More rooftop solar could bolster energy security for Tasmania: Report

A new report has emerged suggesting that the solar power generated on Tasmania’s rooftops is being seriously undervalued, a factor that is holding back growth in an industry that could bolster energy security and reduce reliance on back-up gas and diesel generators.

The research, released on Friday by the Tasmanian Renewable Energy Alliance (TREA) and Solar Citizens, shows that power generated from rooftop solar in Tasmania is worth between 17-22c/kWh once health and climate benefits are factored in – around three times more than the current price.

Currently, Tasmania’s solar households receive 6.1c/kWh for the solar they export, but pay around 25c/kWh for electricity from the grid, which is mostly sourced from hydropower, but when dam levels fall too low – as they did for the first four months of this year – is generated by gas and diesel, or imported from mainland brown coal plants, when the link to the mainland is working.

In March, the state’s energy minister Matthew Groom hinted that the state’s feed-in tariff may be lifted to try to encourage more rooftop solar and help offset the high cost of diesel generation, which has pushed wholesale prices up to 60c/kWh on some occasions.

TREA and Solar Citizens are now calling on Groom to do just that, and to factor in all of the benefits a high penetration of rooftop solar would bring to the state.

To date, the state’s approach to valuing residential solar has been messy and confounding, culminating in a draft report from the Tasmanian Economic Regulator that recommended little change to the current feed-in tariff.

“This is a self-defeating cycle,” said TREA chief Jack Gilding at the time of the report. “Solar PV could meet much more of Tasmania’s energy needs, but until the full benefit is recognised, there will be no incentive for solar owners to invest in feeding energy into the grid.”

In a statement on Friday, Gilding reiterated this point: “Tasmanians need their government to see the big picture and take decisive action on supporting renewable energy,” he said.

“Burning diesel and gas, praying for rain and importing dirty Victorian electricity is not an acceptable response to Tasmania’s energy situation.”

© 2016 Solar Choice Pty Ltd