Ikea Solar Panels in Australia – Cost, Pricing, Brands.

According to new IKEA Australia boss Jan Gardberg, the Swedish furniture company will sell solar panels ‘at cost’ in Australia as part of a strategy to increase their market share across the country. We reported on IKEA solar panels in the UK last August and reached out about a timeline for Australia, but didn’t get a response back. But now we know!

Ikea Solar Panels in Australia

“We have already introduced (solar panels) into the UK market and in Poland and something similar in Japan, and I and the team would like to find a way to introduce that to the Australian market,” Jan Gardberg, the new boss of IKEA Australia, told Channel 9. 

“It would actually be cost-neutral because we believe this to be another positive way that we, as a big company, can contribute for the sustainable life at home for the many people in Australia”he continued – which sounds like fantastic news for consumers given solar panel technology is increasing so rapidly and energy storage becoming so commonplace the price is becoming a lot more reasonable.

But what are the ramifications for the smaller solar companies when they’re already in a race to the bottom in terms of discounting? If a company with almost bottomless pockets is selling solar as a loss-leading strategy there’s going to be some interesting days ahead. Keeping in mind the customers will still need to pay for inverters and installation there’s still money to be made for those shrewd enough to piggyback on IKEA’s plan – but along with shrinking STCs it’s definitely tough times for those in the retail solar game, where profit margins are already razor thin. 

Natalie Collard from the Clean Energy Council was positive about the Ikea solar panels:

“We expect IKEA will respond quickly to any concerns about installation quality or performance from the systems that are being sold in-store. IKEA is continuing the trend of large mainstream businesses adopting renewable energy, and this will only strengthen in the years ahead.”

“The Clean Energy Council’s Approved Solar Retailers have all committed to excellence in customer service, a minimum five-year whole-of-system warranty and ethical marketing practices. A list of these businesses can be found at www.approvedsolarretailer.com.au.”

Ikea Solar Panel Price

Ikea Solar Panels
Ikea Solar Panels (source: noco2.com.au)

RenewEconomy have reported that the UK IKEA solar panel offerings are from Solarcentury, and they currently have three separate offerings for solar panels:

  1. 3kW solar system for ~$7,800 AUD
  2. Customisable solar system (from 3kW) starting at around ~$8,700 AUD
  3. Customisable solar system with ‘seamless roof integration’ (from 3kW), starting at around $10,900 AUD

Since August 2017 IKEA also sell battery storage to the UK market – with their batteries coming from SonnenBatterie and LG Chem, both well respected and very highly performing brands. 

They also offer a 3,5, or 15 year loan to ‘spread the cost of solar’ if you’re so inclined. 

No news on how much these panels will cost in Australia or if they’ll be the same as in the UK, but as soon as we have any information we’ll update this article! 

Large scale solar in NSW to explode in 2018.

Large scale solar in NSW under the Berejiklian government is about to kick up a notch, as 11 large-scale solar energy plants have been approved in the last 12 months. 2018 is also off to a great start with the 500,000 PV solar panel, 170MW Finley Solar Project in the Riverina being approved. 

Large scale solar in NSW

Large Scale Solar in NSW
Large Scale Solar in NSW (source: smh.com.au via NSW Government)

NSW Energy Minister Don Harwin contends that NSW is helping lead the charge (for our money South Australia and Queensland are well ahead right not, but in any case) for solar power in Australia: 

“These projects will ensure our energy security and with many more in the pipeline, NSW is in a stronger position than other states,” he said.

Although NSW only has half the amount of rooftop solar PV as Queensland and South Australia (15% as opposed to 30%) – these figures are definitely a step in the right direction.

 According to Planning Minister Anthony Roberts quoted in the Sydney Morning Herald, 1800 jobs have been created and the ten solar plant approvals in 2017 were double the 2016 number: 
 
The solar plants “collectively reduce carbon emissions by over 2.5 million tonnes, which is equivalent to taking around 800,000 cars off the road”, Roberts said. 
 
Estimates from the Smart Energy Council (an amalgam of the Australian Solar Council and the Energy Storage Council which occured late last year) project that 1.4GW of rooftop solar and 2.5-3.5GW of solar farms will be added to Australia’s solar arsenal in 2018, a massive increase from the record 1.3GW for both rooftop and solar farms that we saw in 2017. 

