Some 40,000 Queensland solar households will soon be at the mercy of their electricity retailer after the state government confirmed it would axe the state’s 8c/kWh feed-in tariff at the end of June.
The widely expected change to the Solar Bonus Scheme means the state’s electricity retailers will, from July 1, assume responsibility for setting and offering solar energy tariffs, which would be negotiated for by households.
“These reforms will mean electricity retailers will pay any newly negotiated solar tariff direct to users,” Queensland energy minister Mark McArdle said. “These are common-sense decisions that will produce a positive outcome for existing customers on the 8 cent rate, as well as new solar owners.”
Critics, however, disagree. “This is incredibly unfair,” said Lindsay Soutar, from Solar Citizens. “It is obvious that it will be difficult for individual households to get a good deal from their power company. They simply don’t have the negotiating power. When retailers set the rules, solar owners lose.”
The move by the Newman government has been justified by claims it will “lift the cost burden” from electricity network businesses and put “downward pressure” on electricity prices for all Queenslanders.
McArdle said in a media release on Thursday that the carbon tax and green schemes had driven electricity prices “much higher” than they should be.
“Left unchecked, the 8 cent feed-in tariff would cost Queensland households and businesses an extra $110 million on their power bills over the next six years,” he said.
The solar industry argues, however, that government support for rooftop solar adds a negligible amount to the average household electricity bill, with more than two-thirds of price rises caused by factors completely unrelated to any green schemes, such as soaring generation costs, network costs, and increased costs from retailers and billing centres.
One local solar installer said that while he disagreed with the Newman government’s approach to limiting the solar feed-in tariff, the changes would at least help encourage customers to install energy storage, and save their surplus solar energy for use later in the night.
“It is our hope that the QLD government reforms electricity pricing to accurately reflect the true cost of electricity (higher prices at peak times) as this will help facilitate a shift energy efficiency and storage which in turn will benefit the network,” the installer said.
This latest solar tariff cut follows the slashing of the 44c/kWh net tariff in 2012, when Campbell Newman’s decision to provide a month-long window to take advantage of the 44c rate inadvertently sparked a massive rush for rooftop solar. McArdle says the 44c/kWh FiT will be kept in place for those approximately 284,000 Queensland households who managed to sign up to it.
© 2014 Solar Choice Pty Ltd