How To Keep Your Bills Down When The NSW 60c Feed-In Tariff Ends

new gross meter

If you are on the 60c Feed In Tariff in NSW (AKA the Solar Bonus Scheme) you really need to get a new meter by January 1.

Across NSW there are 146,000 homes and businesses receiving a gross feed-in tariff for the electricity their rooftop solar generates.

This tariff ends on the 31st of December 2016.

If those 146,000 homes and businesses don’t get new import/export meters installed by the end of the year, their owners (or tenants) will be in the financially painful position of not just losing their generous 60-66c feed-in tariff, but also receiving nothing for the solar electricity they export into the grid.

At the start of this year there was a lot of confusion about just what people would have to do to get new meters installed. It became clear there were not enough specialist metering electricians in the state to get the job done – even if they worked on nothing else for the rest of the year.  Fortunately, the rules have been changed and the pool of people permitted to replace meters is expanding.

Free Net Meters For Solar Owners In NSW

There was also confusion about whether people would be out-of-pocket when they got their meters changed.  The good news is, it is now clear that people in NSW can get new electricity meters installed for free.

For a while it looked like electricity retailers would force you to sign long-term contracts in order to get “free” import/export meters installed.  But then one retailer, Powershop, announced it would install new meters for free with no obligation to sign a long-term contract.  In doing so, they have forced other electricity retailers to offer the same to prevent gross people flocking to Powershop.

So, thanks for that, Powershop.  You seem to have gotten everyone in NSW who is on gross metering a great deal.

Update 22/7/2016:  Powershop guarantees they can replace your old meter with a new import/export meter before the end of the year if you join with them before the 1st of August 2016.  If you join with them after this date they will still replace your meter without charge or the need to enter a long term contract, but they can’t guarantee they will be able to do it by the end of the year.

What Do I Need To Do To Change My Meter?

If you are currently receiving a gross feed-in tariff, and do not want to change your electricity retailer, you are unlikely to have to do anything.

If they haven’t already, your retailer will probably soon send you a letter telling you when they will install an import/export meter. On the first of January it will automatically switch itself on and you will change from a gross feed-in tariff to a net feed-in tariff.

It’s really a very stress free situation, except for the fact your electricity bill is likely to go up by around $1,000 a year or more.

If you are not worried about massive electricity bill increases, feel free to stop reading.

But if you’d like to know a little more about what is going on and what your options are to lower your electricity bills, then read on.  The knowledge may make you feel a little more in control of this roller coaster ride we call life.  Of course, in the great scheme of things, any sense of control is illusionary, but I say that illusions which make us feel better without hurting others are illusions that are worth having.

What Is Gross Metering?

Just in case you were unclear on this, a gross meter is not one with a piece of spinach stuck between its teeth.  Gross metering is a scheme in NSW that encouraged people to install rooftop solar by paying them up to 66c per kWh for the electricity their systems generate. And not just the exported solar electricity, but every single kilowatt-hour produced. As for the electricity that the household uses, it is paid for at normal rates – approximately 30c per kWh.

This arrangement might seem strange, but for people who are getting more than twice as much for their solar electricity than what they pay for grid electricity, it really is a great deal.

So by the laws of accounting, if not the laws of physics, under the gross scheme all the electricity produced by rooftop solar is exported to the grid in return for the gross feed-in tariff, and all the electricity consumed is taken from the grid and paid for the usual way.  Because the gross feed-in tariff is so high, many people pay very low electricity bills or nothing at all, and some lucky buggers even get a fat cheque every quarter.

What is Net Metering?

Under net metering the household consumes all the solar electricity it needs first, and then sends any excess solar into the grid in return for a net feed-in tariff.  These feed-in tariffs are in cents per kilowatt-hour and the retailers who offer them in NSW include:

10 cents:  Click Energy, Enova

8 cents:  Diamond Energy

7.7 cents:  Powerdirect

7.2 cents:  Powershop

6 cents:  Click Energy, Enova, Mojo Power, Origin Energy

5.5 cents:  ActewAGL

5.1 cents:  1st Energy, AGL, EnergyAustralia

5 cents:  Commander, Dodo, Lumo, Red Energy, Urth Energy

Note that retailer plans vary in their details and so the one with the highest feed-in tariff may not necessarily be the best one for you.  Also, not every retailer may be available in your area.

Check Out Our Tool

You can compare regular net-metering retailer plans using SolarQuotes’ electricity price comparison tool. This allows you to enter your previous bill’s details and predicts how much various retailers would have charged for the same usage. It includes information on the feed-in tariffs they offer. However this is hard to do when your bill is about to fundamentally change from gross to net metering.

