Solar Switch still worth flicking

From the Daily Telegraph
By Nhada Larkin National Features January 23, 2012

LOWER government subsidies may be causing people to hesitate about investing in solar power, but energy groups say with summer electricity bills likely to cause some nasty shocks, solar is still a smart purchase.

Australian Solar Energy Society chief executive John Grimes says a huge fall in solar panel prices and rising electricity prices mean there has “never been a better time to buy” solar panels.

“In the past 18 months prices have dropped by about 80 per cent,” Grimes says.

“There has been a winding back of government support but, even taking that into account, if you were to put in a metered system today it would be cheaper than it was, even with the higher level of government support in the past.”

He says with ageing electricity infrastructure requiring government investment in the order of $140 billion, there will continue to be upward pressure on electricity prices “well past 2020″.

Solar panels can vary widely in price. An Origin 2kW solar system installed in a capital city on a single-storey building starts at about $6740, while a 3.4kW system starts at $13,490.

Grimes says the average system currently being installed is about 2kW, but to supply all the electrical needs for the average family would require a 3.5-4kW system.

“If people have the funds and want to make a longer-term investment it’s a pretty smart thing to do,” he says.

Origin energy efficiency advocate Anne Armansin says buying solar panels means consumers are “avoiding the cost of imported energy”.

“The cells you get today are going to be of benefit to you for at least 20 years and everything you generate means power you’re not going to have to buy from the grid,” she says.

“The potential benefits of getting a solar system far outweigh the initial dollar outlay.”Richard Turner, chief executive of ZEN Home Energy Systems, says with electricity prices forecast to rise as much as 40 per cent over the next two years, the payback period for an investment in solar panels will decrease.

But he says consumers should be careful when making what is a major purchase.

“There are a wide range of solar systems currently being advertised to Australian households but there are wide variations in the quality of the product and the experience of the various companies and installers,” Turner says.

“Consumers should make sure they shop around and get an understanding of exactly what they are getting before committing to a purchase.

“Solar panels are a long-term investment and buying a cheap system or one that is not suited to your house may not deliver the savings or performance you anticipated.”

The Hon Greg Combet MP’s address to 49th Annual AuSUS Solar 2011 Conference


Well, thank you for the opportunity to address the Australian Solar Energy Society’s Solar 2011 Conference. And I apologize I can’t be there today, but the Labor Party National Conference is on. So, thanks for giving me this opportunity to speak to you by video. I’d like to start by acknowledging he important role of the Australian Solar Energy Society, not only in bringing this conference together, but for the many vital contributions that it has made to the development of solar energy in Australia. This is the 49th Annual Australian Solar Energy Society Conference. And, very few renewable energy organizations, I think, can boast such a long history. For over 50 years the society and it’s predecessor, the Australian New Zealand Solar Energy Society, have made very important contributions to the development of solar energy in this country.

This year is a landmark in the history of renewable energy in Australia. I’m sure you’ll agree, because, as you’d be aware, last month the Parliament past the Government’s Clean Energy future legislation. This legislative package implements one of the most important environmental and economic reforms in our history. So, I’d like to take the opportunity to outline what the clean energy future reforms will mean for Australia’s solar and water renewable energy industry. The legislative package will give the renewable energy sector a major boost. It will deliver the right combination of economic incentives, business certainty, and government support needed to drive new investment which will help reduce the costs of renewables. Now, that investment will not only cut Australia’s greenhouse emissions, it will also support skills development and create jobs to position Australia for the low carbon global economy of the future. The government’s package is a very comprehensive and integrated suite of policies for delivering that transformation.

We’re introducing a carbon process, as you’d be well aware, from the first of July next year. This will create powerful incentives for further growth in renewable energy. Putting a price on carbon pollution will increase demand for alternative energy sources such as a small-scale solar for homes and businesses. The carbon price will be complemented by our existing renewable energy target which is already supported over 1,000 megawatts of small-scale solar PV capacity in over half a million households and over half a million solar water heaters. The renewable energy target provides, of course, additional support for both small and large-scale solar installations. The small-scale scheme will continue to provide assistance to households installing solar panels when they need it most when they’re paying for the upfront cost of installation. The government, of course, is also creating a new statuary body, The Australian Renewable Energy Agency, or ARENA. ARENA will administer 3.2 billion dollars in government support for research and development demonstration and commercialization of renewable energy technologies. The government is also establishing a new commercially oriented clean energy finance corporation. The clean energy finance corporation will have 10 billion dollars in funds available to invest in businesses seeking to get in to the clean energy project off of the ground and I’m sure you’ll agree that will be a significant boost to the industry.