“With some of the best sunshine anywhere in the world and lots of good locations available, it is not surprising that NSW is up there with Queensland as one of the national frontrunners for new large-scale solar power projects,” Kane Thornton, chief executive of the Clean Energy Council, said.

Aurora solar thermal plant receives DA.

The Aurora solar thermal plant in Port Augusta, South Australia, received developmental approval today and the $650m, 150MW project will commence construction later this year. It’ll be built by Santa Monica based company SolarReserve, also responsible for the 110MW Crescent Dunes Solar Energy Project solar thermal power plant.

Aurora solar thermal plant

Chris Picton, the acting energy minister in South Australia was unsurprisingly effusive in his praise for the project:

“It’s fantastic that SolarReserve has received development approval to move forward with this world-leading project that will deliver clean, dispatchable renewable energy to supply our electrified rail, hospitals and schools,” Mr Picton said in a press release yesterday. 

Natalie Collard, the executive GM of the Clean Energy Council, told Fairfax Media, “the price that the government will pay for power is remarkably low, considering solar thermal is a very young technology in Australia.

“The state has taken a series of positive steps towards greater energy independence which are really starting to pay off. And it has already met its target of 50 per cent renewable energy almost a decade early,” she said in a statement.

More Info

The Aurora solar thermal plant will look like this one in Spain (source: AdelaideNow.com.au)
The Aurora solar thermal plant will look like this one in Spain (source: AdelaideNow.com.au)

We’ve previously written about the South Australian solar thermal power plant back in August – so you can follow that link for more information. After completion, the Augusta project will be a global leader – the world’s biggest single-tower solar thermal power plant.

Rotating mirrors known as heliostats focus solar energy onto a single central tower and utilises molten salt technology to store this heat, which it then uses to create steam which turns a turbine to generate energy. 

It’s important to note that this isn’t just regular solar thermal – the molten salt storage solar thermal helps renewable baseload energy a lot more effectively as it can deliver energy faster than regular solar thermal. With the closing of traditional power stations like the Hazelwood dirty coal station earlier this year, ensuring reliable and cheap baseline power energy is a key piece of the Australian energy puzzle. 

Solar Powered Trams in Melbourne / VRETs

Victoria has been working on a plan for solar powered trams over the past year and it looks like the Andrews government has moved one step closer with the project – announcing plans to build two new Victorian solar farms to power Melbourne’s tram networks. If that phrase conjured up the image of a bunch of trams with solar panels on top, unfortunately not yet – but using renewable energy to power public transport is a great step forwards. We already have projects like the Valdora solar farm run by the Sunshine Coast Council to power all their energy needs so it’s very encouraging to see the public sector moving in (some semblance of) lockstep with private innovation and investment. 

Melbourne’s Solar Powered Trams

Premier Daniel Andrews Solar Powered Trams
Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews announces Solar Powered Trams.

Premier Daniel Andrews announced that Bannerton Solar Park and the Numurkah Solar farm have won tenders to provide renewable energy to power Melbourne’s trams, offering 100MW and 38MW respectively for the network. The $100m Bannerton project will consist of 95,000 solar panels and is expected to reach full completion by July 2018. The Numurkah Solar Farm will output 100MW via 300,000 solar panels on 500 hectares, but only 38MW of this will be going to the government. French solar plant developer Neoen (who will partner with Tesla to create the world’s largest lithium-ion battery in South Australia) will commence construction in early 2018.

In January Energy, Environment and Climate Change Minister Lily D’Ambrosio advised that they would use one solar plant with 75MW of power – and that half of this would go to the tram network as 35MW was sufficient to cover the energy needs of 410 Melbourne trams. Despite opposition energy minister David Southwick decrying it at the time as a ‘media stunt’ and said Andrews’ government should be ‘fighting for the most affordable power deal for Victorians’, the government has forged ahead and have doubled down on their renewable energy plans – announcing Victoria’s Renewable Energy Targets for 2020 and 2025. 