One way to use this tool is to simply find the best Feed In Tariff rates in your postcode, combined with low usage rates, then contact the retailers listed in the tool and ask them if they include a free meter as part of the switch process. From my research, I like the look of Diamond Energy and Powershop. And I’d trust them more than the big 3 retailers, AGL , Origin or Energy Australia. The main reason being that I’m worried that the free meter from the big 3 retailers may be a Trojan Horse. Not one carrying soldiers, but one carrying a demand tariff.

Beware of Demand Tariffs

When you sign up for your new net metering deal – whether that is with your existing retailer, or a new one, there is one big fat gotcha that I urge you to look out for. The dreaded Demand Tariff.

There are rumours in the industry that some of the bigger retailers are using the meter changeover to quietly move consumers on to a new style of tariff called a demand tariff. I’ll write more about this beast in a few weeks, but in a nutshell demand tariffs penalise solar owners, big-time.

Be sure that when signing any paperwork you don’t accept anything called a ‘demand tariff’. In fact I’d go so far as to scrawl “I do not agree to a demand tariff” on the form. And if you sign up over the phone, make sure you tell the operator that you will not accept a demand tariff, and make sure that bit is recorded. Also don’t sign up for anything that locks you in to a multi-year contract.

As you can probably tell. We’re not fans of demand tariffs here at SolarQuotes. Look out for a post on them in the next few weeks.

If  You Do Nothing Your Electricity Bills Will Go Through The Roof

The typical size of a gross metered rooftop solar system is 1.5 kilowatts.  If you have a north facing system of that size in Sydney you will be enjoying electricity bill reductions of around $1,270 a year thanks to gross metering.  The net feed-in tariff you will receive at the start of next year won’t be very much compared to that.

If you consume half the electricity your system produces and have a 6 cent net feed-in tariff, then that will cut your bills by around $64 a year.  However, the solar electricity you consume also saves you from having to buy grid electricity.  If you pay the standard Sydney rate, after discounts, of about 20 cents a kilowatt-hour, this will save you around $212 a year.  So all up you can expect your annual electricity bill to rise by almost $1,000.

If you have a three kilowatt system, which is twice as large, your situation is twice as bad.  If half the solar electricity is self consumed by the household you can expect your electricity bill to go up by almost $2,000 a year.

There is very little difference in the electricity bill increase between Sydney and sunnier parts of the state.  For example, a household in Wagga Wagga would only be around $30 a year better off than Sydney if they have a 1.5 kilowatt system or $60 if they have a 3 kilowatt system.

How You Can Avoid Electricity Bill Increases

If you are coming off the gross feed-in tariff at the end of the year and would prefer not to pay massively increased electricity bills you have three main options:

1) Install a larger rooftop solar system.

2) Improve the energy efficiency of your home

3) Installing battery storage,

The first 2 options will pay for themselves.  The third option, will not pay for itself at current prices. But batteries can reduce electricity bills for those who do not mind paying big money up front and not getting it all back through savings.

Installing More Rooftop Solar Will Lower Your Electricity Bills

Back in the ancient days of early 2011 when the gross feed-in tariff was still available to new applicants, the usual size of a rooftop solar system was only 1.5 kilowatts and that is not very large at all.  The average new system is now around 5 kilowatts.  While a 5 kilowatt system won’t bring back the glory days of the 60 cent gross feed-in tariff, installing more rooftop solar can certainly take the edge off the painful electricity bill increases you will suffer from the 1st January 2017, if you are on gross metering.

Unfortunately, if you increase the size of a gross metered system before the 1st of January you’ll lose your gross feed-in tariff as soon as you upgrade. And even after the gross tariff ends it is still probably not worth it.  This is because, rather than fiddling around with an old, small, 1.5 kilowatt system (voiding the warranty in the process), it can be a lot cheaper and easier to just install a completely new system right next to the old system.

As gross metered systems are usually quite small, most people will have enough room on their roofs for a second system.  And because the new one will have a net feed-in tariff, it will make sense to place it to maximize the household’s self consumption of the electricity it produces.  So rather than facing it north, as most gross metered systems do, some people will benefit from placing their new system facing west. A smaller number will be better off facing it east, and some may find splitting the new panels between east and west effective.

As long as it doesn’t alter the old system,  you can install a new one before the 1st of January without affecting your current gross feed-in tariff.  If you intend to install a new system this year before gross metering ends, it would probably be a good idea to tell your electricity retailer before they install your new import/export meter.

How Much More Solar Should You Get?

