Victorian electricity retailer set to hit solar system owners with additional fees

Victoria looks set to become the first Australian state to hit solar households with an additional fixed charge on their electricity bills, according to a proposal that has recently come to light.

Simply Energy, the retail arm of GDF Suez, which owns Victoria’s Hazelwood brown coal generator, has proposed adding a 14c-a-day levy on households with rooftop solar in the fixed charge component of its electricity bills.

The proposed tariffs, gazetted in January, would results in an extra charge of $51 a year for solar households, taking the fixed component of their bill to $400 a year.

The move has outraged Green politicians and the solar industry, who see it as yet another attempt by the incumbent utilities to restrict the growth of rooftop solar.

Greens MLC, Greg Barber, noted Victoria had more than 19,000 new solar installations in the last six months, despite a big reduction in export tariffs.

“This is great for consumers, but power companies don’t like it,” Barber said.

“Powercorp in Western Victoria is throwing up barriers to new connections, while Simply Energy want to charge homeowners an extra daily charge if they have solar on their roof.

“By this logic, any home which is a frugal user of power, not just solar customers, should be hit with higher fixed charges so that power companies get their money regardless. That kind of incentive shows the market rules are broken and energy ministers must act.”

John Grimes, CEO of the Australian Solar Council, described the move as staggering, outrageous and discriminatory.

“They are not charging users who pile on demand during periods of peak demand (like air conditioner users), pushing power prices up for everyone,” he said in an emailed statement.

“Instead they are targeting users who lower demand during peak periods, take the most expensive load off the grid, push wholesale prices down, and delay or remove the need for expensive network upgrades. “Simply Energy’s solar customers should make sure they understand what the death spiral is all about.

Instead of changing their business model in the face of new technology, Simply Energy want to punish solar customers.”

Virtually all fossil fuel generators in Australia want subsidies and incentives for rooftop solar brought to an end, and have urged the small-scale component of the Renewable Energy Target to be dismantled.

They blame rooftop solar for taking away earnings at what used to be the most profitable time of the day.

GDF Suez, which last week said output from its Pelican Point gas plant in South Australia would be halved  because of reduced demand from the grid, recently dismissed suggestions that the cost of rooftop solar would fall.

© 2013 Solar Choice Pty Ltd

Giles Parkinson