The government’s confidence in large-scale solar energy is reflected in the commitment of more than 3/4 of the billion dollars under the solar flagship program to help build two of the world’s largest solar power stations at Chincilla in Queensland and Moray in New South Wales. Now, to get up, those two projects are expected to generate enough power to support the electricity needs of more than 115,000 Australian homes each year. The Solar Dawn Consortium, led by Orela Solar, will build a 250 megawatt solar thermal gas hybrid power plant near Chincilla. That will be one of the largest power plants of it’s kind in the world, as well as one of the most environmentally responsible. At least 85 percent of Solar Dawn power generation will be entirely emissions free. During construction, Solar Dawn estimates the project will generate 570 million dollars in economic activity in the region and create 300 jobs on average. The Moree Solar Consortium, which is led by BP Solar, will build a 150 megawatt photovoltaic power plant near Moree. This is nearly twice the size of any PV power plant operating in the world today. And, it’s estimated, that the Moree Solar fund project will create, on average, around 300 jobs during construction. Now, work will commence next year and the plants are expected to be completed and commission by the end of 2015. And this, I’m sure you’ll all agree, is a major breakthrough. The government is also committed to supporting Australian industry and business to find innovative means to reduce their carbon footprint. And, to support this, the government has established the Clean Technology Innovation Program, which will provide grants of up to 200 million dollars over five years to support business investment in renewable energy, lower emissions technology, and energy efficiency.

The Remote Indigenous Energy Program will also help indigenous communities access clean, affordable, and reliable 24 hour power supplies. It will also help those communities to manage their energy efficiently and use it to contribute to improvement in health, education, and long-term economic viability. Over four years, this 40 million dollar program will build on the success of a former renewable, remote power generation program. It’ll provide additional financial support to install renewable energy generation systems like solar panels and wind turbines into around 55 remote indigenous communities. The government is also going to provide up to 32 million dollars through the clean energy and other skills package to help educational institutions and industry develop the materials and the expertise needed to promote clean energy skills.

I encourage you to engage with The Clean Energy Regulator, with ARENA, the CEFC, and relevant departments as we roll out these programs and initiatives. I’m sure you’ll agree with me that all of this is very far-sighted and comprehensive suite of policies that’s very important to your industry. It’ll provide the renewable and clean energy sectors, including solar, with a very strong platform for future growth and investment. And, as we move forward into this new era, Australians will be able to say that we are doing our fair share to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, we’re creating the right conditions for investment in clean energy technology, and we’re willing to take on the opportunities presented by the low carbon global economy of the future.

I thank all of you for your attention and for your support for a clean energy future for Australia and wish you very well in your deliberations. I know it’s not easy to listen to a video message and I really appreciate the opportunity though to speak to you in this way. And, unfortunately, I’m not able to be with you, but all the best. Thank you.

“Fair and Reasonable Price” needed for Solar Feed in Tariff

See full article here

IPART feed-in tariff recommendations for NSW
Mon, 5 December 2011
Solar Magazine

The Independent Pricing and Regulatory Tribunal has released a draft report proposing a new feed-in tariff rate for New South Wales consumers.

Until the New South Wales Solar Bonus Scheme closed to all new participants, feed-in tariffs were paid to customers who installed solar photovoltaic (PV) units. Following the close, the Independent Pricing and Regulatory Tribunal (IPART) was asked by the NSW government to recommend a subsidy-free value for a feed-in tariff for customers who are part of the Solar Bonus Scheme.

In the report, IPART recommends that a benchmark range for 2011/12 would be 8 to 10 cents per kilowatt hour (c/kWh) for electricity exported to the grid from customers with solar PV units.

Jim Cox, Chief Executive Officer of IPART said “This benchmark range represents the fair and reasonable value of electricity expected to be exported to the grid by PV customers during 2011/12.”

The Clean Energy Council said the recommendations in the IPART report would discourage people from purchasing solar panels and put thousands of jobs at risk in NSW.

Clean Energy Council Director of Strategy Kane Thornton said the NSW government should move to ensure that fairness for solar households is not optional and mandate a minimum price for the solar electricity they produce.

IPART is calling for submissions until 23 January 2012, with a final report due later in 2012.

iPart Solar Power Feed in Tariff recommendation

See full article here


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.

The impact of the carbon tax just $9 per family

See full story here

At $9 a family, it’s not all doom and gloom
13 Nov, 2011 03:00 AM

THE cost to families of the Gillard government’s carbon tax will be little more than the inflation jump from high banana prices, new modelling from the CSIRO has found.

The research, released exclusively to The Sunday Age, shows that, because the ”economic value” of the $23 a tonne carbon price is ”very small in relation to the economy as a whole”, it will be barely registered by families.

The GST produced four times more inflation than the carbon tax would and the recent rise in oil prices had more effect. Even the mining boom, seen by most as an economic positive, was twice as inflationary as the carbon tax, the modelling found.

”These are not minimal impacts, but given the government assistance being offered, it’s certainly not a catastrophic or doom and gloom scenario,” according to report author Steve Hatfield-Dodds, from the CSIRO.

