Ambrosio was in Moe last week to discuss the scheme and show the Latrobe Valley residents a list of the public buildings in line for free solar upgrades, including in some cases solar hot water and lighting. One such building is the Toongabbie Mechanics Institute – a building where existing solar has already saved $500 on last quarter’s electricity bill. Toongabbie Mechanics Institute treasurer Roger Ries summed it up very succintly:

“It’s made amazing reductions. It’s cheaper for the recreation reserve users and it will make it cheaper for the hall here,” Mr Ries said.

Minister D’Ambrosio spoke about the impact these home solar energy upgrades will have on the lives of lives of 1000 vulnerable Gippslanders.

“The energy upgrades and solar installations will not only help bring down energy prices for the Latrobe Valley, they will create local jobs in the renewable energy sector,” she said.

According to the Latrobe Valley Express, over 1000 households/low incomes earners are also eligible for solar systems as part of the $5 million Latrobe Valley Home Energy Upgrade Program.  Local businesses Gippsland Solar (who are responsible for the fantastic Camberwell Grammar School Solar System), Sunny Afternoons and Rocky’s Electrical will be used for both programs which will create 10 full-time jobs.

Latrobe Valley Solar Scheme
Latrobe Valley Solar Scheme (source: EPA Victoria)

There’s been some great solar news for the Latrobe Valley / Gippsland area with regards to both end-user solutions and large-scale renewable energy production – with a 70MW solar farm on the outskirts of Morwell announced back in April, to be build by ARP Australian Solar who said the plant will be a hybrid solar and battery farm which create “well over 100 jobs [during construction]” for the area. 

“There would also be a number of ongoing jobs … involving security, electrical testing, monitoring and what have you.”, according to ARP Australian solar director George Hughes. 

Mr Hughes elaborated on a potential timeline for the Morwell solar farm: 

“With everything going according to plan, we’re looking to start construction in January or February next year, early 2019.”

We’ll keep you updated on both the Latrobe Valley Solar Scheme and the Morwell solar farm. Exciting times for Gippsland!

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Logan solar trial to go ahead for low-income households.

Logan solar power has received a boost as Queensland premier Annastacia Palaszczuk’s state government offer a solar trial for low-income families, following the success of similar schemes in Cairns and Rockhampton. 

Logan Solar Systems for low-income households

Logan Solar Systems for low-income househoulds
Logan Solar Systems for low-income househoulds (source: AFR.com)

According to Yahoo, the solar panels will be installed on selected state-owned homes in the Waterford, Coomera, Woodridge, Logan, Algester and Springwood electorates. It appears that a discounted per kilowatt-hour price will be offered to those who join the scheme. 

Click here to view the statement on the Queensland government’s website about expressions of interest to find an energy partner for the Logan solar trial. 

Energy Minister Dr Anthony Lynham spoke about the savings that can be had for families undertaking this scheme:

“The Queensland Government is committed to increasing the uptake of renewable energy to drive jobs and investment and reduce emissions.

“In Cairns and Rockhampton we are expecting to see savings of up to $250 per year on electricity bills and we want to bring savings to tenants in Logan as well,” Dr Lynham said.

According to the press release, more than 800 solar panel systems have been installed in Cairns and Rockhampton as part of the scheme; and now it’s greater Brisbane’s turn. 

The possibility of solar job creation through this scheme is something the government is also carefully considering: 

“One aspect we will look at is whether the successful tenderer will employ local tradies, including electricians and suppliers,” State Development Minister Cameron Dick said on Monday.

“Logan households will then be invited to participate in the program.”

“The Palaszczuk Government is committed to helping Queenslanders with their cost of living pressures and this will help some of our most vulnerable people,” Mr Dick continued.

Click here to view the statement on the Queensland government’s website about expressions of interest to find an energy partner for the Logan solar trial.  It’s also on the QTenders website from 9 July 2018 – https://www.hpw.qld.gov.au/qtenders/

Great news for those following Annastacia Palaszczuk’s environmental policies after also announcing no-interest solar loans in QLD earlier this year under their ‘Powering Queensland’s Future’ plan.

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Lightsource BP offering residential PPAs

Lightsource BP, a UK based solar and smart energy solutions company, is preparing to move into the Australian market where they will offer residential rooftop PV solar power at no upfront cost – instead using the PPA (Power Purchase Agreement) model usually reserved for large-scale solar installs. 

Lightsource BP Solar in Australia

Lightsource BP in Australia
Lightsource BP in Australia (source: bp.com)

Lightsource Labs Australia Pty Ltd (LS Labs) have applied to the Australian Energy Regulator (AER) to launch their product, asking for an individual exemption to hold a retailer authorisation. The application says that LS Labs could launch their product in NSW, SA, QLD, and VIC within a couple of weeks, so all eyes on the regulator to see if they’re happy to grant the exemption.

The way LS Lab’s product will work is that they will supply, install, operate and maintain a solar array, batter and smart metering system to homes, and then sell the renewable power to the client at a fixed price under a PPA model. According to Renewables Now, the period of PPA could be up to 20 years and price per kWh will depend on the terms of each individual contract (i.e. it’ll be cheaper depending on how long the contract is). They also note that customers will be offered the opportunity to buy the system at any time after the second year of the PPA.

