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.

Power Price Rises in NSW as Regulator Loses Case

There’s never been a better time to start investigating solar energy in New South Wales – this week a federal court has blocked regulatory efforts to curb power price rises in NSW. Residential bills are set to soar even higher in the face of already over-inflated prices.

Power Price Rises in NSW

The Australian Energy Regulator (AER) argued in court that the NSW electricity distribution businesses (pole and wire companies like Ausgrid and Endeavour Energy) were inefficient (the cost of transporting electricity from station to house consists of approximately 40% of your bill). This 40% made up the majority of the AER’s ongoing (since 2015) complaints to the Australian Competition Tribunal and subsequently the Federal Court on appeal.

Power Price Rises in NSW - Paula Conboy
AER Chair Paula Conboy

According to the Australian Financial Review, the loss of this court case means that average households will face an increase of around $100 per year. Ausgrid have advised that average household electricity prices will raise by 1.5% or $11 a year for the next six years. Evidently the actual figure remains to be seen.

Since the 99-year lease for 50.4% of Ausgrid (the electricity infrastructure company which owns, maintains and operates the electrical distribution networks for 1.6m NSW residents) was sold to IFM Investors and AustralianSuper in October 2016, concern about already high energy prices has been growing. This court decision will result in a windfall of billions of dollars for the new investors of Aussgrid and Endeavour Energy. Other companies set to benefit include Jemena (who own ActewAGL) and will set a dangerous precedent for the rest of Australia.

Ramifications for other states

Craig Memery, policy officer with the Public Interest Advocacy Centre was quoted as saying “Not only will NSW households pay more following this decision; the precedent set will affect future decisions by the regulator, impacting households across the country.” However NSW energy minister Don Harwin said the government has ‘guarantees’ in place that mean consumers will pay less to the distributors in 2019 than they did in 2014.

Paula Conboy, chair of the AER, said the decision was “disappointing for NSW and ACT electricity and gas customers overall. Our 2015 decisions set lower revenues than proposed by the network businesses in NSW and ACT, partly because we concluded that costs above efficient levels should be funded by the network owners, not customers.”

Once again we’ll just have to see what this means for the rest of Australia but it’s hard to view it as anything but a growing problem for Australians who are on track to consume almost 200 Terawatt hours in 2017.

 Time to invest in solar?

Despite the outcome of this case prompting Energy Minister Josh Frydenberg to reaffirm his call for a reform of the national electricity market rules (in order to stop companies gaming the price setting system), we don’t have much faith in the government to stop the ridiculous levels power prices have reached. With the cost of solar + storage at an all time low and dropping consistently, it’s definitely reaching a point where you can add value to your residence and decrease energy costs in the medium-long term by investing in solar power. Power price rises in NSW are going to continue at the same rate – take a look at our solar battery comparison chart to learn more about your options and wrest control away from the unmitigated, uncontrolled greed of the power companies and continued incompetence of the government and judicial system.

 

NSW Solar Tariff set to double after draft proposal released.

Good news for those looking for a higher NSW solar tariff. Yesterday the Independent Pricing and Regulatory Tribunal released a draft proposal which includes a higher tariff range of 11.6c/kWh to 14.6c/kWh for the 350,000 households in New South Wales with rooftop PV solar arrays.

NSW Solar Tariff
NSW Solar Installations –
(source: afr.com)

NSW Solar Tariff Changes

The feed-in tariff is not compulsory in New South Wales and this has led to prices varying quite considerably, from 5c/kWh to 12c/kWh. The premium solar tariffs of 60c/kWh for early adopters ended on January 1 2017 so this comes at an opportune time, even if the prices being offered are considerably lower than the unsustainable loss-leading strategy of the premium tariffs. It is important to note that NSW energy retailers already offer tariffs above the current suggested range – AGL and Energy Australia offer 6.1c/kWh, and Origin Energy offers 6/10c/kWh depending on your plan. No word yet on how these higher ranges may affect those prices.

Don Harwin, NSW Energy minister, noted that the current lack of an feed-in tariff (FiT) means that it’s extra important to shop around: “It’s not mandatory for retailers to offer a feed-in tariff but I strongly urge retailers to offer one, and for consumers to shop around to get the best deal,” Mr Harwin said. Harwin had previously made a statement about asking IPART to update the benchmark tariff so it is good to see him following through on his word to help those exporting power back to the grid earn a fair amount per kWh. He also noted that “The tariff is not subsidised by other energy users so it won’t increase power prices” – rather, power prices have already been increasing due to more extraneous factors.

These tariff rises are as a direct result of the wholesale price of electricity rising (due in no small part to the recent closing of the Hazelwood dirty coal generator) – so it’s more incentive to take a look at the value of a solar strategy. The final tariff determination will be issued in June following consultation. Click here to view IPART’s draft report.