The volatility of Australia’s solar support mechanisms has been illustrated afresh this week, with NSW again lowering the recommended feed-in tariff price for rooftop PV in the state.
NSW’s Independent Pricing and Regulatory Tribunal (IPART) announced on Monday that it would cut its recommended price for the (entirely voluntary) tariff for rooftop solar generation fed back into the grid to 4.9c/kWh to 9.3c/kWh.
This compares to recommended retail power tariffs of around 30c/kWh and peak tariffs of more than 52c/kWh.
IPART chairman Dr Peter Boxall said the benchmark range was slightly lower than the draft decision because of a further reduction in forecast wholesale electricity prices, due to the likely repeal of the carbon pricing mechanism.
Boxall encouraged consumers to shop for “the best overall deal, which includes consumption charges, and other terms and conditions as well as the feed-in tariff”.
IPART’s determination represents the lowest FiT recommended by pricing regulators in Australia, and contrasts dramatically with regulatory rulings in the US, where in the state of Minnesota, for instance, the solar tariff is nearly as high as the retail tariff.
In Australia, however, pricing regulators seem more concerned with the impact on retailers and the so-called “avoidable” costs of delivery – the cost of wholesale generation, transmission losses, and some minor ancillary services.
The position of state-based regulators on feed-in tariffs has caused the solar industry to consider establishing “peer-to-peer” pricing mechanisms, and to call for changes to the way electricity tariffs are structured.
The decisions come as IPART and its Queensland equivalent announce large rises in gas prices and its impact on electricity prices.
Meanwhile, the Australian Energy Regulator has approved network price rises for residential customers in metropolitan and regional Queensland of 4 per cent and 6 per cent respectively.
AER said the increased charges reflect the cost of network investment.
© 2014 Solar Choice Pty Ltd