Opposition Leader Tony Abbott’s pitch to the nation on climate change has been that it will cost jobs, send industries offshore and hurt families.

But the report showed the total value of carbon permits would be about $8.5 billion in 2012-13, the first year of the scheme’s operation, less than 0.6 per cent of the $1.5 trillion projected value of the economy.

The biggest effects for families will be on electricity prices, which would rise by about 10 per cent, and gas prices, which would be 5 per cent higher. On other goods and services, prices rise by a third of 1 per cent.

”Our estimates of the total cost impact come out at $9.10 on average for Australian households,” Mr Hatfield-Dodds said.

Most of this comes in a one-off hit, with a much smaller inflationary effect in the second year.

The Climate Institute, Choice and the Australian Council of Social Services have used the modelling to produce information packs and an online calculator to show what families can expect under the carbon tax and government assistance.

A family supporting two children on $45,000 a year would have $8.60 more in weekly costs, but gain $11.45 in support. A family on $80,000 a year with two children would be $1.95 a week better off and a family earning $300,000 a year would be $17.90 a week worse off.

WA solar scheme

See full article HERE 24th November 2011.

It seems that start-stop tariffs are the norm. Even the UK is going through the same “solar coaster” that causes huge takeup then a handbrake.

AN audit is under way into Western Australia’s renewable energy buyback scheme after a rush that resulted in 75,000 customers signing up in an 11-month period for 10 years of rebates.

The state opposition yesterday claimed the Barnett government’s residential net feed-in tariff scheme had overrun its $23 million budget by $500m.

Premier Colin Barnett acknowledged a “significant overrun” and that the scheme — mainly for solar power but also for wind and hydro — had been allowed to continue after its intended cut-off, which was supposed to occur after 150 megawatts of energy had been sold back to the grid.

He said his department was now trying to establish the extent of the blowout.

“The Office of Energy and (government utility) Synergy continued to sign up people when in fact the 150MW (limit) had passed,” Mr Barnett told parliament.

Synergy yesterday confirmed about 75,000 West Australian households, non-profit organisations and educational institutions had taken up the scheme between September last year and August 1, when Energy Minister Peter Collier suspended it.

The scheme provided a flat buyback rate of 40c per kWh for anyone who signed up between September 10 last year and May 1 this year. Those who took up the scheme between May 2 and July 1 got 20c for every kWh they sold back to the grid, and the rate was 7c per kWh between July 2 and August 1.

Synergy continued to be inundated with applications for the scheme even after the rates were cut. The Australian has been told that, in the weeks after the cut-off, confusion reigned over which applicants had beaten the deadline. As a result, all applicants were signed up.

“If you’re sourcing power from your own renewable energy system, you could be generating more power than you actually need,” Synergy told prospective applicants.

“The Renewable Energy Buyback Scheme gives you the chance to make money from the excess wind, solar or hydro power you generate.

“If your system is connected to the main grid, you can feed this energy back to us, and we’ll pay you for it.”

Yesterday West Australian Labor energy spokeswoman Kate Doust said the government had failed to plan for the popularity of the scheme or its phasing out. She said solar panel installation firms flourished under the scheme and were forced to lay off workers when it was abruptly suspended.

Google pulls the plug on green power

Full article here

Google said on Tuesday that it was pulling the plug on seven projects, including Renewable Energy Cheaper than Coal as well as a Wikipedia-like online encyclopedia service known as Knol.

The plans, which Google announced on its corporate blog, represent the third so-called “spring cleaning” announcement that Google has made since Google co-founder Page took the reins in April.

The changes come as Google is facing stiff competition in mobile computing and social networking from Apple Inc and Facebook, and as some investors have groused about rising spending at the world’s No.1 Internet search company.

“To recap, we’re in the process of shutting down a number of products which haven’t had the impact we’d hoped for, integrating others as features into our broader product efforts, and ending several which have shown us a different path forward,” wrote Google Senior Vice President of Operations Urs Holzle in the blog post.

Google said that it believed other institutions were better positioned to take its renewable energy efforts “to the next level.”

Google began making investments and doing research into technology to drive down the price of renewable energy in 2007, with a particular focus on solar power technology.

In 2009, the company’s so-called Green Energy Czar, Bill Weihl, told Reuters that he expected to demonstrate within a few years working technology that could produce renewable energy at a cheaper price than coal.

“It is even odds, more or less,” Weihl said at the time. “In three years, we could have multiple megawatts of plants out there.”

A Google spokesman said that Weihl had left Google earlier this month.

Queensland Government Solar Bonus Scheme

The Queensland Government has changed the eligibility criteria for the Solar Bonus Scheme to ensure the Scheme remains cost-effective for all Queenslanders.

