The Queensland Competition Authority (QCA) has released its final report detailing its recommendations for solar feed-in tariff rates to be paid through the state’s Solar Bonus Scheme for 2014. Not surprisingly, the scheme goes the way of New South Wales, with a non-obligatory, recommended rate of 7.55c per kilowatt-hour (kWh) for excess solar power to be paid to solar system owners in and around Brisbane. Rates outside the southeast part of the state will vary depending on what is ‘fair and reasonable’ in each area, and may be mandatory.
The QCA cites ample competition amongst electricity retailers in the Brisbane area as the reason for implementing an NSW-style, non-mandatory ‘benchmark’ rate, noting that some retailers already offer even higher rates to solar customers. Because of near-monopoly conditions in the electricity markets outside of this area, however, intervention may be required to ensure that the ‘fair and reasonable’ criteria for rates are met.
“Elsewhere in the State, the ‘fair and reasonable’ rate will vary according to location and may need to be set by regulation given the weakness of retail competition,”QCA Chairman Dr Malcolm Roberts said in a media statement.
The new rates come into effect from July 2014, but will not likely have a major impact on the solar installation market in the state. The rate currently on offer has been a mandatory 8c/kWh since the state’s 44c/kWh rate was reduced for new customers in 2012. Despite the reduction, interest in solar power in the sunshine state has remained high, with homes simply using their solar panels to power their homes during the daytime–thereby avoiding the need to purchase expensive power from the grid.
Solar system owners in New South Wales were the first in the nation to find themselves in a market without a generous feed-in tariff for solar, after the NSW Solar Bonus Scheme was scrapped virtually overnight. Similar to Queensland, the NSW solar installation market has nevertheless remained steady since the scheme was yanked, due mainly to the falling cost of having a solar system installed and the rising price of retail electricity.
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