The ideal amount of rooftop solar to have depends on a range of factors.  But a simple rule of thumb to follow is:

  • if your current electricity bill is around the Sydney average of 18 kilowatt-hours a day and
  • you don’t mind if your system is a kilowatt or two larger than it should be, on strictly economic grounds

then for many people in NSW a sensible, total amount of solar to install is 5 kilowatts. Which just happens to be the maximum size that most people are allowed to install in NSW.

Maximum Solar System Size In NSW Depends On Your Location

For most rooftop solar installations it makes economic sense for to size the total capacity of the solar panels higher than the inverter capacity.  But to receive STCs, or Small-scale Technology Certificates, the capacity of the solar panels must be no more than 133% that of the inverters.  Because STCs lower the cost of rooftop solar, trust me, you really want to get them.  So don’t go over the limit, unless you are especially rich.

The maximum size of a rooftop solar system allowed in NSW depends on the electricity network area your household is in and whether it has single phase or three phase power.  In addition, Councils usually require special permission to install more than 10 kilowatts.

NSW has three network areas, each with different rules for rooftop solar.  They are Ausgrid, Endeavor, and Essential.

Ausgrid: In the Ausgrid network area, which includes Sydney’s eastern suburbs, the Central Coast, and Newcastle, households with single phase power are only permitted to install rooftop solar systems where the inverters total capacity is less than 5 kilowatts, but the total capacity of the solar panels can exceed 5 kilowatts.

This means a home with single phase power that has a 1.5 kilowatt inverter with 1.5 kilowatts of solar panels could add a new system with a 3 three kilowatt inverter and up to 4.48 kilowatts of solar panels and still receive STCs.

Those with three phase power in the Ausgrid area can install up to 10 kilowatts of rooftop solar.

Endeavor: The Endeavor network includes Sydney’s western suburbs and Wollongong, and extends north of the Clyde River, and west of Bathurst and Mudgee.

The requirements in the Endeavor network area are similar to those in the Ausgrid area, except that houses with single phase power must have under 5 kilowatts of inverters and under 5 kilowatts of solar panels.  This means a household with an existing 1.5 kilowatt inverter with 1.5 kilowatts of solar panels could add a new 3 kilowatt inverter, but would need to add less than 3.5 kilowatts of panels. 

Essential:  The Essential network area covers rural and regional NSW.  Depending on where you live local Councils may restrict you to a maximum of 10 kilowatts of solar power, but Essential does not restrict the size of your solar system.  What they can restrict is how much electricity your rooftop solar can export to the grid.  You may not be allowed to export anything, or you may be allowed to export over 100 kilowatts, but generally people are limited to exporting 5 kilowatts.  For households limited to exporting 5 kilowatts, an inverter larger than 5 kilowatts cannot be installed unless special export limiting equipment is also installed. This is a considerable extra expense.  As a result, most people will want to keep their total inverter capacity to 5 kilowatts or less. Although they can install solar panels with a total capacity of up to 133% of inverter capacity.

Improving Energy Efficiency Should Be A Priority

As well as adding a new rooftop solar system, you can and should reduce the shock of electricity bill increases by investing in home energy efficiency.  This link gives you all the advice you need to cut your usage in half with simple efficiency measure. I’m serious.

Installing Battery Storage Should Not Be A Priority

Battery storage has a lot of potential to cut electricity bills by storing solar electricity for use in the evening.

Unfortunately, it is not possible for battery storage to pay for itself anywhere in Australia.  This may change within the next few years, but at the moment, no matter what system you buy, it will cost you more than you save.  But if you don’t mind paying a lot of money up front and you want to install battery storage for non-economic reasons, you have several options.

Going Off-Grid:  This is the most expensive course to take because both the battery and rooftop solar system must be large enough to handle extended periods of bad weather and almost all homes in NSW will need a backup generator.  Even an efficient household is unlikely to go off-grid for less than $30,000.  And a system that gives all the convenience of being on-grid is likely to cost over $50,000.

Currently battery storage systems are an environmental negative because energy is always lost when charging and discharging batteries.  But going off-grid is worst option for the environment because during periods of sunny weather the house will produce more solar electricity than the house needs or the batteries can store and this will go to waste as there is no way to send it into the grid.

On-Grid Battery Storage With Backup (AKA Hybrid Solar): With this arrangement a home has battery storage while still having all the convenience of being on-grid.  In addition, if the grid fails and there is a blackout the household can use battery power.  However, unless the battery storage is very large and so very expensive, it won’t be enough to run the house as if it was still on-grid and might only be enough to power lights, TVs, laptops, and refrigeration.

Setting up the battery system so it can give back-up during a blackout is expensive and installing even a small amount of battery storage that can give backup power is likely to cost at least $14,000 and probably considerably more.

