Call For Victorian Solar Farms To Pay Council Rates

The Municipal Association of Victoria wants to see solar farms and other electricity generators in the state coughing up more cash to councils.

“Mum and dad home owners and small businesses are paying their council rates,” said MAV President Cr Coral Ross. “Exempt private and commercial activities should also be paying a fair and equitable share of rates.”

Among these exempt private and commercial activities are wind and solar farms, coal, gas and hydro power generators. While these facilities may not pay rates, a payment in lieu of rates (PiLoR) provision operates. For the 2018/19 financial year, this was a fixed charge of $54,400 and a variable charge of $1,225 per megawatt capacity.

However, MAV says the amounts these facilities are paying are significantly less than what they would be if they were charged under a normal rates arrangement.

It offers several examples in its submission to the Victorian Government’s local council rating system review; among them:

  • Swan Hill Rural City Council – it has three solar farms in its region. Estimated PiLoR of $284,280 compared to a rates- based charge of ~$1,743,768.
  • Moira Shire – Numurkah Solar Farm. Estimated PiLoR and other charges – $339,818 compared to a rates based charge of  ~$587,405.

Solar Stronghold Gannawarra Shire Weighs In

Gannawarra Shire Council is a solar power hotspot and had this to say on the topic of revenue from electricity generators in its submission:

“The Electricity Industry Act 2000 allows for councils or a generation company to elect to pay rates under PiLoR, rather than under the Local Government Act 1989. There are also provisions for alterations on output and then further negotiations on the impact of the generation company on the local area.”

It notes some generating entities are paying more through the Fire Services Levy than they are for PiLoR and given the services provided by local government areas, this appears to be an “inequitable situation”.

Council says rating of electricity generating entities needs to be simpler and clearer for all involved.

Whether Gannawarra was referring to positive or negative impact (or both) of renewable energy developments on local areas in its submission isn’t clear, but earlier this year and across the border in New South Wales, Dubbo Regional Council said it believed developers or the State Government should be coughing up more cash to address “community impacts” associated with large scale solar projects.

Other Exemptions Targeted

This isn’t an anti-renewables crusade by the MAV or just targeting electricity generators. Beyond energy generation, there are others it wants to see paying proper rates:

  • Private schools
  • Some religious property holdings
  • RSL gaming/gaming venues on Crown land
  • Mining
  • Crown land used for commercial purposes

An independent panel’s report regarding the local council rating system review will be submitted to the Victorian Minister for Local Government by 31 March 2020.

About Michael Bloch

Michael caught the solar power bug after purchasing components to cobble together a small off-grid PV system in 2008. He's been reporting on Australian and international solar energy news ever since.

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