RenewEconomy is reporting that Lightsource BP partnered with French company Edf in the UK – using LG Chem batteries as part of the ‘Sunplug’ program. These PPAs were around 9.9p/kWh (~$0.18 AUD) so it’ll be interesting to see how this fares in the Australian market. 

Last month, Lightsource BP acquired Ubiworx Systems to help support a plan for the global launch of a smart-home solution. Kareen Boutonnat, COO of Lightsource BP, said at the time that the “power of the home” will be very important with regards to shaping the world’s “new energy future” – a situation where the energy market transcends monitoring and controlling of consumption, turning ‘smart homes’ into ‘genius homes’ (as we call them). Will be exciting to see where this goes over the next few years! 

 

 

 

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Solar loans in South Australia, sonnen to move HQ

Premier Jay Weatherill has announced $100m for solar loans in South Australia. Up to 10,000 South Australian homeowners will be able to access up to $10,000 for loans for solar panels, batteries, or both. The loans will be interest free for the first 7  years. At the same time, German company sonnen has announced it will relocate its Australian headquarters from Sydney to Adelaide – we’ll report more on that next week. 

Solar Loans in South Australia

Solar Loans in South Australia
Solar Loans in South Australia (source: Jeremy Buckingham via Wikipedia)

Yesterday the Labor party made the announcement that they will offer these solar loans for private homes – with Premier Weatherill discussing the ramifications of the plan in a press conference:

“It’s going to slash bills, we’ve already seen that with our virtual power station, modelling demonstrates a 30 per cent reduction in energy power,” he said.

“We’ve seen from the national regulator that renewable energy projects are projected to reduce energy bills by $300 over the next two years, so it’s just beginning to happen.”

The Liberal party already announced a very similar policy last October so it looks like there’ll be a good result for renewables no matter who wins – it’s a little surprising to see Premier Weatherill offer something so similar when he has been such a champion of renewable energy for so long. Regardless, it’s a great scheme and one which will have a good result either way – South Australia continues to lead the charges with regards to renewables in Australia.

According to the ABC, opposition leader Steven Marshall said their $100m plan was to provide grants of $2,500 per household for 40,000 dwellings – so less money, but for more properties. Mr Marshall argued that 10,000 households was not enough to ‘shift the dial’ with regards to ballooning energy prices:

“The reality is 10,000 is not going to shift the dial in South Australia in terms of prices, unlike the Liberal Party which has put our policy up for independent scrutiny and we know that prices will come down under the Liberal Party’s energy policy,” Mr Marshall said.

“We’ve put our plan out for independent evaluation.

“Labor still hasn’t provided any indication whether this is going to bring down energy prices in South Australia for any more than just the 10,000 people it’s talking about.”

Back in October last year the Liberal party said their plan will save $300 per household per annum, but later admitted their modelling was inaccurate and the savings will be around $70 and won’t start until 2022. To achieve that figure of $300 a $500m-$700m interconnecter to New South Wales would need to be connected by 2021.

No word on specific savings with regards to Labor’s plan so for the time being voters will need to decide whether $2,500 for 40,000 houses or $10,000 for 10,000 houses is going to have a better effect on energy prices and stability. No doubt we’ll have more information on this as election time draws nearer! 

 

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Darebin Solar Saver – Interest Free Solar Loans

The Darebin Solar Saver, a groundbreaking solar scheme in the Victorian city of Darebin, means that residents are able to take out an interest-free loan from the council to cover the cost of solar panels and installation, with repayments added to household rates. 

About the Darebin Solar Saver

Darebin councillors signed a $10m contract with EnviroGroup in Northcote to manage the expansion of the Darebin Solar Saver program, with systems available from 2kW to 10kW – installations are set to commence in July 2018. This is in addition to the ~500 households already enjoying the program. 

The $10 million expansion, which will be funded via existing cash reserves, will help further the council’s goal to double solar-power generated in Darebin from 18,000kW to 36,000kW. 

The Herald Sun quoted Kingsbury resident Mai Pham as a very happy user of the Darebin Solar Saver:

“We are really happy with our solar system. We’re saving on our energy bills and it means we don’t need to worry so much,” she said.

“The cost of installing solar means it’s not even a possibility for many low-income families, so this help from the council to cover the initial outlay is such a good idea.”

Residents who would like to take advantage of the generous and forward-thinking solar programs (which are currently slated to run from 2017 – 2021) can click here to register their interest. Alternatively, if you have any questions email [email protected] or phone 8470 8888.

Darebin Solar Saver
Darebin Solar Saver (source: darebin.vic.gov.au)

Interest Free Solar Loans

We’ve previously written about interest free solar via Annastacia Palaszczuk’s Labor Party and their ‘Powering Queensland’s Future’ scheme which may be offering no-interest solar loans in Queensland. There are a number of retailers currently offering low/no interest solar deals to customers but to have the purchasing power and safety of the government behind one of these schemes would be an amazing step in the right direction. We’ll keep you updated on any further details for councils subsidising solar for their residents! 

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