SRES – Will solar rebates increase the cost of electricity?

Will solar rebates increase the cost of electricity? Yesterday The Australian newspaper published an article titled ‘Households’ $2bn solar hit’ which hypothesises that every Australian household will have to stump up $195 to help subsidise the subsidies. Is this rubbish? What impact does the SRES really have on electricity prices? Let’s read on…

SRES – Will solar rebates increase the cost of electricity?

Ketan Joshi via Renew Economy wrote a great article titled “How a ridiculous falsehood about solar power self-replicated in media”. You can read it on Ketan’s blog (ketanjoshi85) by clicking here. The “$2b solar hit” is a sum which has been basically made up through some extremely shoddy extrapolations.

The article in the Australian was run with by a number of Australia’s most trusted media outlets – News.com.au, 7 News, Sky News, the Today Show, and the consistently atrocious Daily Mail – who titled their article about the rebates thusly: 

“Climate change farce: How every Australian household contributes $200 a year to those lucky enough to be able to afford to put solar panels on their roof”

Energy Minister Angus Taylor decided to blame the big electricity retailers:

‘The big cost is the profits being taken by the big energy companies in the wholesale market, without innovation or new products, and it is time for them to deliver a fairer deal for their customers,’ he said.

‘According to the Australian Energy Market Commission, the small-scale technology certificate cost is less than three per cent of the bill, whereas 46 per cent is going to the big generator retailers.’

The Renew Economy article notes that, for FY18 and FY19 respectively, Australians paid/will pay $19 / $32 towards the scheme. This is a stark contrast to the $134 / $195 which was reported. It appears that the figures are so badly skewed for a number of different reasons including the assumption that 100% of electricity costs are passed on from businesses to households. They also haven’t factored in the Small-scale Technology Percentage, which will be set by the Energy Minister in March – and the effect this will have on STCs is quite marked. Installing solar power systems becomes cheaper if the STCs are higher, so you can see how this would have an impact which could be measured erroneously. It’ll be interesting to see how this impacts on solar grants moving forwards. 

The Small-scale Renewable Energy Scheme (aka SRES) is scheduled to run until 2030. If you’d like to read more about it please visit the Clean Energy Regulator’s website – where they have plenty of information about the scheme. 

We’d also recommend Ketan’s article for a more in depth exploration of the issue.

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Solar in Space – China’s Plans Revealed.

Chinese media are reporting that solar in space may not be as far off as we think – they’re revealed plans to build a power station orbiting the earth. Let’s take a look at the plans and see what other countries are also working on renewable energy in the solar system. 

Solar in Space – How does it work?

Solar in Space - Mars Rover (source: nasa.gov)
Solar in Space – Mars Rover (source: nasa.gov)

Chinese Media have made a statement about the solar space race – their idea is that a station could orbit the earth at 36,000 kilometres – enough to get the sun’s energy but not experience any atmosphere interference. Seasonal and night-time loss of sunlight will also be totally negated, so the station would be able to generate significantly more power than those on earth which are subject to the sun’s whims.

Chinese journal Science and Technology Daily has reported that the city of Chongqing is the host of construction of an early experimental space solar plant. 

Pang Zhihao, researcher from the China Academy of Space Technology Corporation, said a space solar power station held the promise of providing “an inexhaustible source of clean energy for humans”, according to the Sydney Morning Herald. The space solar station would be able to supply energy at 6x the power of solar farms on earth – reliably supplying energy “99%” of the time. 

The next plan for China is to build and launch a number of small/medium sized solar power stations which will be launched into the stratosphere between 2021 – 2025. 

According to the SMH Japanese, Indian and European scientists are also working on the best way to generate solar power in space. What impact could this unlimited power have on things like the Mars Rover which was ‘pronounced dead‘ over the last week? According to the researches, the energy would be converted to electricity and send to the earth via a microwave or laser beam – so they’ll need to work on ensuring this won’t have any bad effects on atmosphere or the earth in general before it goes ahead. 

 
 

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Solar Homes policy – NSW Solar grant

Solar Homes policy – the NSW Labor party have announced a huge solar rebate they will implement if they win the upcoming state election. Let’s learn more about how many households could be helped and what the particulars of the scheme are. 

Solar Homes policy

Michael Daley - Solar Homes Policy (source: michaeldaley.com.au)
Labor leader Michael Daley – announcing the Solar Homes Policy (source: michaeldaley.com.au)

The Solar Homes policy was announced by NSW Labor leader Michael Daley on his official website this week:

“This program will take NSW to over a million solar homes. Based on current take up rates for household solar, the program could help add solar to an additional 1 million homes over the next decade.” the website states. Further reading into the document shows that 500,000 households will benefit from the solar scheme. 

Under the Solar Homes policy, owner-occupied households in New South Wales are eligible for a rebate of up to $2,200, as long as their combined annual income is less than $180,000. 

Deputy Leader and Shadow Environment Minister Penny Sharpe said, “Under this plan, everyone wins. Families get help with their electricity bills and we are taking real action on climate change and giving NSW a cleaner, greener future.”