Because of the high cost, the limited amount of power batteries can generally give, and because blackouts rarely occur in NSW, most households would be better off economically without the ability to use their batteries during a blackout and purchasing a small generator instead.

On-Grid Battery Storage Without Backup:  This is the lowest cost way to add battery storage to a home.  The drawback is during a blackout the batteries can’t be used and the home will be just as much in the dark as any other.  However, the money saved will be more than enough to buy a small generator for use during grid failures.

You can install an on-grid battery system without backup, such as a single module of the Enphase AC battery, for as little as $3,500.  However, this is a very small battery that can only store around 1.1 kilowatt-hours of usable electricity.  If you are very lucky and are able to get an excellent deal, you could get a larger battery storage system such as the 6.4 kilowatt-hour Tesla Powerwall, installed before the end of the year for as little as $10,000.

The Most Economical Way To Install Battery Storage If You Really Want It

While battery storage can’t pay for itself yet, if you really want batteries anyway, the most cost-effective option is an on-grid system without backup.   You can install a Tesla Powerwall, or a similar sized but better system for around $10,000.

When Should I install My Rooftop Solar And/Or Batteries?

The best time to install an extra solar system is as soon as possible. With so many people coming off the gross tariff there will likely be a rush to install extra solar as January 1st approaches. So at that point you may need to wait several months to get your upgraded or second solar system installed.

The best time to install batteries is in 3-5 years when they will be cheap enough to pay for themselves.

In Conclusion…

Thanks to Powershop, it looks as though everyone in NSW on gross metering will receive a new import/export meter installation free of charge, without the need to sign a long-term contract.  If you haven’t already received a letter about it, you are likely to receive one over the next month. When you do get a letter, check:

  • that the rates on the your proposed net tariff are competitive with this tool. If they are not – switch retailers.
  • that you are not being put on a demand tariff
  • that you are not signing a long term contract. You want the safety net of being able to switch retailers

If you don’t hear from your retailer, or you simply don’t trust them, you will probably want to contact them after a month or two and check what they intend to do.  If it turns out they won’t install a new meter for free, you have the option of changing to Powershop or another retailer that will.

Those who want to avoid massive increases to their electricity bills once they come off the gross tariff can invest in a new rooftop solar system. You can get quotes from 3 local installers I trust here.

You should also consider energy efficiency measures like these.

Finally, people who want to lower their electricity bills and don’t mind spending more money than they will make back can install a battery system.

About Ronald Brakels

Many years ago now, Ronald Brakels was born in Toowoomba. He first rose to international prominence when his township took up a collection to send him to Japan, which was the furthest they could manage with the money they raised. He became passionately interested in environmental matters upon his return to Australia when the local Mayor met him at the airport and explained it was far too dangerous for him to return to Toowoomba on account of climate change and mutant attack goats. Ronald then moved to a property in the Adelaide Hills where he now lives with his horse, Tonto 23.

Comments

  1. ” total amount of solar to install is 5 kilowatts. Which just happens to be the maximum size that most people are allowed to install in NSW.”

    There is no maximum anywhere in NSW. This is a common myth put about by installers to maximise profits. At 5 kW and above you need to do more paperwork and that reduces the margin of profit.

    Beyond 5 you may need to upgrade the wiring in the street or the transformer. That’s unlikely below 10 per phase.

    THERE IS NO MAXIMUM.

    • Ronald Brakels says

      Those with single phase power in the Ausgrid and Endeavor network areas will require their permission to install 5 or more kilowatts. That is 5 or more kilowatts by inverter size in the Ausgrid area 5 or more kilowatts by inverter or total panel capacity in the Endeavor area. The network operators may deign to grant such permission, but those who dwell within their demesne are not free to do as they will. In addition, in those network areas Council permission is required to install more than 10 kilowatts.

  2. Nice work as always Ronald but I have one question for you. It seems to me that in the very near future we are going to have to convert to a smart grid with smart meters in order to be able to bring down the peak loads on the grid maximise the potential for renewable energy to replace coal power. So doesn’t it seem INSANE that we are about to replace 146,000 dumb gross meters in NSW with 146,000 dumb net meters? Why on earth wouldn’t we be taking this opportunity to install smart meters and to kickstart to transition to a smart grid?

    • Ronald Brakels says

      That is a good question, Andy. And I suspect the answer is to do with economics of the situation. If people are free to change retailers then the retailers have no real incentive in pay for the extra cost of a smart meter. And even if they could be certain these customers would stay, they all have rooftop solar and so are not good candidates for time of use tariffs as people with solar are usually better off on a standard tariff.

      If the goal was to reduce the total cost of providing grid electricity then it might make sense to install smart meters, but that is not what the system is designed to do.

