Rooftop solar saved the day, but households got paid a pittance

Solar power played a major role in reducing stress on grids in Queensland and New South Wales during the massive heatwave late last week, but were solar households fairly rewarded for their contribution?

As we reported last week, coal and gas dependent Queensland has recorded more than 40 more high priced events in 2017 than renewables-rich South Australia so far this year.

According to Dylan McConnell at Melbourne’s Climate and Energy College, these spikes added more than $1 billion to the market. This compares with the $84 million coal and gas generators received from spikes in the wholesale market for the same period of time last year.

McConnell says it is difficult to assess how much higher the wholesale costs would have been without rooftop solar, but it is reasonable to assume that the difference in prices would have been substantial. And what do solar households in Queensland get for it? For most of them, little or nothing.

According to Energex, there was 543MW of rooftop solar getting the premium tariff of 44c/kWh in the heavily populated south east corner as at the end of January. The amount getting the voluntary tariff, ranging between zero and 8c/kWh is 534MW. In February, that number would have overtaken the premium tariff capacity.

The households on this “voluntary” tariff, as in other states, are supposed to be getting something that at least resembles the wholesale price of electricity, or the cost of coal.

And what have the wholesale prices been in Queensland this year? According to McConnell, based on Australian Energy Market Operator data, it has been $260/MWh, and the average weighted for the  solar is production – and when most demand occurs – has been $320/MWh.

Last Saturday, those wholesale prices averaged more than $858/MWh, or 86c/kWh, or more than 10 times the maximum received by households relieving pressure on the network by exporting solar to the grid.

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© 2017 Solar Choice Pty Ltd

Giles Parkinson

Giles Parkinson regularly contributes unique content to Solar Choice News. Giles is the founder and editor of clean energy industry news service RenewEconomy. He is a journalist of 30 years experience, a former Business Editor and Deputy Editor of the Financial Review, a columnist for The Bulletin magazine and The Australian, and the founding editor of Climate Spectator.
Giles Parkinson