Victorian Renewable Energy Target

Legislation introduced to Parliament (the first time RETs have been enshrined in state legislation in Australia) last week has set Victoria’s RETs (Renewable Energy Targets) to 25% at 2020 and 40% by 2025. According to the Herald Sun, they haven’t released any modelling showing what the figures are based on, but the RET will mean a cut to energy prices of $30 p.a. for an average family. 

According to Andrews, “The VRET will cut the average cost of power for Victorians by around $30 a year for households, $2,500 a year for medium businesses and $140,000 a year for large companies, while driving a 16 per cent reduction in Victoria’s electricity sector greenhouse gas emissions by 2034-35.”

The VRET legislation allows for a competitive reverse auction (i.e. the lowest bidder wins) for up to 650MW of power (enough to power Geelong, Ballarat, Bendigo and the Latrobe Valley combined) , which Clean Energy Council chief exec Kane Thornton says will ‘turbocharge’ the renewable energy industry in Victoria, calling it a ‘major step forward for communities, businesses and the state’s renewable energy industry’. 

Political grandstanding or a massive step forward for renewable energy in Victoria? Is it necessarily a zero-sum game? We’ll know very soon – watch this space and we’ll keep you updated on how things are going! With the first legally binding state RETs Victoria are certainly putting their money where their mouth is and doing their bit to reduce emissions and move towards a renewable energy future. 

Redback Smart Hybrid System / EnergyAustralia

Queensland based solar company Redback Technologies have teamed up with EnergyAustralia to offer a “next generation” smart solar plus storage system, named the Redback Smart Hybrid – which is slated to pay for itself within seven years.

Redback Smart Hybrid System

Redback Smart Hybrid Battery Enclosure
Redback Smart Hybrid Battery Enclosure (source: redbacktech.com)

According to the Australian Financial Review, the system will utilise smart technology to optimise use of solar panels and batteries depending on usage and weather patterns. It’ll also have an app which allows users to remotely control and monitor operation of the Redback Smart Hybrid system.

Estimates from EnergyAustralia say that a normal household with usage of 8000kWh / year will save around $1,500 a year with the Redback Smart Hybrid system (4.9kW solar array and 3.3kWh battery). That system would cost around $9,000, or $7,000 to retrofit to existing panels with some modifications to the inverter. One of the main bonuses of the system is that it’s modular – so customers are able to scale up if they’re interested in expanding. It makes use of the Redback Smart Hybrid Solar Inverter which is designed in Brisbane, and different batteries / solar panels depending on your circumstances.

Kane Thornton, CEO of the Clean Energy Council called the system an example of the “game-changing” tech currently coming out to help combat rapidly rising electricity bills.

Andrew Perry of Energy Australia was circumspect to the AFR about specific sales goals for the system, but did advise that they have “strong ambitions for growth”. It certainly seems like we are heading very quickly to the point where solar + storage is a no-brainer for certain types of consumer – especially with the ‘smart technology’ removing the need for spreadsheets and PhDs for those wanting to get a strong result from their solar investment. To get a system like this for under $10,000 is a great deal – we’ll be very interested to see how sales go over the coming months.

Redback Smart Hybrid vs Tesla Powerwall

Technically the Redback Smart Hybrid is just an inverter + smart energy management system, but the Smart Hybrid system being offered by EnergyAustralia is an ‘all in one’ system. In comparison to the Powerwall which is just an inverter + storage,  it’s a bit difficult to compare them fairly. It is important to note that given the modular design of the Smart Hybrid, you’re able to ‘start off small’ with a 3.3kWh battery (as opposed to the Powerwall 2, which you can also add to, but only in increments of 13.4kWh) and grow from there.

The PowerWall is significantly more expensive than the Redback, and doesn’t include solar panels. However, if money is less of an issue and you’re prepared to wait, the Tesla Solar Roof Australian release date is currently “early 2018” and will undoubtedly be a premium solution for those who are interested in aesthetics along with quality.

It seems that both systems have their own niche depending on how much one wants to pay – but you certainly couldn’t be faulted for taking a look at the Redback Smart Hybrid price point and being impressed. If the smart tech works like they say it does, it’ll be a very powerful contender against all comers. Not having to worry about compatibility is definitely a big plus – although the battery / panels used may differ depending on your circumstances, EnergyAustralia will ensure the system fits together nicely.

