Rooftop solar on its own is already affordable enough to be a smart choice for virtually any Australian home with an unshaded roof and some daytime electricity usage. This is true even in the absence of generous, state-backed solar feed-in tariffs and the (slight) reduction of the up-front incentive for solar available through the federal Renewable Energy Target. In fact, Aussie homes have been installing solar at a steady pace long after the most generous incentive programs were closed to new applicants.

(This article was originally published in February 2017. We’ve updated it to reflect the circumstances for 2018. We will also be publishing a similar article about home battery storage before the month is through, but if you can’t wait that long you can read our analysis from 2017 instead: Is home battery storage worth it in 2017?)

The key to getting the most out of a solar PV system these days is to use as much of the energy as possible directly, within the home (‘solar self-consumption‘). Self-consuming solar energy helps the home to avoid purchasing energy from the grid, thereby saving between about $0.20-$0.30 per kilowatt-hour (kWh) depending on where they live and their electricity retailer. The rate solar households are paid to send their excess solar in the grid, on the other hand, is about 8-15c/kWh.

Read the full article →

{ 4 comments }

John Gallagher 30 August, 2017 at 3:07 pm

I am with Simply Energy and get a 30% discount if I pay my bill on time. this lowers buying electricity from the provider to 21c. My electricity provider has just increased my feed in tariff to 17c from 6.8c I have a 5kw solar system on the Northern side of roof already and am seriously thinking of getting a further 5kw on the western side of the roof in the hope of eliminating my bills completely and possibly going into credit so that the gas bill is paid. What do you think of my idea?

Solar Choice Staff 4 September, 2017 at 9:32 am

Hi John,

Interesting thinking – and you wouldn’t be the first to have this idea. The first thing you should do is work out the numbers and see if you could theoretically cover your bills with that much solar. Secondly, you’ll want to look into what the upper limit is on solar system sizes for solar feed-in tariff eligibility – in some network areas / states, solar systems over a certain capacity are not allowed to export excess solar to the grid, or if they are their export amount must be limited.

Hope this helps.

Tommy Tonkin 21 February, 2017 at 11:11 am

Hello Solar Choice Staff,

I noted with interest your comment as follows:

“The key to getting the most out of a solar PV system these days is to use as much of the energy as possible directly, within the home (‘solar self-consumption‘). Self-consuming solar energy helps the home to avoid purchasing energy from the grid, thereby saving between about $0.20-$0.30 per kilowatt-hour (kWh) depending on where they live and their electricity retailer. Contrast this to the $0.06-$0.08/kWh generally offered for solar export these days. There’s no incentive to put solar into the grid.”

My understanding is that this is only possible if a digital smart meter is installed, ( ie. interval reading ) however, here in SA we only have basic solar import/export meters. When I contacted SA Power Networks, they advised me that they have no plans to upgrade these to smart meters at this stage.

Consequently, all generation from the solar array is exported to the grid at about 8 cents /kWh now that Govt. feed-in tariffs have expired, & imported at approximately 32 cents /kWh !!

I agree that it would be great if we were able to off-set the power used during daylight hours on a 1 for 1 basis instead of 8 for 32 !!

Do you have any idea when SA will convert to smart meters as Vic ( & perhaps other eastern States ) have done ?? Four members of my family are keen to install solar but are hesitant at the moment because of the current situation.

With respect, I must question the table above which suggests a payback period of approx. 3 to 4 years for a 3kW solar PV system in Adelaide based on self-consumption, unless smart (interval reading) meters are being installed by an electricity retailer that I am not aware of ??

Thank you ….. Tommy

Solar Choice Staff 21 February, 2017 at 11:40 am

Hi Tommy,

Thanks for commenting – and for reading!

I think you may be confusing the general concept of ‘net metering’/’net billing’ with smart meters and interval meters. A net metering setup is simply one in which the solar energy flows first into the home, with only the excess, unused solar energy going into the grid. The opposite is a gross metering setup, in which all of the solar energy goes directly into the grid, with no opportunity for self consumption to happen. NSW homes on the (now defunct) Solar Bonus Scheme were all hooked up on gross meters, but in South Australia the default metering for grid-connected solar systems has always been net.

Whether a metering system is gross or net has nothing to do with whether a meter is a ‘smart’/digital or analog meter. In fact, most of the solar homes in SA are hooked up on net setups with analog meters. The main advantage of a smart meter is not that it allows for net metering (again – the two are unrelated), but rather that it allows the electricity retailer to read your electricity consumption & solar export in detail – and compose your bill without having to send out a meter reader.

No one in their right mind would be installing solar these days if their only option was a gross meter – and in fact many network companies (the local grid operators) discourage solar export to the grid if anything!

In summary: Check with your electricity retailer or SA Power Networks about what sort of meter you have in place (if you already have solar), and ask what procedures will be necessary (if any) to ensure a net metering setup (if you’re planning on getting solar). In neither situation is a digital smart meter necessary from a solar net metering perspective, although the state/network company/retailer may require a digital meter for other reasons (I’m not sure what the state policy is at the moment, unfortunately).

Hope this helps clear things up a bit!

Comments on this entry are closed.

Previous post:

Next post: