QLD’s new ‘unfair’, market rate solar feed-in tariff could mean customers go off-grid

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


  1. In our most recent electricity bill it was noted that our solar system (which cost around $25000—a 5 kW inverter but 10kw worth of panels) yealded an excess of around 2000 kw above whit we used during the day whilst we used about 1000 kw of Ergon’s energy from grid at night At the feed in tariff of a little over 6 cents per kw we still got a bill of just under $300 Having used a significant of my super to pay for the solar system I was hoping to have no electricity bill once I retired To now consider a battery system which could cost as much or nearly as much as our solar system seems over the top What do you think? Regards Jeff Taylor

    1. Hi Jeff,

      Whichever installer you spoke to should have clarified how solar works these days – when most of the state-backed solar feed-in tariffs have been closed to new applicants. The going rate for excess solar in virtually every state is around 6-8c/kWh at this point, so without batteries it is virtually impossible for a home to ‘eliminate’ its power bill – any installer who says otherwise in their sales pitches or advertising materials should be viewed with a high degree of skepticism.

      To get the most out of a solar system (without batteries), its necessary to shift as much of your electricity usage to the daylight hours as possible. While battery costs are coming down, payback periods are still quite long and they are still financially a bit more difficult to justify than a solar-only system. If you’re interested in checking out current pricing for battery storage systems in your area, however, you can fill your details into the Solar Quote Comparison form to the right of this page. Once you do so, you’ll be able to see installer battery offerings (simply ignore the solar offerings for now).

      On a side note, I’m curious about when you purchased and from whom your system – $25,000 is a lot to pay for a system of the size you described (even if you call it a 10kW solar system despite the fact that the inverter is only 5kW). According to our figures from January 2016, the average price for a 10kW solar system is currently between $13,000 and $14,000 for the Brisbane area – $15,000 is the high end without going for ‘premium’ products. Historic prices haven’t been significantly higher than this.

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