Help! I’m Export Limited To Zero kW. Does Solar Make Any Sense?

Zero export limited - solar power in Australia

If you are not allowed to export any of your solar electricity, is it still worth getting panels?

Some people in Australia can’t export solar electricity to the grid.  This is because their local Distributed Network Service Provider (DNSP) has export limited their home to zero kilowatts.  While this isn’t common — yet — it is a tragedy wrapped in personal economic pain. It’s economically painful because households can’t get a feed-in tariff for their surplus solar electricity.  The tragedy is because — when a large number of homes are considered — it’s going to kill people.  When clean solar electricity sent into the grid displaces fossil fuel use, it reduces the amount of pollution we breathe.

There are good reasons not to allow more solar exports onto a local grid that can’t handle it. Still, it’s nuts not to devote adequate resources to fixing the problem and instead simply prevent homes in towns and cities from exporting clean electricity.  It’s this kind of penny-pinching stupidity that ends up causing fatalities, and after our disastrous bushfire season, we don’t need any more of that.

But I won’t go on a loooonnng rant about the stupidity of wasting clean electricity to the benefit of lung-damaging coal power — at a time when healthy lungs are at a premium. I won’t harp on about how global warming contributes to bushfires, damages agriculture, and contributes to flooding.

I’ll instead restrain myself and concentrate on the question of whether or not it makes sense for people to still get solar if they can’t export their surplus PV-generated electricity. For most households, the answer is — yes.

The financially optimal size of a zero-export solar power system depends on how much electricity you use during the day.  The optimal size will be smaller than for a non-export-limited system.

Batteries are more likely to pay from themselves if a home is zero export limited. However, outside of South Australia with its high electricity prices and hefty battery subsidy, they are still unlikely to make economic sense for a typical home.  A significant reason is that zero export homes can’t join Virtual Power Plants (VPPs) and VPPs improve battery economics.  But because the cost of battery systems will continue to fall, in the future they are likely to be a standard feature of zero export homes.

Rant [Redacted]

This section you are currently reading used to contain a rant about how stupid it was for…

  • Economics
  • The environment, and…
  • Both good and evil1

…to allow clean solar electricity from rooftops to go to waste while not restricting emissions from coal power stations.  Other countries, such as California, welcome it.  (Technically California isn’t a country, but things are looking a lot more Snow Crashy than they have for a long time.)

But when I got to around the 12,000 word mark, I decided that it was probably distracting from the main point of the article.  Maybe I’ll turn the rant into a separate article later.  Possibly after cutting it down to 6 or 7 thousand words.

Solar Self Consumption Is Key

If a home doesn’t have batteries and is export limited to zero kilowatts, then a solar power system only provides a benefit if the home directly uses solar electricity at the same time it is generated.  This means a household with people at home during the day will typically get far more financial benefit than if there is hardly ever anyone at home during daylight hours.  However, it’s still possible for a home that’s mostly empty through the day to make solar panels pay, if they have appliances such as refrigerators and pool pumps pulling power while no one’s present.

Solar self-consumption is the portion of solar energy a household consumes itself.  It depends on electricity consumption patterns and the size of the solar system.  The average figure varies according to location due to differing electricity consumption patterns and climate.  Fortunately, I can get the average figures for total electricity consumption and solar self-consumption from the SolarQuotes Solar & Battery Calculator.2  Below I’ve put the annual electricity consumption figures and solar self-consumption figures for homes with 6.6 kilowatt solar systems in each capital.  This information is from Solar Analytics and annual consumption includes both grid and solar self-consumption 3:

  • Adelaide: 7,512 kilowatt-hours,  21% solar self consumption
  • Brisbane:  4,201 kilowatt-hours,  20% solar self consumption
  • Canberra:  4,558 kilowatt-hours,  22% solar self consumption
  • Darwin:  5,408 kilowatt-hours,  25% solar self consumption
  • Hobart:  5,092 kilowatt-hours,  30% solar self consumption
  • Melbourne:  5,321 kilowatt-hours,  28% solar self consumption
  • Perth:  9,398 kilowatt-hours,  23% solar self consumption
  • Sydney:  3,877 kilowatt-hours,  20% solar self consumption

For households that are zero export limited, the simple rule of thumb is…

Halving the rate of solar self consumption doubles the time rooftop solar power takes to pay for itself, while doubling solar energy self consumption halves the time.

