New NSW legislation aims to preemptively smooth transition as Solar Bonus Scheme ends

New South Wales has gazetted new legislation that it hopes will address some of the issues facing nearly 150,000 solar households when their premium feed-in tariff ends at the end of this year.

As reported last month, the state government is introducing a range of new measures designed to address bottle-necks and potentially steep fees for solar households which may – or may not – be required to change meters when their “gross” tariff is replaced by a “net” tariff on January 1.

(Gross feed-in tariffs are paid for all electricity produced by solar panels. Net tariffs are paid only for that electricity not consumed on the premises and exported to the grid).

The proposed rule changes were gazetted late last week. They include rules that will accelerate the roll-out of smart meters from the end of 2016 to the start of 2017; allow electricity retailers, rather than network providers, to lead and promote the roll-out of smart meters, and relax restrictions on who is allowed to install those meters.
The bill also removes the requirement for the ‘sealing’ of customers equipment (including the meter) that has been traditionally used in the industry for safety and revenue protection.
Despite this, confusion remains in the industry about what solar households on the premium tariffs – 60c/kWh plus a retailer bonus for most, 20c/kWh for some – will be obliged to do and what they will pay. A proposed letter to solar households is yet to be sent.

There is fear that solar households will be forced to adopt “smart meters”, and pay a hefty fee of up to $700 unless they sign on for a long-term contract with a retailer.

There is confusion about what sort of metering can be adopted. The Level 2 “sparkies” are outraged that their investment in training has been undermined.

© 2016 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

Comments

  1. Hi,
    Can you please give some more detail on options available to panel owners for when the rebates run out e.g. do nothing & have panels just sit there or install a nett metre & get a small return?
    Thanks
    Paul

    1. Hi Paul,

      At a minimum, you’ll want to switch to a net meter to ensure that you can ‘self-consume’ your solar energy. Most Solar Bonus Scheme recipients are on gross meters, which means all of their solar energy goes into the grid automatically. When the SBS ends at the end of the year, the 60c/kWh rate will suddenly drop to 6c/kWh, meaning that you’d save more money by directing that energy into your home’s appliances (‘solar self-consumption’) instead of into the grid.

      You can check out this article that we wrote to get some ideas about what to do when the scheme ends.

    1. Hi Lindie,

      In other states it’s not such a big deal. In SA and VIC, for example, most homes whose feed-in tariffs will be expiring in the near future (2016) are already on net meters. The same goes for Queensland, where the FiT isn’t set to end until 2028 anyhow. NSW is a special case because Solar Bonus Scheme customers are on a gross metering arrangement, which means that all of their solar power goes into the grid automatically. In the other states, the solar power is used first by the home, and only the overflow ‘excess’ goes into the grid.

      Please keep in mind that for VIC & SA, only some feed-in tariffs will be coming to end – it all depends on when the home signed up. The Premium FiTs in both of these states run for quite a few years more (until 2024 for VIC and 2028 for SA), while the less generous Transitional FiTs end sooner (December 2016 and September 2016, respectively). You can read more about when various feed-in tariffs end here.

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