NSW Solar Feed-in Tariff rates temporarily removed from MyEnergyOffers website

Solar Feed-in Tariff rates have been removed from MyEnergyOffers, the website associated with NSW’s Independent Pricing and Regulatory Tribunal (IPART), which sets retail electricity prices for the state. The MyEnergyOffers website is a free website that allows NSW residents to easily and instantly compare different retailers’ electricity rates by entering electricity usage data. A call to IPART revealed that there is no set deadline for the retailers to submit the Solar Feed-in Tariff rates for display.

Why were the Solar Feed-in Tariff rates removed?

The ‘Solar Feed-in Tariffs’ page of the MyEnergyOffers website currently reads:

Electricity retailers are currently reviewing their solar feed-in tariffs. We have temporarily removed the solar feed-in tariff display from the myenergyoffers search results. Once retailers have advised us of their solar feed-in tariffs we will update our website. In the meantime, we recommend that you check the retailer’s website or contact the retailer directly for information about the solar feed in tariffs are available with an offer.

The removal of the information comes in the midst of changes to the contribution electricity retailers are required to make to the NSW Solar Bonus Scheme, which, although closed to new applicants, continues for existing customers until 2016. From 1 July 2012, NSW electricity retailers are required to contribute 7.7c per kilowatt-hour (kWh) towards the cost of the state’s Solar Bonus Scheme, which pays either 60c/kWh or 20c/kWh to grid connected solar system owners, depending on their date of application.

Electricity retailers are not, however, required to pay customers who install solar systems after April 2011 (when the offering of the 20c/kWh rate ended) for power they export to the grid. Instead, IPART determined in a report released in March 2012 that the determination of Solar Feed-in Tariff rates should effectively be left to market forces, with no mandatory minimum to be paid by retailers. In the place of a fixed, state-wide standard rate, a ‘benchmark rate’ range is to be set every year. (For the financial year 2012-2013, this rate is 7.7c-12.9c/kWh.) The benchmark rate is in place for the reference of potentially solar-going electricity customers, to enable them to negotiate with their retailers with some idea of what their exported solar power is ‘actually’ worth to electricity distributors.

Although it had been technically possible for customers to collect and weigh information on electricity and Solar Feed-in Tariff rates from different retailers, prior to their listing on the MyEnergyOffers site, it was not convenient or possible to do so in one single location, and would have required multiple website visits and phone calls. The MyEnergyOffers website was to be the go-to source for transparency in an otherwise murky market conditions, making comparisons quick and relatively simple.

Given this context for the original inclusion of Feed-in Tariff rates in on MyEnergyOffers, the removal of the rates from the site for an apparently indeterminate period of time is somewhat unexpected. The explanation for their absence received from IPART/MyEnergyOffers over the course of several telephone conversations essentially lies in the retailers themselves. The retailers have said that they need time to recalibrate the rates they will offer new customers in light of the new 7.7c mandatory Solar Bonus Scheme contribution, and IPART/MyEnergyOffers did not want to display incorrect information, so rates were removed entirely. One related explanation suggested in a conversation with a MyEnergyOffers representative was that displaying Feed-in Tariff rates was not possible because retailers offer different rates to different customers, depending on the bargain struck in individual cases.

It is also worth noting the fact that the statement on the MyEnergyOffers website is a blanket one that covers all of the state’s energy retailers, not just 1 or 2. This, in combination with the other factors mentioned above, hints at a general reluctance among the electricity retailers to have set prices listed on MyEnergyOffers, or to keep them up to date and accurate once they are listed. It is not the job of IPART to chase up the retailers to update their pricing, but rather the responsibility of the retailers themselves to ensure that their data is up-to-date. IPART seems to have thrown up their hands at the situation.

Whether this reflects an unwillingness among retailers to show any material support for solar PV is unclear, but given the at-odds nature of a high penetration of distributed solar PV systems on the grid with the state’s electricity industry’s business model, this may be the case. Earlier this year the Australian Energy Market Operator (AEMO) released a report saying that 1) electricity demand forecasts had dropped significantly across Australia and 2) solar PV played a role in this decline. Generally speaking, as demand falls, so does electricity industry revenue. Recent and future projected electricity price rises are seen as due in great part to over-investment in grid infrastructure to keep revenues growing, an issue which came to the forefront of the clean energy debate last week, with Prime Minister Julia Gillard publicly addressing the need for electricity market reform in the states.

