WA solar households could face new ‘solar tax’ under Synergy proposal

A network proposal that would effectively double the charge to connect Western Australia’s more than 191,000 solar households to the grid has been slammed as unfair and counter-productive.

Under a proposal floated on Tuesday Western Australia’s state-owned electricity provider, Synergy, WA home owners who have invested in solar technology could see their annual electricity charges increase from around $820 to $1666.

WA solar roof

As reported on WA Today, Synergy chairman Lyndon Rowe, while claiming to be “a believer” in rooftop solar, argues that the annual charges of solar households don’t reflect the actual cost of being connected to the network.

“I’m a believer and it’s a segment that will continue to grow,” he told Perth radio. “They are not paying the actual fixed cost of being connected to the network. That means other consumers have to pay or the taxpayers have to pay. That’s not fair. That’s not efficient.”

But Solar Citizens Consumer Campaigner, Reece Turner, says the proposed charge is discriminatory against solar homeowners and risks stunting the state’s investment in cheaper, clean energy.

“It’s a ludicrous idea that Premier Barnett should step in and rule out immediately,” Turner said in a statement on Tuesday.

“More than one in five homes are powered by the sun. These people have made the sensible decision to invest in clean, abundant energy and should not be penalised.”

As Turner also notes, the proposal looks a lot like Synergy is looking for a scapegoat to cover up for it’s spiralling budget losses.

Last year it required more than than $620 million to bridge the difference between the cost of generation and delivery of its ageing coal and gas infrastructure, and the price it charges to consumers.

The WA Greens say charging solar customers even more for infrastructure that was built in the past, and that they will utilise a whole lot less, makes no sense.

“(We) support tariff reforms to create a more cost-reflective pricing system in Western Australia, and to lower government subsidisation, which at present is unsustainable, but increasing costs to those customers who are trying to do the right thing is not positive reform,” said Greens MP Robin Chapple.

“I also am concerned about vulnerable households, as those who consume more power at peak times are not necessarily wealthier customers. I am glad to see that concessions will be restructured to aid these people, but I would like to see the details.
“Ultimately, we should be making it easier and more worthwhile to switch to cleaner technologies and this policy, on top of everything else this government hasn’t done to help the transition, will only put more people off.”
© 2015 Solar Choice Pty Ltd