If it takes ten years for a zero-kW export limited system to pay for itself with 20% self-consumption, then this simple graph shows what happens when the rate is changed:

Payback period - 20% solar self consumption

Few homes that install a 6.6 kilowatt solar power system will have a self-consumption rate under 10%. Still, if there is rarely anyone at home during the day and no effort is made to use timers to run appliances in the middle of the day, then the payback time is not going to be what almost anyone would consider acceptable. Because most of the clean energy it produces will be going to waste — it will provide little environmental benefit.

Zero Export Can Quintuple The Average Payback Period For 6.6 KW Solar

For roofs that don’t suffer from significant shading, solar power is normally an excellent investment provided excess solar electricity can receive a feed-in tariff.  Depending on your location, a 6.6 kilowatt system without an export limit can have a simple payback period of under three years.  The simple payback period is how long it will take for the savings (or credit) on your electricity bills to equal the cost of the solar system.  If a home is zero export limited, that time can quintuple.

I’ll give you a graph of the simple payback times for a 6.6 kilowatt solar system in capital cities for a typical household and one with a zero export limit.  The times will be those given by the SolarQuotes Solar & Battery Calculator using the following assumptions:

  • It’s for a 6.6 kilowatt system.
  • The system costs $6,600 fully installed.
  • The home has the average 6.6 kilowatt solar system self-consumption rate for its location.
  • For capitals with retailer choice — Adelaide, Brisbane, Canberra, Melbourne, and Sydney — the lowest cost standard tariff electricity plan available was used.  This can differ from the bes tariff for a solar home without export limiting.
  • I use new, low feed-in tariff of around 8 cents for Darwin.
  • The rate of electricity price inflation is 0%.4

With these assumptions, we get the following simple payback periods:

Simple payback 6.6kW solar - unlimited and zero export limited

The worst affected location is Brisbane, where the simple payback period is five times longer.  This is mostly thanks to their relatively low grid electricity prices, which are falling thanks to their rapidly increasing solar capacity.  The least affected capital is Perth, mainly due to a high grid electricity price combined with their low current solar feed-in tariff.  But in all places apart from Perth, the simple payback period is more than doubled by zero export limiting.

This graph doesn’t show the effect of the current Victorian Solar Homes rebate of $1,888.  If this is included the simple payback times in Melbourne become:

  • Without export limiting: 2.4 years
  • With a zero export limit: 8.7 years

Smaller Solar Systems Reduce Payback Periods

Generally speaking, the smaller the solar power system, the higher the self-consumption.  This graph5 shows the average self-consumption figures in Sydney for solar systems of various sizes:

Sydney solar self consumption by solar power system size

As you can see, the smaller the solar system, the higher the average self-consumption.  Because doubling solar self-consumption halves the simple payback time for zero export homes, this makes it look like the answer is to install a small solar power system, but if the system is too small the home will miss out on potential savings.  This is easy to show using a reductio ad absurdum6 that takes buying a small solar system to a ridiculous extreme.

If we install 1 watt of solar for $1 in a zero export Sydney home, then with 100% self-consumption its simple payback period will only be two years and eight months.  The drawback is, after two years and eight months it will only have saved $1.  If we’d instead installed a 3 kilowatt system instead, with an average 43% solar energy self-consumption percentage for a system that size we’d save nearly $1,500 over that time.

So the answer is not to install a system that is of small size, but rather one that is the right size.

The Right Size System For Zero Export Households

The perfect size for a solar system, from a financial point of view, is one that provides a return that is a tiny bit higher than the next best investment a household could make.  This is easy to say, but difficult to work out.  To keep things simple, I am just going to calculate the largest solar power system a zero export home can install in each capital that will have a simple payback period of ten years.

The reason I’m picking a ten year simple payback period is that you are very unlikely to have any problems with your system in that time, provided it comprised of reliable components and installed by an installer who does quality work.  The parts can be under warranty for the entire period.  Solar panels have a minimum product warranty of ten years, and it’s not difficult to get an inverter with a ten-year warranty or extend a five year warranty to that long.

