iPart Solar Power Feed in Tariff recommendation

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Warning over cuts to solar scheme
25 Nov, 2011 03:00 AM
Canberra Times

THE state government has thrown its weight behind a move to halve the price paid for solar electricity, amid warnings of further job losses if the lower rate is implemented.

The pricing regulator IPART, the Independent Pricing and Regulatory Tribunal, yesterday called for a tariff of 8-10c per kilowatt hour be paid to households who sell electricity into the network from their solar panels.

This compares with the 60c being received by those households who installed the panels under the state government’s solar bonus scheme which was closed off last year as its cost blew out, while 20c has been set as the price under the revised scheme.

Halving the price to 8-10c a kilowatt hour would avoid penalising households without the panels, IPART said. ”This means the average customer will not be paying higher prices to subsidise households with solar panels,” IPART acting chairman and chief executive, Jim Cox, said yesterday of the 8-10c rate.

The state government called for electricity retailers to begin using the lower rate for all new customers. ”Less than 5 per cent of NSW electricity customers are participating in the Solar Bonus Scheme, yet the blown out costs of the scheme are imposed on all NSW consumers,” the Energy Minister, Chris Hartcher, said yesterday.

”IPART’s draft determination ensures that customers without solar are not footing the bill for generous subsidies to customers with solar.”

IPART’s analysis shows the average household saves $330 a year by generating its own electricity, and earns an average of $60 on top of this by selling any surplus electricity into the electricity network.

IPART said its 8-10c figure represents the ”direct financial gain electricity retailers make when their [photo voltaic] customers export electricity to the grid”, although green energy groups warned the IPART rate undervalues solar energy.

”By completely discounting the cost savings from avoided infrastructure spending, IPART has signed the death warrant for the roof-top solar industry,” Greens MLC John Kaye said.

Clean Energy Council director Kane Thornton said: ”These recommendations would discourage people from purchasing solar panels and put thousands of jobs at risk in NSW. The NSW government should move to … mandate a minimum price for solar electricity. This would be equitable for solar households and result in no additional cost to taxpayers or electricity users.”

IPART has undervalued the full range of benefits that solar provides for Australia’s electricity systems and consumers, he said.