Half price solar for Victorians in $1.2b plan.

Half price solar in conjunction with solar loans will be available to Victorians under a $1.2b plan announced by the state government over the weekend.

Half price solar for Victorians

Half Price Solar for Victorians
Half Price Solar for Victorians (source: premier.vic.gov.au)

Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews announced a $1.24 billion solar plan yesterday. According to the press release the Labor Government released on their website, Victorians will save around $890 / year if they are interested in being part of the half price solar scheme – which involves 50% off solar panels and no upfront cost. The second 50% will be in the form of a solar loan from the government – but to get this loan the Andrews Government will need to be re-elected and implement it from July 2019. 

Premier Andrews has an ongoing argument with the federal government over the National Energy Guarantee – so this is a shot across the bow of Malcolm Turnbull who has recently decided to abolish all energy targets inside the NEG. 

“I can’t give you an answer on the NEG because I don’t know what the NEG actually means, this thing is changing every 24 hours,” Mr Andrews told reporters on Sunday.

 
Not wanting to see a repeat of the pink batts insulation fiasco, an independent agency named Solar Victoria will work with the industry, regulators, and training organisations to ensure the quality of installs is high. Around $9m will be spent to support accreditation of up to 4,500 electricians. Looks like there will be plenty of solar jobs in Victoria if they’re able to get this project over the line.
 
The Victorian Government are hoping to bring solar power to 650,000 households over the next ten years with the Solar Homes program, which they are investing $68m in to launch immediately.
 
Click here to view the Media Release, entitled ‘Cutting power bills with solar panels for 650,000 homes’. 
 
 

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National Energy Guarantee Approval – Next Steps

National Energy Guarantee Approval – the NEG has been approved by the states and territories of Australia ‘in principle’ – allowing it to move to the next step. There’s still plenty of discussion to go before we see anything signed off, but it’s a step in the right direction for those who believe in the NEG and its ostensible goal of cheaper, more reliable power with less carbon emissions.

National Energy Guarantee Approval

National Energy Guarantee Approval - Malcolm Turnbull
National Energy Guarantee Approval – Malcolm Turnbull (source: yourlifechoices.com.au)

As with most political decisions in this country, there is a lot of posturing and point scoring going on – depending on who you ask, it’s either a ‘great step forward’ or the governments ‘withholding support’. Regardless of the case, the Federal Government has now released a draft of the energy bill which will be taken to next week’s party room meeting for approval. If you want to learn more about what happened with the NEG during the week, please click here

The states want to see detailed legislation and some of them have ‘red line’ conditions which must be met before they fit in to the National Energy Guarantee – there’s still a long way before any of this becomes law in Australia.

Victoria were especially strident in their remarks about the NEG. Victoria’s Energy Minister, Labor’s Lily D’Ambrosio, said agreeing to the plan today would be like signing “with a blindfold on”. advising that they won’t support it unless the following four demands are met:

  1. The emission reduction targets can only ever increase and must not decrease.
  2. Targets need to be set in regulation (this one’s going to be a bit of a problem as Energy Minister Josh Frydenberg has already rejected it).
  3. Emission reduction targets must be set every three years, three years in advance.
  4. Creation of a registry which is transparent and accessible by regulators and governments.

The emissions reduction target in the NEG is to bring down emissions in the electricity sector by 26 per cent by 2030.

COAG Energy Ministers will have another discussion after the Coalition Party Room meeting on Tuesday. Watch this space! We’ll keep you posted.

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NEG – National Energy Guarantee and its Australian Future

NEG – The future of Australia’s National Energy Guarantee hangs in the making this week as state government cabinets meet to discuss their positions on it, ahead of Friday’s Council of Australian Governments meeting.

NEG – National Energy Guarantee

The Australian is reporting that Energy Minister Josh Frydenberg has accused Labor states of “politicking and posturing” ahead of the meeting.

NEG - National Energy Guarantee - Energy Minister Josh Frydenberg
NEG – National Energy Guarantee – Energy Minister Josh Frydenberg (source: JoshFrydenberg.com.au)

“This is politicking and posturing ahead of Friday’s meeting, because the states know all well and good that what will hopefully occur on Friday is that we agree to the design of the national energy guarantee subject to a phone hook-up after the policy has been through the federal Coalition party room,” Mr Frydenberg said on ABC radio.