What About Capital And Maintenance Costs?

Because the simple payback time is simple, it ignores other factors such as the cost of capital.  If you buy a system with a ten year simple payback and borrow money at 6% to pay for it and inflation averages out to around 2%, that will add about five years to the payback time.  Also, if you get the system inspected every five years as recommended/required the cost of a couple of them may add another year.

While I could dive into the nitty-gritty details and do some complex calculations that factor in capital and other costs, I’m not going to do this for several reasons.

  • Firstly, it’s not unreasonable to expect good quality solar to last 15 or more years without a problem.
  • The cost of capital has never been lower than at the moment.  The best term deposit rate I could find at the moment is 1.35%.  If the inflation rate is higher than that, which seems likely, it will make stashing money in the bank a losing proposition.

But the main reason I’m not bothering to go into more detail is:

  • It’s hard work and hurts my brain.

System Size With 10 Year Simple Payback

If I keep the same assumptions I’ve used so far while also assuming:

  • Solar costs $1,000 per kilowatt.
  • The solar energy self-consumption rate is average for a system’s size and location.

Then the system size with a ten year payback in each capital will be:

solar power system size - 10 year payback zero export limited

The pink part of the Melbourne bar indicates the size of the system with the current $1,888 Victorian Solar Homes rebate.

Even with a zero export limit, the size of a solar system that has a simple payback period that many people should find reasonable given how long they can last,7 can be quite large.  In Adelaide, it’s 8 kilowatts due to high electricity prices while in Melbourne the current Victorian Solar Homes rebate of $1,888 can boost it from 6 kilowatts to 8.  But in Brisbane and Canberra low electricity prices make the system size reasonably small by today’s standards at only 4 kilowatts.

Unfortunately, the above graph is not perfect and has several drawbacks:

  • It assumes the cost of solar is a constant $1,000 per kilowatt and ignores the fact that larger systems tend to cost less per kilowatt and smaller ones tend to cost more.
  • It overlooks that budget-conscious people can usually find systems for under $1,000 per kilowatt from quality installers in state capitals.  These systems won’t have the highest quality panels available, but will still be reliable.
  • It ignores price differences between capitals, with Perth having the cheapest solar and Hobart and Darwin the most expensive.
  • It doesn’t take into account that electricity prices are on track to fall.8

I can make rough and ready but still reasonable guesses to adjust for this by assuming the following:

  • Systems costs $800 per kilowatt with each kilowatt of capacity under 6.6 raising the price by 10%.9
  • Systems cost 10% less in Perth, 10% more in Hobart, and 20% more in Darwin.
  • Electricity prices average, in real terms, 10% less per kilowatt-hour than now.  They were expected to fall before the coronavirus crisis, and they’ll fall even more after the 1st of July because of it.10

With these adjustments, the system size that will give a ten year simple payback period for homes with average solar self-consumption will be:

Reasonable guess - solar system size - 10 year simple payback

The adjustments result in system size increases in Adelaide, Brisbane, Perth and Sydney thanks to the lower cost of larger systems.  The lower cost of electricity decreases system size in Darwin. Also, it decreases it in Melbourne unless the $1,888 Victorian Solar Homes rebate is used, which boosts the system size up to 9 kilowatts.

Adjusted Simple Payback Time Of A 6.6 Kilowatt System

What do these adjusted figures do to the simple payback time of the most common 6.6 kilowatt system?

I’ve shown it in the graph below for the three capitals where solar power provides the most benefit for zero export limited homes:

Reasonable guess - simple payback 6.6kW rooftop solar zero export

The bar for Melbourne is pink to indicate that it’s the Victorian Solar Homes rebate.

Provided solar continues to fall in price, which seems likely,11 then getting solar panels despite having a zero export limit will become worthwhile even for impatient people who want short payback periods.

Batteries Don’t Make Sense For The Typical Zero Export Home Outside SA

As I’ve mentioned once or twice in the past, batteries don’t make financial sense for normal households, yet.  The good news is this will change as they fall in price, and it becomes possible to join Virtual Power Plants (VPPs) that provide fair returns.