The Redback / EnergyAustralia Partnership

EnergyAustralia invested $9.3m into Redback Technologies last October – their first major investment. The two companies have been working together on various projects including back in April where they inked a memorandum of understanding (MoU) to bring Redback’s solar tech to Dubai South for a pilot project.

Have a look at the video below which introduces Redback Technologies, their founder and MD Philip Livingston, and explains more about their partnership with EnergyAustralia.

Non-compliant solar panels from Euro Solar

Australia’s biggest seller of solar panels, Euro Solar, have been identified by the Clean Energy Regulator for installing non-compliant solar panels and claiming STCs from them. To qualify for the STC system, the panels need to be approved and validated by the Clean Energy Council – and these hadn’t.

About the Non-Compliant Solar Panels

An investigation by the Clean Energy Regulator (CER) found that Euro Solar claimed STCs (small-scale technology certificates) for 10 different rooftop PV solar installs despite using non-compliant panels. According to RenewEconomy, this was 1,058 STCs with a value of approximately $40,000. They’ve been asked to surrender the claimed STCs or replace the offending modules.

The next step, according to the CER website, is for P&N to validate serial numbers on solar modules for 78 installations within the next 12 months, and an additional 100 installations within 18 months. The relevant installations have already been flagged by the CER.

You can read more about the CER’s ‘current enforceable undertakings’ by clicking this link.

Clean Energy Regulator - Non-Compliant Solar Panels
Clean Energy Regulator goes after non-compliant solar panels (source: cleanenergyregulator.gov.au)

Euro Solar’s previous problems

A ‘winding-up’ order was issued to Euro Solar’s parent company, “P & N NSW Pty Ltd” back in June – which was dismissed by Euro Solar as a “miscommunication”, according to One Step Off The Grid. Euro Solar’s claims appeared to be substantiated and they also produced a notice for their website indicating that they “remain focussed and committed to provide our customers with a high level of service and at a cost-effective price.” A post about the situation has been deleted from Renew Economy’s website as well, so it appears this was an erroneously sent ‘winding-up order’.

This comes on the back of Euro Solar being fined $145,000 in 2014 for making false and misleading representations, namely that their Chinese made solar panels were Australian, and also for publishing fake video testimonials on Youtube and fake written testimonials on its website.

You can click here to view the press release from the Federal Court.

The fake testimonials and misleading representations about their solar panels were made online, in newspapers and on TV between November 2012 and September 2013. According to the court ruling, they were brought to the ACCC’s attention by competing businesses – for example Solar Choice published an article about the fine in January 2014 where they advised they wrote to a consumer advocate organisation about Euro Solar’s advertising.

It’s good to see the industry self-regulating like this, when misleading information can harm solar energy and the Australian solar power industry as a whole.  However, if something does happen to Euro Solar, what will become of warranties and repair? This goes to show it can be worth paying a few extra dollars to invest in quality panels from a reputable installer – the recent sharp drop in small scale renewable energy certificates has left a lot of installers who are on wafer thin margins out in the cold (or awfully close). Solar panels are a long term investment – make sure you do your due diligence before committing to a certain installer or brand!

 

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

ActewAGL131 293
AGL131 245
Alinta Energy133 702
Aurora Energy1300 132 003
BlueNRG1300 599 888
Click Energy1800 775 929
CovaU1300 026 828
Diamond Energy1300 838 009
Dodo Power and Gas133 636
EnergyAustralia133 466
Energy Locals1300 693 637
Ergon Energy131 046
ERM Business Energy134 376
Lumo Energy1300 115 866
Momentum Energy1300 662 778
Next Business Energy1300 466 398
Origin Energy132 461
Pacfic Hydro Retail1800 010 648
Pooled Energy1300 364 703
PowerDirect1300 307 996
Powershop1800 462 668
QEnergy1300 448 535
Red Energy131 806
Sanctuary Energy1800 109 099
Simply Energy138 808
WINenergy1300 791 970

 

Battery Storage Laws under fire

The solar battery storage industry is currently locked in a fierce battle with Standards Australia to halt new battery storage laws which would severely impact the uptake of residential battery storage in Australia. The draft regulations have been released and are now being discussed throughout the industry.

