Solar PV system owners in Queensland fight back

The Newman Government has been forced to make a statement reassuring solar PV system owners across Queensland that they will not be charged special fixed tariff fees. The announcement comes in the wake of suggestions outlined in a report issued by the Queensland Competition Authority (QCA) and mere months after the gross tariff suggested by the QCA was almost unanimously rejected.

As with the suggested Gross feed-in tariff, solar PV owners and solar industry stakeholders were quick to criticise the suggestion leaving the Queensland Government with no way to implement the suggested ‘quick fix’ strategies to the ‘problem’ of solar power. One PV owner, said of the announcement:

“That’s excellent. They’ve seen reason because (at the moment) they’re doing anything they can to discourage alternative power, they keep making up lame excuses about cutting costs and they’re not facing the facts. If the Government introduced a levy, they would shoot themselves in the foot for the future.”

The homeowner said he could not understand why the State Government appeared bent on putting people off solar. While the reasons for the turn around are not clear, perhaps the Newman Government took at look at the figures. Over 200,00 households in Queensland are receiving the 44¢ Premium feed-in tariff, with another 100,000 households registered to receive the Premium rate if they install a system prior to the end of the 2012/13 financial year. That’s a lot of voters.

In some areas as much as 40% of households are making money from producing energy rather than purchasing it from the grid.

While there is truth behind the oft repeated fact, that households without solar PV systems are subsidising those with solar, what is commonly omitted from publication is that households without air-conditioners subsidise those with. The thrusts and parries between the Queensland Government and solar stakeholders have been played out in the press and have provoked strong reactions from all sides.

Responses to the original suggestion and the statement made by the Queensland Government can be summarised into the following: outrage from solar PV system owners that they may be penalised for going solar (with a few commenting on moving off-grid); an ‘about time’ response from some non-solar households who see this issue as the fault of solar owners; and, a third school who propose a restructuring of the way energy is charged for.

This most recent ‘defeat’ of anti-solar proposals should be a welcome sign for households interested in solar PV and for companies looking to make commercial scale investments, indeed, the outcome of the ‘Estimating a Fair and Reasonable Solar Feed-in Tariff for Queensland’ report and the following legislation could mark a turning point for the way energy is charged for in Australia.

© 2012 Solar Choice Pty Ltd

Rebecca Boyle

Rebecca is a sustainable development and marketing graduate, with a background in community engagement and research. She has a particular interest in sustainable resource use.
Rebecca Boyle