    • Ronald Brakels says

      That is a good question, Andy. I suspect the answer could be the economics of the situation. If customers are free to switch retailers there is little incentive to pay for the extra cost of installing a smart meter. And even if they could be certain of keeping that customer, all the people who are coming off the gross tariff are poor candidates for time of use tariffs as households with solar are usually better off on a standard tariff.

      If the goal was to keep the total cost of supplying electricity as low as possible then it might well make sense to install smart meters. But that’s not what the system is designed to do.

  3. Hi Ronald,

    Once again a well thought out and written article from you.

    Only thing I can think of (and no doubt you’ll discuss in a later writing) is that demand tariffs will become commonplace in the future. In a level playing field they are generally fairer to users with less peaky demand that draw less from the grid during peak times. I wonder if small battery systems will become commonplace to blunt external purchases under demand tariffs?

    • Ronald Brakels says

      Demand charges would certainly improve the economics of battery storage. Particularly batteries with high power output.

  4. Jackson Wallace says

    I think you’re so far off the mark you sound like an advertising campaign for the power industry, young feller.
    OF COURSE going stand-alone is easily the most financially-sound way to go (unless you have a largish solar system attached to the grid and getting ~ here in Vic, ~ 66 cents per kwh exported.) though it may not be QUITE as ‘convenient’ as being grid-connected.
    ….And let’s face it: the ‘Tesla-wall’ furphy is a nonsense that doesn’t for a minute stand up to scrutiny:- Not only are you STILL dependent upon Big Brother ~ and any financial or other impositions he sees fit to apply over time ~ it also leaves you without options worth a crap, since you’ve already made a huge capital commitment.

    Try this test:- Tell your power-company you don’t wish to pay connection fees, peak/off-peak, etc.etc. rates, (let alone fees for ALLOWING you to pay your bill! and so on) but want a straight dollar-per-kw price for any electricity you CHOOSE to use.

    If they don’t simply hang up on you you’ll find yourself paying …what? .. a mere 10 cents per watt? Do the arithmetic!

    Instead of wasting your money on a ‘Tesla Wall’, where your 10 grand will buy you (at today’s rate) about 540 AH of storage (at 12 volts), the same 10 grand will buy you in the order of FIVE THOUSAND AH of deep-cycle storage batteries (@ 12 volts) which can be expected to last more than five years (and up to ten years, depending on…..).
    Again….do the arithmetic. …….but keep in mind that those aforementioned ‘fees and charges’ will grow like a mushroom on Viagra over the same 5 or 10 year period……and will have hold of you by the proverbials.
    In the end it gets down to what you’re prepared to pay for (a) your independence and (b) the convenience of having it done for you. (Or TO you??…. 😉 )

    And ps:- For all the ‘If the grid goes down’, have you ever known a properly used batter-bank to ‘go down’??)

  5. john nielsen says

    Hi Ronald,
    People can have dual (separate) power points in their homes, i.e. in the kitchen and bath rooms especially where a lot of power is consumed. That means utility grid connected power points and 240 vac ordinary power points side by side. You can have as much solar power as you like as long as you don’t connect it to the grid.
    So for someone with a 6 kW system, you can have batteries lead gel (forget about the other pie in the sky stuff) say 36 kWh for about $5,000
    When the batteries run below a certain threshold, it automatically switches over to the grid, i.e. you have two systems in parallel. It works as if you had a generator switch installed. When the grid is down, you turn on the generator and use a change over switch, all legal but must be installed by a licensed person and approved by the grid.
    But you can have the best of both worlds, use as much of you solar power as possible and when you don’t have enough of solar, then automatically switch over to the grid. Use a relay driver to read the voltage in the battery bank, and set the battery thresholds to suit. With a 6 kW PV system and a 36 kWh battery bank, most people will have enough power to run the house 24/7. On rainy days, you might have to plug the electric stove, oven, washing machine, dryer into the grid power points, so what? Quite simple, best of both worlds. Trying to quit the grid when it is available, is in my opinion not an option and will not be so for a long time to come.
    John Nielsen, Silkwood.