Mr Frydenberg continued talking about what Australia can expect from the NEG: 

“It’s a 38 million tonne reduction, but importantly it’s a $550 annual saving to Australian households and a 20 per cent reduction in wholesale prices,” he said.

He noted that there’s no reason for the state governments to cause any issues for the NEG as they will still retain the right to have their own RETs:

“Nothing in this policy prevents the states from having their own renewable energy targets. “They complement what is being done at the federal level, but we do need the federal government to maintain whole responsibility for this, because it’s a national problem and it requires a national solution, and it’s the federal government that is the signatory to Paris, not the states.”

Ed McManus, chief executive of Meridian Energy Australia and retailer Powershop, said states should back the NEG despite the emissions target being less than many of us had hoped. Mr McManus said he thinks some of the potential benefits of the NEG are already taking root in the futures market:

“I do believe some of the benefits of the NEG are already built into the forward prices. You only need look at the impact of the recent coal outages on calendar 2019 wholesale [futures market] prices, where prices have rallied $7-8 per megawatt hour,” Mr McManus said.

Labor frontbencher Michelle Rowland discussed what she sees as NEG flaws:

“We have a situation where we have very low emissions targets under this government’s policy, but in particular, this would absolutely stifle investment in renewable energy, and if you want to talk about jobs, you need those large scale renewable energy investment decisions to be made in order to drive those jobs into the future in this sector,” Mr Rowland told Sky News.

“This government wants to say it’s focused on innovation and science and all the rest of it. “Again, this shows that there is absolutely nothing joined up when it comes to their policies in this area.”

As usual it’s impossible to expect the politicians to stand up and try and make decisions to benefit the nation, so who knows what to expect ahead of Friday’s meeting. Renew Economy have a great hit piece on how the coalition have come up with the $550 / year figure. We weren’t exactly overly charitable about it when Malcolm Turnbull announced the National Energy Guarantee last year, so it’ll be interesting to see what happens over the coming weeks. Watch this space! 

 

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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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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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Trump imposes Solar Tariff on Panel Imports

President Donald Trump has imposed a solar tariff – on solar panel imports, which is expected to have myriad repercussions for local manufacturers and their ability to compete against competitors in China and South Korea. Will this have an impact on solar panel technology, and what will it mean for local manufacturers?

Trump’s Solar Tariff – What Now?

An ostensible slap in the face to the renewable energy, Trump’s idea of raising import tariffs by up to 30% may have a few benefits, at least for USA based companies. 

Donald Trump Imposes USA Solar Tariff
Donald Trump Imposes USA Solar Tariff (source: @realDonaldTrump via Twitter)

First Solar Inc., USA based panel maker saw their shares jump by almost 10% in after-hours trading. Shares of U.S. home appliance manufacturer Whirlpool jumped also 5 percent on Tuesday on the back of the news, as washing machines have also seen a tariff imposed on them.  

According to Time magazine, however, the move will stifle a $28 billion industry not only overseas, but the raised costs of solar panels will also harm the American solar industry. The Solar Energy Industries Association has projected tens of thousands of job losses in a sector that currently employs 260,000 people, America wide. These tariffs are on the back of Trump’s administration pulling out of the international Paris climate agreement, and rolling back regulations on power plant emissions. 

According to a statement made by President Trump on Monday, the first 2.5 gigawatts of imported solar cells will be exempt from the tariffs. Four years of tariffs will then start at 30 percent in the first year and gradually drop to 15 percent.

“Developers may have to walk away from their projects,” Hugh Bromley, a New York-based analyst at Bloomberg New Energy Finance, said in an interview before Trump’s decision. “Some rooftop solar companies may have to pull out” of some states.

CNBC reported that Credit Suisse analyst Susan Maklari told her clients that Trump’s decision wasn’t all that surprising.

“All those producing in the US will now face a similar cost structure, creating a more level playing field,” wrote Maklari. “Based on filings by LG and Samsung, they have a combined roughly 33 percent share in the U.S. suggesting 3 million washers are brought in annually. That said, both have commenced construction of U.S.-based capacity, which is expected to come on line over the next 12-18 months. As such, we expect this decision to become less impactful in time.”

Only time will tell what impact this has on the renewable energy industry as a whole, but these sort of protectionist regulations are rarely a step in the right direction. Watch this space…

 

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