Solar tariff to return for NSW panels
By NSW political reporter Liz Foschia
Updated March 15, 2012 08:22:05
The New South Wales Government has put electricity retailers on notice that it wants payments for solar energy fed into the state’s power grid to resume.
But critics say the proposed tariff to be paid is too low to maintain the state’s solar industry.
People purchasing solar panels have not been paid anything for the power they produce since the Solar Bonus Scheme was closed to new participants in April last year.
The state’s Independent Pricing and Regulatory Tribunal (IPART) is now recommending a tariff range of between 5 and 10 cents per kilowatt hour.
IPART is not making the payments compulsory for power retailers, but Energy Minister Chris Hartcher says he expects it will be adopted.
“The Government is confident that the electricity retailers will offer a reasonable and fair price,” Mr Hartcher said.
“The Government expects the electricity retailers to act responsibly.
“They after all have an interest too in ensuring that the environment is looked after and that the demand on electricity from the electricity generation system is not increased.”
Mr Hartcher says nearly 28,000 people have purchased solar panels since the Solar Bonus Scheme was closed off.
“They’re not receiving anything at all. They’re the ones who will benefit from it,” he said.
Opposition spokesman Luke Foley says the decision is well overdue.
“The free ride for energy retailers should end,” he said.
But the solar industry says the proposed tariff will be at most half what they were seeking, 20 cents per kilowatt hour.
The NSW chairman and the Solar Energy Industries Association, Geoff Bragg, says the Government put conditions on the IPART inquiry that largely determined the outcome.
“They got the answer they were looking for. It really shows the true colours of the Government and their lack of support,” Mr Bragg said.
“We’ve had eight months without a policy, which basically brought the industry to its knees, and then the worst value placed on renewable energy in the country.”
Greens MP John Kaye is also critical of the tariff amount.
“Nobody will be able to afford to buy a solar panel,” Dr Kaye said.
“The payback period will be extraordinarily long under these prices. That means effectively that the industry will continue to go into decline.”
Both the Greens and Opposition support another recommendation from the IPART, that the retailers contribute to the costs of the Solar Bonus Scheme.
“Clearly the retailers should take part of the heavy lifting,” Dr Kaye said.
But Mr Hartcher says forcing the retailers to pay may be difficult, and he has sought legal advice.
“It’s a fairly complex legal issue. It could well require legislation,” he said.
Topics: states-and-territories, electricity-energy-and-utilities, solar-energy, nsw
First posted March 15, 2012 08:21:05