With shortfall of electricians to change meters, NSW solar homes face crisis as feed-in tariff end-date looms

More than 150,000 NSW households face the prospect of hefty bills and unexpected losses on the value of their rooftop solar output at the end of the year when the state’s premium solar bonus tariff is ended.

The industry is fearing a train crash of massive proportions because the households will need to change meters, but there may not be enough electricians to do the job.

On top of that, households are facing a $700 fee to change those meters, and on current estimates will face lengthy delays and even higher electricity bills because of those delays.

Some 150,000 households have been enjoying a 60c/kWh gross feed-in tariff for the last few years – that is 60c/kWh paid for entire output of their rooftop solar systems, and which is sometimes augmented by a further payment from their retailer.

However, that comes to an end on December 31, when they go back to the market tariff, which they will have to negotiate with their electricity provider. These range from zero to around 6c/kWh – but only for the excess solar power exported back to the grid.

However, to do all this households need to change their meter. That could cost them $700 – a $350 fee for the meter (many say this is way over market cost) and the same again for installation. If they can get it installed.

Under current rules, there are not enough qualified electricians to do the job. NSW legislation stipulates that only “level 2” electricians can change the meter, and it is estimated that all of those qualified did this and nothing else for a year, they could still only change 50,000 meters.

If the remaining households cannot get their meter changed, then they will receive only a meagre feed-in tariff for their entire solar output – say around 6c/kWh – while paying the retailer rate – between 22c/kWh and 30c/kWh – for any electricity consumed in the home. Some may not receive any tariff at all.

© 2016 Solar Choice Pty Ltd 

Giles Parkinson