© 2012 Solar Choice Pty Ltd

James Martin II

Contributor at Solar Choice
James was Solar Choice's primary writer & researcher between 2010 and 2018.

He is now the communications manager for energy technology startup SwitchDin, but remains an occasional contributor to the Solar Choice blog.

James lives in Newcastle in a house with a weird solar system.
James Martin II

Comments

  1. I have just switched to Origin due to the supposed higher feed in tarrif offered. Had been receiving 7.7 cents/KWH. Origin sales rep stated I would receive an additional 6 cents if I made the switch. When contract arrived there was no mention of Solar rebates. After contacting Origin by email and telephone, have been advised will only receive 6 cents/KWH.
    When Origin rep called prior to switching, they said they knew who we were with and discounts being received and we would be better off switching to them. The figures provided indicated this.
    Why do the likes of Origin employ sales reps to create customer confusion and unnecessary expense? Difficult to comprehend.

    1. Hi Rodney,

      If you are still within the 14 day cooling off period you should be able to cancel the contract without incurring a charge. You should also check out a site called Switch Wise, they will tell you who really gives you the best deal. Diamond Energy are also worth a look as they deal exclusively with renewable energy owners, they normally provided the highest buy back figures for solar PV owners.

      We hope this helps!

  2. All I know is I signed a contract with Origin for a solar rebate of 66 cents a Kw/h back to the grid. When the State Government charged the retailers 7.7 cents I lost my extra 6 cents which was the sole reason I signed up with Origin. In other words I am paying 6 cents of that money to the Government and Origin have been penalised 1.7 cents. What is a contract worth these days?

    1. Hi Steve,

      We know there are lots of disappointed Origin customers out there but we do have to reiterate that even 60¢ per kWh is a great deal and will help you pay off your system in a few short years. I believe that there is wording with the contract, and any energy contract, regarding changes to the price of energy whether purchasing from the grid or being paid for what you produce.

      The 6¢ difference in price isn’t being paid to anyone, the withdrawal of the state government portion of the feed-in tariff is because so many people invested in solar it’s blown the budget! This is great news for solar and it will be great news for solar PV owners, most MP’s don’t realise just how much solar is in their area and if they want to be re-elected better deals for PV owners will have to put forward. Origin aren’t making any more money from the decrease in price per kWh, they’re making the same contribution as always.

      Customers investing in solar today are advised that the benefit for them is offsetting their energy bill, as there is no mandatory feed-in tariff for new customers some get nothing for what they feed back. We now look to match a customers energy needs with a system that will cover most of these, making the value of what they produce whatever you don’t have to buy from the grid.

  3. On one side the Government introduced Carbon Tax to reduced pollution. But on the other hand The Government would not interested nor support Green energy. I don’t think Government is sincere to reduced pollution, they only interested in takeaway our hard-earned money by different means. We work hard all day but cant able to switch on our air condition at night for our family. I ask Government one question where they are going to use the carbon tax money, best way to use it is to promote solar.

    1. Hi Kashif,

      The money collected from the Carbon Price goes towards assisting households in the form of tax reductions and assisted payments. It’s the major polluters that pay the price not everyday households, however, as energy companies are major polluters they are charged and this cost is passed onto the consumer through their energy bill.

      You may not be aware but air conditioning units are a major energy user and contribute significantly to your energy bill, it’s the air conditioning units that result in the most expensive generators being activated on hot days and means those without systems are effectively subsidising those with. Investing in a solar PV for your home may be a way to reduce your energy costs so you can afford to use your air conditioning at night, fill in our Solar Quote Comparison and get a quote for up to 7 installers operating in your area.