Battery Storage Laws

The main problem is that there aren’t currently any Standards Australia regulations for domestic battery installations – something that obviously needs to be identified and managed. The Clean Energy Council (CEC) already released a set of industry rules in 2016 which limit home batteries to ‘a dedicated equipment room or battery room’ – advising that installers need to be wary of ventilation, extreme temperatures, and ensure they don’t install in ‘habitable rooms’ e.g. bedrooms, living rooms, kitchens. The CEC’s rules, however, did include an exemption for ‘all in one’ battery and inverter control systems.

Battery Storage Laws - Standards Australia
Draft Battery Storage Laws – Standards Australia (source: standards.org.au)

Standards Australia have released a draft of their regulations for in-house energy storage – and they are far more draconian:

  • Lithium ion batteries will be classed as ‘fire hazard class 1’ and must not be installed inside a domestic dwelling, within a metre of any access or egress area or under any part of a domestic dwelling.
  • Lithium ion batteries will need to be housed in a 3x2m fire shelter with eaves.
  • Consumer groups and the solar battery storage industry have until August 15 to challenge these recommendations.

Dr. Bronwyn Evans,  the CEO of Standards Australia, was quoted in the Australian as saying the draft report is a “comprehensive document” created as “the result of many hours of work from experts representing industry, government and community interests”. They’ve been labelled as ‘over-zealous’ by the CEC.

CEC chief executive Kane Thornton said: “Consumer safety is our first priority, and there is nothing to suggest that this requirement would do anything other than throw up unnecessary barriers and red tape around an industry which is poised to make a big contribution to energy security across the country.”

It seems that these very strict draft recommendations have been put in place in an attempt to mitigate a repeat of the Rudd Government’s Energy Efficient Homes Package program (more specifically, the Home Insulation Program ‘stream’ of this package) in 2010, which was a failure on myriad fronts and also resulted in the deaths of four workers in four separate incidents.

There’s no doubt that we need to be careful and ensure the safety of households with storage and also make sure they’re safe for installers/repairers – but this needs to be managed responsibly, not with knee-jerk and unnecessarily over regulated reactions.

Access Standards Australia’s public comment portal to leave your comment on the new rules by clicking here.

Solar Power in Australia reaches 3.2% in 2016

The Clean Energy Council released figures on Tuesday that show Australians’ energy needs were powered by renewables to the tune of 17.3% in 2016 – the highest since Snowy Hydro was completed 50 years ago. 3.16% of this 17.3% renewable energy was from solar power in Australia – a massive jump of 29% from 2015. According to RenewEconomy, it’s expected to grow considerably in both small and large scale solar PV production – putting us well on track to reach our Renewable Energy Targets (RET) for 2020.

Solar Power in Australia

Clean Energy Council Chief Executive Kane Thornton advised that 10 major wind and solar farm projects were completed in 2016 and there are 20 more in the pipeline; he’s confident that we’ll reach our RETs with time to spare.

“Every month brings new project announcements. While total investment in large-scale renewable energy was $2.56 billion last year, $5.20 billion worth of projects have secured finance in just the first five months of 2017 and have either started construction or will begin this year,” Thornton said.

“Innovation continues right across the renewable energy supply chain and new technologies such as energy storage are beginning to get their time in the sun,” he was also quoted as saying. We assume the pun was intended.

Solar Power in Australia 2017
Solar Power in Australia 2017

The Australian Renewable Energy Target 2020

Some more takeaway statistics from the report:

  • Renewable energy provided 17.3% of all Australia’s energy in 2016 – up from 14.6% in 2015.
  • 6,750 battery systems were installed in 2016, 13 times the number installed in 2015.
  • Hydro is still far and away the biggest contributor to Australia’s renewable energy, comprising 42.3% of the total amount.
  • In 2017, building a renewable energy plant is now cheaper than coal and gas-fired power plants.
  • About half of the projects already underway or set to commence in 2017 are for large-scale solar, due to price per kWh nearly halving in the last two years.
  • Approximately 17,500 GWh of renewable energy was created in 2016 – as the Renewable Energy Target is 33,000GWh we still have a way to go but progress is looking positive.
  • Large scale solar is almost 50% of its cost two years ago and is slated to play a huge part in reaching our RET in 2020.

Click here to read the Clean Energy Australia Report 2016 in full at the CEC website.