    • Iain Foxon says

      Latronics make AutoTransfer Switches – which can be hooked to a battery bank fed inverter , The ATS prioritises to power a connected circuit from the inverter till it turns off due to preset voltage being reached, then automatically switches back to the grid . You can feed your inverter from old truck batteries if you want. Latronics also have Hybrid battery/ grid connect inverters so you hook array to inverter, and inverter to 48 volt battery bank and use batteries to drive 48 volt sine wave inverter.. The Latronics hybrids will charge batteries first then and only then feed into the grid.
      They are made and serviced in Australia as well.
      No, I dont work for them but do like the product
      I am interested in anyone who can give me any info/feedback and advice(please) in this theory as I am going to set this exact scenario up using 8 trojan 6 volt ex hire company access equipment batteries.
      Again, any hints gratefully appreciated, thankyou

    • Jackson Wallace says

      It worked for me, John, for over 30 years. The trick was to run a separate circuit to the, say, kitchen/laundry area and back to a smallish demand-start petrol (or lpg) generator in the shed.
      But those days/occasions when the battery-bank wasn’t up to it can be pretty-much avoided anyway by the use of the aforementioned generator. (Bunnings recently had a useful 2.5 kw unit on special for under $400)

      The idea is to use the generator for ALL the short-term heavy-consumption uses (micro-wave, vacuum-cleaner, washing-machine, power-tools, etc.) and so be able to minimise the required size of the battery-bank…to run lights, TV, computers, etc.

      The tiny amount of fuel the genny uses (even if it has to be replaced every year or two) will cost FAR less than the connection-fee (service-charge) of the grid alone.
      In fact, the spiralling cost of the service charge will, over the expected life of a moderate battery-bank, set you back more than the said battery-bank.
      Broadly eg. the $3000 (and increasing!) ‘service-charge’ will (at today’s prices) buy you an average 1500 ah @12-volts battery bank (or TWO by 750 ah banks over the same period. And the better/average batteries, lightly used (remember the generator for the big jobs) should last well over that five years.
      (I bought 200 ah AGM batteries ~ which had been on stand-by for 2 years ~ for just under $2 per ah.. Now, EIGHT years later two have gone to god and the other four are faltering.
      ……….and I have other uses for them when they die. (Try building a heat-bank wall/floor-paving for the hothouse with them. 🙂

      Let’s see a ‘grid-connection’ do that!

  6. In Certain cases says

    “Unfortunately, it is not possible for battery storage to pay for itself anywhere in Australia”
    That’s a broad brush statement that is factually incorrect information

    • Ronald Brakels says

      Send me the details of a battery storage system that pays for itself and I’ll write an article on it.

      Just to be clear, I was referring to households that are currently on the grid. And I’ll also mention I’ve looked into using lead-acid batteries and the economics of them weren’t favorable: http://www.solarquotes.com.au/blog/an-off-grid-solar-system-can-pay-for-itself-but-cant-beat-on-grid-solar/

      • Jack Wallace says

        See my note above.
        I ran exclusively on solar power from 1981 through to 2001. (in the days when components were VERY expensive and stone-age technology.) …..and these days operate a grid-connect system for the income (@ 66 cpkwh), and a stand-alone system to run the house. (along with aforementioned demand-start generator:- cost $369 at Bunnings; uses about $2.50 per week in fuel and will last longer than I will.)

        I have a friend who STILL lives entirely off the grid (including panels from my original system) for next to nothing. Whether it ‘can be done’, etc. all depends upon organisation and usage. (‘how’ as well as ‘how much’)

        As for cost: not only is technology incredibly advanced, but there are many more options available. Jill threw out her original battery-bank after 30-odd years a couple of years ago.

        And ‘cost’ depends on how you reckon it:-
        She’d bought a bank of ex-SEC batteries (3260 AH @ 2 volts) second-hand from the SEC depot in Port Melbourne for $9 (that’s NINE DOLLARS) each way back when.
        She paid just over $7000 for her new (Sonnenschein) bank, and expects them to see her out.
        So, for a total of less than $7500 (including delivery!) she’s looking at 40 or so years worth of use from the batteries bought….or about $180 per year.
        The local (Gippsland) grid price for ‘service to property’ is $1.56 PER DAY.
        ….and rising!
        Do the arithmetic.

  7. Iain Foxon says

    Again, any comments, suggestions and advice for my solar, battery, UPS system gratefully appreciated, and yes any fixed installation must be done in accordance with AS 3000 by a lic electrician

    • Jack Wallace says

      Iain, anyone who feels compelled to hire an overpriced electrician (and I’ll bet you can’t name a single one that isn’t!) shouldn’t be allowed near anything to do with electrical circuits! They’re too thick to use a light-switch!

      I was around before Peter Pedals discovered dunny-paper and watched the whole monolith grow. If you’re interested I can describe the POLITICAL reasons why electricians became required to install solar systems ~ work that a half-witted chimpanzee wouldn’t find too challenging!

      Keep in mind that over 80% of house-fires are caused by electrical malfunctions ~ in systems almost 100% installed by qualified electricians according to the ASs.