What is the Solar Bonus Scheme?

The Queensland Government Solar Bonus Scheme (the Scheme) pays eligible households and other small customers for the surplus electricity generated from solar photovoltaic (PV) panel systems, which is exported to the Queensland electricity grid. The Scheme is designed to make solar power more affordable for Queenslanders, stimulate the solar power industry and encourage energy efficiency.

The Scheme rewards customers whenever they generate more electricity than they are using – not just the balance at the end of the quarter, but whenever generation exceeds consumption during the day.
The Scheme commenced on 1 July 2008 and is designed to boost the state’s use of renewable energy, encourage energy efficiency and stimulate the solar power industry in Queensland.

Customers wishing to reap the benefits of the Scheme will need a solar PV system installed on their premises and have it connected to the electricity grid. Eligible customers will have the option to join the Scheme when the system is installed.

How much are Solar Bonus customers paid?

Customers participating in the Scheme will be paid 44 cents per kilowatt hour (kWh) for surplus electricity fed into the grid-almost double the current general domestic use tariff of 22.76c/kWh (Tariff 11 inc GST as at 1 July 2011).
The average customer operating a 1.5 kilowatt (kW) solar system could save over $450 per year on their electricity bill just by using less electricity from the grid. Solar Bonus Scheme customers also receive payments for exporting excess electricity back to the grid, meaning that these savings could be higher.

The amount of electricity a customer returns to the grid will depend on how much energy is being consumed while the solar panels are generating power. Customers may be able to maximise their solar bonus by improving the energy efficiency of their home to export more electricity to the grid. This could be achieved by reducing standby power consumption, switching to controlled load tariffs and minimising the use of energy intensive appliances such as air-conditioners.

The customer’s grid-connected electricity consumption will also be lower (than without a solar system) as a result of the household or business consuming a portion of its electricity directly from the solar system.

Visit the EnergyWise tips section for simple ways to make your home more energy-efficient.

Who is eligible to receive the Solar Bonus?

To be eligible to receive the Solar Bonus customers must:
• consume less than 100 megawatt hours (MWh) of electricity a year (the average household uses approximately 7.9MWh a year)
• purchase and install a new solar PV (photovoltaic) system (solar power system not solar hot water system) or operate an existing PV system (solar power system) that is connected to the Queensland electricity grid
• generate surplus electricity that is fed into the Queensland electricity grid
• have an agreement in place with their electricity distributor (Ergon Energy, ENERGEX or Essential Energy) and have appropriate metering installed
• have solar PV systems with a combined inverter capacity of up to 5 kilowatts
• hold an electricity account with an electricity retailer.
• submit only one application per eligible premises

How do customers receive the Solar Bonus?

The Solar Bonus of 44c/kWh will be paid for electricity fed into the grid at times when the solar system generates more electricity than the household or business is using at any instant.

When the meter reader visits a customer’s home or business at the end of the quarter, the total amount of surplus electricity exported to the grid and the total amount imported from the grid will be read and passed onto the retailer to calculate the bill.

The customer’s quarterly Solar Bonus payment for this excess electricity exported to the grid will be deducted from their total grid-connected electricity consumption charge on their electricity bill.
If the Solar Bonus payments are greater than the total grid-connected electricity consumption charges over a 12-month period, the customer is entitled to have this balance refunded, rather than maintaining an ongoing credit.
How does the electricity metering operate?

The electricity generated by the solar power system is fed into the customer’s electricity load to help power the home or business in the first instance. It is also connected to the electricity grid via a meter (or meters) which record both electricity imported from the grid and exported to the grid. When the electricity produced by the solar power system exceeds the customer’s demand for electricity, this excess electricity is fed into the grid via the appropriate ‘export’ register of the meter.

The meter records the amount of electricity exported to the grid rather than the total amount of electricity generated by the solar system.

When the customer uses more electricity than is being produced by the solar PV system, the balance of electricity required is taken from the electricity grid via the appropriate ‘import’ register of the meter.
Will I need a special meter?
Customers wishing to claim the solar bonus will need electricity metering that separately records electricity imports and exports.

If required, the installation of new or additional meters will need to be arranged with the electricity distributor after your solar PV (solar power) system is installed and costs may need to be met by the individual customer.

Customers with an existing solar PV system wired in a ‘gross’ metering configuration will need to rewire their system to a ‘net’ configuration, in order to participate in the Scheme. Customers wishing to change their metering arrangements will need to consult with their electricity retailer and additional costs will need to be covered by the customer.

Are investment properties eligible for the Solar Bonus Scheme?

The Solar Bonus Scheme applies to investment properties that meet all eligibility criteria. Property owners should note, however, that the Solar Bonus will be paid on the retail electricity account for that individual property. If this account is held by a tenant, then the tenant would receive the benefit of the Solar Bonus.

Reference can be found @…