NSW Labor’s Leader in the Legislative Council and Shadow Minister for Energy and Climate Change, Adam Searle said, “Solar Homes is just one aspect of Labor’s plan for cheaper and cleaner energy across NSW. Our policies will cut both electricity bills and carbon emissions. We look forward to providing more in the lead up to the election.”

If Labor do win the state election (which will be held on March 23) and the Solar Homes policy goes ahead, it will commence in the 19-20 financial year (“to ensure an orderly rollout”), and follow other states with their own initiatives:

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Recycling Solar Panels | What to do with old solar panels.

Recycling solar panels is a topic which will be a lot more prevalent as the initial ‘wave’ panels begin to reach their end of life. Let’s take a look at what the plans are for trying to minimise the environmental impact and maximise the value  of a used solar panel.

Recycling Solar Panels | Will there be a waste crisis for old panels?

Australia has one of the highest PV solar uptakes in the world. There are plenty of us who have had solar installed for a long time. So long, in fact, that people are talking about end of life strategies to dispose of/ repurpose solar panels, so that they don’t cause a problem for the environment. 

Total Environment Centre director Jeff Angel has been crusading for the implementation of such strategies for solar panels, calling it a ‘systemic problem’:

“We’ve had a solar panel industry for years which is an important environmental initiative, and it should have been incumbent on government to act in concert with the growth of the industry so we have an environmentally responsible end-of-life strategy,” he said in a quote to the Sydney Morning Herald.

We’ve written previously about solar panel recycling and, although it’s good to see things like the ELSi project in Germany, there’s still a ways to go before we figure out the best way forward to recycle solar waste.

Reclaim PV: Recycling Solar Panels
Reclaim PV: Recycling Solar Panels (source: reclaimpv.com)

According to the director of Reclaim PV (the only dedicated photovoltaic recycler in Australia), Clive Fleming, they company recycles 90 per cent of materials in a panel. The company has been lobbying for state bans on landfill disposal of solar panels. 

Australian Council of Recycling chief executive Peter Schmigel also had a quote in the SMH about how a proper plan for recycling PV cells could have a positive effect on the economy:

“Recovery rates have been out of sight since the beginning of the scheme, nobody has said anything at all about there being an inbuilt recycling cost. It generates jobs, it generates environmental outcomes and yet for some reason we have policymakers who are hesitant about [establishing similar schemes] for solar PVs and batteries,” he said.

We expect over the coming year or two we’ll hear a lot more about this, with Sustainability Victoria working on a ‘national approach to photovoltaic product stewardship’, with their recommendations presented to the environment ministers around the middle of this year. 

Victoria have already announced they’ll ban electronic waste in landfill from July 2019, so it’ll be interesting to see if/how the other states follow suit.
 

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GreatCell Solar Enters Administration

Last month one of Australia’s longest running solar tech companies, GreatCell Solar, went into administration after the double blow of the death of their lead scientist and a failure to secure funding for its Dye Solar Cells prototype facility. 

GreatCell Solar Calls In Administrators

GreatCell Solar have unfrotunately had to call in administrators in December 2018 due to the death of their chief scientist and a problem with funding.

“The decision follows a series of unfortunate and unwelcome developments in recent weeks, including the untimely death of chief scientist Dr Hans Desilvestro in a mountaineering accident on 10 November,” Greatcell (ASX:GSL) told investors in mid-December. 

According to Stockhead, GreatCell has developed a third generation photovoltaic (PV) technology called Dye Solar Cells (DSC). DSCs are based on dye-sensitised films and are able to convert any visible light (including indoor low light) into electricity. They have been trying to get more funding for the tech but they’ve had problems with that too.

GreatCell Funding Fail

“Despite a global search and chasing down every potential funding opportunity, GSL has not been able to attract sufficient long-term equity investment,” the solar company said in a statement published on RenewEconomy:

“This is an extremely disappointing outcome for Greatcell Solar, its directors, employees and shareholders given the considerable investment already undertaken over many years to achieve an advanced, pre-commercialisation status for its 3rd generation photovoltaic technology.

“The Company is widely considered amongst its international peers to be pre-eminent in the field of Perovskite Solar Cell PV technology” the statement continues.

In late 2007 GreatCell were the recipients of a $6m ARENA grant to help fund research into perovskite solar cell technology. Unfortunately it appears that they’re somewhat stymied at the moment – but they still have a tech roadmap up on their website which leads us to still have some hope:

GreatCell Solar
GreatCell Solar Technology Roadmap (source: greatcellsolar.com.au)

Perovskite solar cells are gaining traction lately and this is the tech used in these prototypes. No word yet on what’s going to happen to Greatcell in 2019, but its statement didn’t leave a surfeit of hope: 

“With the appointment of Administrators, BRI Ferrier, the outlook for shareholders is uncertain at best” it reads. Fingers crossed they’re able to secure some more funding and get back to work with a new team. 

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