      • iainfoxon says

        Hi Jack , you have no argument here re a large portion of “qualified “sparkies but when it comes to connecting to the grid and linesmen who repair said grid there needs to be some level of regulation.(Amongst other reasons) mostly for liability reasons I would think. No doubt everything is politically and or money motivated
        As an aside, and to support your point, we had a 100 kva genset returned off hire and a qual sparky had disconnected the MEN supposedly. In actual fact he had dissconnected all the earths in the unit to stop the fitted RCD from tripping due to an existing MEN in a board down the line.
        Unfortunately registered training organisations these days are paid on pass results, not ability so there are many people out there who are “trade qualified”in many different trade disciplines who have little idea.
        I may be off the mark ,and I’m sure that ppl wil disagree with me, but STC’s carbon credits, carbon tax etc, get in the way of true sustainability and common sense
        Be gentle, I’m merely a lowly diesel fitter ;). Cheers
        PS, I have eaten horse but it was cooked,,, with Worstershire sauce. It was fresh enough that it was still moving while being thown into pan- Very tasty

    • Jack Wallace says

      Just had a quick look for up-to-date reference:-
      http://www.rpc.com.au/solar-news/category/5/Rainbow-Power.html

      ….and see that:—>

      “Rainbow Power Company’s co-founder Peter Pedals lost his life’s work on 14.9.11 when his home went up in flames.”

      That crowd (and I was there at the beginning) are responsible for the establishing the ‘standards’ you cite.

      ….took me 10 minutes to stop laughing!

  8. john nielsen says

    Hi Ronald,
    Keith DeLacy is wrong. Some state governments are dead set against solar power or any renewable energy. By disallowing more than 3 kW systems, they are halting solar installations, but there is a way. You can have as much solar as you like, just don’t connect your solar to the grid.
    You can have a grid connection separate from your solar and I have such.
    I think people are hesitant and holding back on solar installations because they want to quit the utility grid and they can only do that by having battery storage, and that has been muddied by all these new lithium gadgets which we might never see sold, just talked about and shown us on pictures. What is wrong with lead acid batteries? they were invented 157 years ago and used in most motor vehicles today. You can purchase a lithium battery for your car for 10 times that of a lead acid battery and it might last 10 years instead of perhaps 7 for your lead acid.
    Jackson, your idea of a generator is another fine solution to limit the size of your battery bank. I have 36 kWh and in no way will I quit the grid or use a generator at this stage, WHY because I am a pensioner and my pension discount is about equal to the utility service charge. Should that change, then more batteries and more panels. I can get my quarterly bill down to $50 from about $800, so Keith you are right, solar don’t work for the coal producers. There are a couple of good Youtube installations similar to mine: Mark Kash (part of his might be a bit illegal) and an Aussie: Justin Case. Australians are not bying Australian cars, why would you buy an Australian inverter when you can buy a Chinese/HK inverter for 1/4 the price? Something wrong with you iphone or Sony TV also made in China. I would prefer to purchase Australian goods and one day when our governments have burnt, as promised, all the red tape, then perhaps it might be possible. Future battery storage will not be lead acid or any kind of lithium. I have no clue what it will be and at 80 next year I might not ever see it,,, unless it is a revised Flow Battery System.
    John Nielsen, Silkwood

  9. john nielsen says

    Hi Ronald,
    It is quite safe to return to Toowoomba. They have eaten all the goats and now into the brumbies. Remember, nothing wrong with horse, 100 million Americans can’t be wrong. Remember we sold them brumbies for beef about 40 years ago.

    Yes great forum, and a good way to promote solar power. I believe I am right about the following, but rules change over time. Anyone can legally carry out electrical work, being it a labourer digging a trench for an electrical contractor, or my dear wife who knows how to tie two wires together, or an electrical apprentice, or for that matter the Jack Wallace suggested chimpanzee. The SAA wiring rules did in the past state that all electrical work must be supervised by a licensed person. As far as I am aware, an electrician can only carry out electrical work on his own home. If he wants to carry out electrical work as a business, then he must also have an electrical contractor’s license. Out here in the bush, people don’t realize that in the big cities on large projects electrical contractors employ labourers and apprentices. However no one should hook up to 240 vac or anything above 40 vdc without supervision. Please forgive me if I am wrong. My copy of the SAA wiring rules are from 1970 and I am not an electrician so check it out yourself.
    John Nielsen, Silkwood

    • Ronald Brakels says

      I have a deal with my horse. I don’t try to eat him and he doesn’t try to eat me. But because the horses around here know their Shakespeare they have a tendency to eat each other around election time.

      Actually, I have eaten raw horse, but in my defense, I was hungry.

  10. Mario Santini says

    Missing from your list:
    Enova Energy (Australia’s first community retailer) has announced 10 cents net FiT for smallish solar systems (up to 6kW, I think)

    • Ronald Brakels says

      Thanks Mario, I wasn’t aware of Enova. Looking at their plans I see they offer a 6 cent feed-in tariff or, with their Solar Plus plan, 10 cents. I have updated the list.

