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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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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Mackay Solar Tender (Council): $2.1m from Akcome

Mackay Council have decided which company to go with after putting out a solar tender last year. The Mackay solar project will be built by a Brisbane-based company – Akcome Power – who offered a significantly lower price than their competitors. 

The Mackay Solar Tender Overview.

We wrote about the initial tender process last year – the initial pool of EOI respondents was 16 companies, which ended up being whittled down to four.

Akcome Power Pty Ltd won the tender with a price significantly lower than the other three remaining respondents. Personally I’d be a bit wary of such a major discrepancy between quotes, so let’s dig a little deeper. Akcome’s proposal involves the usage of Huawei and ABB inverters – with 10 year warranties – and ‘unspecified’ solar panels with 30-year warranties.

Nevertheless, consultancy Peak Services reviewed the proposal and Akcome as a company and came away satisfied. Have Mackay Council got a fantastic deal or will they end up paying the prices for not paying the price and end up with a system where performance doesn’t meet expectations or quality issues abound? Time will tell. There are certainly plenty of perturbed solar companies in North Queensland right now.

According to the council, the final price will be offset by a little over half a million in STCs (small-scale renewable energy certificates). This, in conjunction with other ‘council and contingency costs’, will bring the final price to around $1.97 million.

“Council, like households, has been hard hit by rising electricity prices,’’ Mackay Mayor Greg Williamson said in a statement last Friday, according to One Step Off The Grid.

“This fairly modest initial outlay is an investment in the future which will provide ongoing cost savings.”

Mackay Solar Council Tender
Mackay Solar Council Tender (source: mackay.qld.gov.au)

This will be a great thing for solar jobs in Mackay – the 21 council facilities will require plenty of help getting the solar installed – and it seems like the majority of it will be going to local installers:

“Akcome has advised it will engage local Clean Energy Council of Australia-accredited electricians, as well as local non-accredited experienced electricians to work with them, plus local trades assistants,” Mackay Mayor Greg Williamson said.

“They expect to use 60 to 70 per cent Mackay-area based tradespeople to complete the installation.”

You can read the minutes of the Mackay council meeting where they decided which company to use by clicking here

 

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Solar Energy Australia Statistics – 2017

Solar Energy Australia Statistics – The Clean Energy Regulator released their report on solar power uptake in Australia in 2017. A record 3.5m solar panels were installed on rooftops last year, with their combined output of 1057MW around the same as a mid-sized coal-fired power station. 

Solar Energy Australia Statistics

Small-Scale Renewable Energy in Australia 2016 – 2017(source: cleanenergyregulator.gov.au)

The 1057MW was installed by Australian homes and businesses in 2017, mostly from rooftop solar. That’s the equivalent of 9,500 solar panels being installed in Australia every day of 2017! Commercial solar had a huge influx of big solar systems installed which helped with the numbers. Here are some of the many businesses that installed solar power in 2017: 

Clean Energy Regulator Executive General Manager Mark Williamson was pleased to see the solar uptake in all industries:

“We are seeing a wide cross-section of Australians – households, community centres, schools, and small businesses – receiving incentives under the small-scale renewable energy scheme,” Williamson said.

“Our data shows consumers are embracing renewable energy to take control of their electricity bills” Williams said on the CER website

According to Wikipedia, as of December 2017, Australia had over 7,024 MW of installed photovoltaic (PV) solar power. The CER report shows that in 2017 there was a 41% increase in installed renewable energy capacity compared to 2016. Queensland had the most solar panels installed (295MW), and the ACT showed the greatest annual increase – showing a massive 57% change from its 2016 figures. The CER report also showed that the average solar system size in Australia has increased by 200% – from 3kW to 6kw – as prices continue to decrease and technology increases rapidly. 

The small-scale Renewable Energy Scheme which created financial incentives for homes and small businesses to install small scale renewable energy systems has obviously had the desired effect. It’ll be interesting to see how 2018 fares as it’s already off to a roaring start. 

 

Solar Energy Australia Statistics

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