  4. What an absolute fiasco. The energy retailers are quick to adopt the IPART recommendations in relation to the retail price of electricity but have no obligation or conscience when it comes to following the recommendations in respect of the Feed in Tariff.
    Others comments are correct in what they say, IPART is a toothless tiger and successive NSW Governments have sold out to the Electricity retailers and big business. Where is this going to leave the general public, with the NSW Government to sell off the generating plants. This will mean absolute open slather for the electricity wholesalers and retailers and once again, we the public will be the ones to suffer the financial burden of this privatisation process and the ongoing inadequacies of successive state government.

    1. Although the Government, at both State and Federal levels, is somewhat frustrating when it comes to solar policy the fact remains that solar PV systems offer people a means of taking control of increasing energy bills. Solar Choice has been advising customers that solar PV is no longer about making money via Premium feed-in tariffs but reducing their energy bills, the value of the solar they produce is what they avoid buying from the grid.

      For some time utilities companies and some energy retailers have viewed solar as a pest that will eventually go away, as they’ve seen their profits diminish they have reacted to protect their investments rather than adapt. Despite temporary set backs as incentives are reduced or removed the solar industry has continued to grow, and will continue to do so as energy prices rise.

  5. Up to 1/7/12 we were receiving from State govt feed in tariff .60c/kwh with an extra .06c/kwh paid by Origin Energy. This extra 6cents was the reason we changed to Origin. We were never advised (by either Origin or State govt) that the rates were changing on 1/7 and we would then only receive 52.3c/kwh from State and 7.7c/kwh from Origin bringing the total rebate down to 60c/kwh only. After reading all the information I can find I can not find anywhere where it says that the State rebate was decreasing and I feel we are once again being “ripped off” by someone either State or Origin and I would like to know who and when we will receive the full 66c/kwh we were promised.

    1. Hi Ronda,

      You can get some additional information on the changes to the Solar Feed-in tariff in our article ‘Changes to Solar Feed-in Tariff rates for Energy Australia customers‘ which explains in a bit more depth the reasons behind the change.

      Essentially the NSW Government didn’t expect the 66¢ rate to result in so many households installing a solar PV system, especially with many householders installing above their needs to take advantage of the Premium rate. Due to the drain on Government finances they passed legislation which places some of the financial burden onto the retailer, all energy retailers are now required to contribute 7.7 cents per kilowatt hour towards the 60 cent and 20 cent NSW Solar Bonus Schemes from 1 July 2012. As a result of this some energy retailers have reduced the buy back they offer customers.

      We appreciate that a reduction in your buyback rate may be disappointing but 60¢ per kWh is still an amazing rate for customers. Even at 60¢ per kWh the time remaining to pay off your system will be dramatically shortened and you’ll be making money for years to come, hopefully by the time the Premium tariff ends we’ll have a better deal in place that give all solar PV owners a fair return of their investment.

      1. It’s OK for people getting 60c per kWh to complain or even 20c but what about those of us who missed the Bonus scheme all together. The retailers give us 6c and totally ignore the IPART recommendations. The whole process is totally mismanaged.

        1. Hi John,

          We recognise for residential customers looking to install a solar PV system the current, non-mandatory, feed-in in tariff seems totally unfair and in some ways it is. What you do benefit from that earlier adopters didn’t is solar system prices at the lowest level we have ever seen in Australia – in most cases less than half the price than a few years ago. If it wan’t for the 60¢ rate driving down costs and increasing competition the solar industry wouldn’t be as healthy as it is today.

          Although it would have been great to see tariffs that encouraged early adoption without being too generous and a current situation that was more inline with the IPART recommendations, hindsight is a wonderful thing. We’ve been in the industry since 2008 and have worked through these changes, although feed-in tariffs have been dramatically reduced and we saw a slight falter in the number of installations solar remains a growing industry, largely as a result of growing energy bills, which we’ve all been advised are going to get larger.

          Hopefully in a few years things will balance out and we’ll see a fair price being paid for energy generation by residential solar PV customers.

  6. If IPART, who are supposedly there to encourage fair and transparent pricing cannot force the retailers to provide open and equitable feed-in-tariffs for solar customers what hope do individual customers have of negotiating a rate.

    IPART appear to be a toothless tiger when it comes to taking on the might of the energy retailers. Very disappointing for a government run supposedly “regulatory” authority.

Comments are closed.