  11. Has anyone had any success with POWERSHOP installing smart meters in NSW, I have rung them twice, once before reading your article and after reading your article and on both occasions was told they are NOT installing smart meters in NSW. I am aware that Mojo Power and Origin Energy are installing smart meters in NSW does anyone know of any others?

    • Ronald Brakels says

      Thanks for letting me know, Ali. I just called Powershop and they asked me to send them an email, so as soon as I hear back from them I will let you know what they say is going on and update the article if need be.

    • Ronald Brakels says

      Ali, I just talked to Powershop and they assured me that they will change meters for customers coming off NSW’s 60 cent feed-in tariff, provided they join them before the 1st of August, which is only a week away. They will still change the meter free of charge after that, but they can’t guarantee they will get to it before the end of the year. So I’d suggest you try getting in touch with them again. Unless there are special circumstances they should be able to do it for you. They have a page on it here: http://www.powershop.com.au/solarnsw/

  12. edison nickle iron is the answer 80 years old and still going, google it, buy them of ali baba direct from ukraine or china. exide will not like it, but tough what do you think they use in the hubble telescope kmart exides

    • Ronald Brakels says

      Despite the need to replace their electrolyte perhaps every 5-7 years, nickel-iron batteries are very reliable and extremely long lasting. Or at least extremely long lasting if the electrolyte isn’t considered. They have performed very impressively in a number of applications. Not many people are likely to find them superior to lead-acid batteries for off-grid household use, but some people might be attracted by their durability.

      The Hubble Space Telescope actually uses nickel-hydrogen batteries, which is quite a different beast: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nickel%E2%80%93hydrogen_battery

  13. Hi Ronald – thanks for the article. ‘Apppreciated by we neophytes.

    One comment: We have a gross FIT system, 1.5 kw I think.
    I rang our retailer (Origin) the other day, because of the dearth of info coming from them on this topic. They said they would be sending updates/info to their customers in October. ‘Also said that the distributor (Essential Energy in our case), not the retailer, would be installing smart meters free of charge -because the distributor will own the meter.

    Thanks again,

    SL

    • Mario Santini says

      i’m with Origin on Essential Energy Network. Origin will install a smart meter unless you tell them not to. Origin sent out an “offer” to install a “free” smart meter which really is an offer to “opt out”. If you do not react to the letter(s) from Origin you will get that meter. Essential Energy won’t install anything without being asked (as you’d have to pay for the meter, dumb or smart). How other retailers will deal with origin’s smart meters (if you decide to switch one day) I’m not clear about. I bet it’ll cost, one way or another.

  14. Judi Peterson says

    I have a Gross (60cpkw)1.5kw system then we installed another 4.2 kw system Net (.06cpkw). I have just received an offer from “Origin” to supply a digital meter free of charge. If I change to this new meter I can receive 10cpkw for 12 months from Origin. If I do not change to a new meter I will remain on the .06cpkw. The Net meter I have currently installed is only 2 years old. I have been reading a lot of information about smart meters but I am hesitant to make a decision because of the conflicting views. I am unsure if changing to a smart meter is the right move for me or do I stay with the net meter? Any ideas would be appreciated.

    • Ronald Brakels says

      Judi, I think what Origin is probably offering is a new digital meter that will automatically take over from your gross meter when the 60 cent tariff ends at the end of the year. I think it would probably be an import/export meter rather than a smart meter, but you can check with them exactly what it is. I don’t think there is any reason not to take them up on their offer. You shouldn’t lose your 60 cent tariff any sooner than you would otherwise.

  15. Is a smart meter the same thing as the demand tariff? I’ve been on the 60c buy back since inception with the NettFIT. Energy Australia fitted a Smart Meter at the time, and tried to push me to Gross FIT but it couldn’t be done because of strata issues with wiring and metering, so suspect I need do nothing at this stage, except maybe increase the number of panels to become more self sufficient into future, or post Dec 2016 changes. In credit with Energy Australia for more than $600, but suspect that will soon be whittled away in new year once lower tariffs kick in. Tried to call them earlier this week and after a very long time being kept on hold and directed from one section to another, actually reached a dead end in their phone system! Very frustrating!

    • Ronald Brakels says

      Christine, a smart meter is required for a demand tariff, but people with smart meters don’t have to have a demand tariff. At the moment households with smart meters are free to decide what kind of tariff they use, whether it be a standard tariff with a flat charge per kilowatt-hour, a time of use tariff, or a new residential demand tariff.

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