I thought zero export homes would provide batteries with a chance to shine and show they can be a good investment.  Unfortunately, I found — for a typical household — batteries still don’t make economic sense even with a zero export limit, and can’t pay for themselves except in South Australia that has the country’s highest electricity prices and a hefty state battery subsidy of up to $4,000.  Since zero export homes can’t join VPPs they can’t help payback.12

Using our Solar & Battery Calculator, I took a typical South Australian home with a 6.6 kilowatt solar system and 21% solar energy self-consumption and worked out the simple payback period for a 10 kilowatt-hour battery that costs $10,000 fully installed before subsidy and $6,000 after.  Its simple payback period was eight years with the current price of electricity:

battery payback

That’s within the ten year warranty period that’s the usual maximum for home battery systems.  In other states, the same battery has a simple payback period of around 15 years at best for a typical zero export household.  While I don’t think it’s unreasonable to expect a home battery to last a few years longer than its warranty, I wouldn’t rely on one to survive 15 years because batteries degrade over time and with use in ways that solar panels and inverters don’t.

But just because, outside of SA, batteries won’t pay for themselves in most zero-export homes, it doesn’t mean they won’t pay for themselves in your home.  If your electricity consumption patterns are battery-friendly, they can make sense.  But I won’t go into the details of what makes zero-export-plus-batteries a good investment.  I’d rather wait until the advanced version of our Solar & Battery Calculator is ready. It will make the task a lot easier.

The Final Grumble

While not being able to export solar electricity is a pain, not to mention stupid in a world suffering the effects of global warming, installing solar panels can still make sense for zero-export homes.  While in some locations the optimal size of zero-export systems will be small, as the cost of solar falls that optimal size will increase.

If electricity prices fall, as I expect them to, this will have the opposite effect, but — on the bright side — if you have a zero export limited home your solar feed-in tariff isn’t going to get any lower.


  1. If you want to be evil, it’s a lot easier in a world full of trusting good people rather than a blighted hell landscape where killing your best friend over half a packet of mouldy barbecue shapes is simply called breakfast.
  2. Note that our Solar & Battery Calculator is only available in its basic version at the moment.  There will be an advanced version in the future that will have more bells and whistles or — if I have my way — bellistles; which are more than bells, more than whistles, and more than a mere fusion of the two.  (Personally, I’m shocked no one else thought to take out a patent.)
  3. As you can see, annual consumption for homes in Adelaide and Perth is pretty high for these solar homes.
  4. I am assuming electricity prices remain constant in real terms.  This means all dollar figures are in today’s money, which makes things simpler.
  5. I realise the value along the bottom of the chart doesn’t increase at a constant rate, and I’m not trying to pretend it does, so graph purists, please don’t crucify me on a cross made from an intersecting an x and y-axis.
  6. A reductio ad absurdum is when you make the ads in a telly show so short it’s just absurd.
  7. In Europe, it is now common to build new solar farms to with an expected  35 year lifespan.  That is, the vast majority, though not all, the solar panels in them will still be functioning with an acceptable level of deterioration after three and a half decades.
  8. Most of the fall in electricity prices will come from increasing renewable energy capacity pushing down wholesale electricity prices. Still, after the 1st of July a small decrease in electricity prices will be passed on that results from a pesky little virus that’s been going around.
  9. This results in the following system size prices: 10 kilowatts — $8,000.  9 kilowatts — $7,200.  8 kilowatts — $6,400.  7 kilowatts — $5,600.  6.6 kilowatts — $5,280.  6 kilowatts — $5,088.  5 kilowatts — $4,640.  4 kilowatts — $4,032.
  10. Except in Western Australia.  But give it a couple of years, and hopefully, prices will fall even there.  I expect the average fall in electricity prices over the next ten years to be greater than 10%, but some people have trouble believing they will fall at all, so I’ll just go with 10% for now.
  11. The cost of solar hardware has fallen thanks to the fallout from the coronavirus.  We haven’t really benefited thanks to the weak Australian dollar, but the dollar is only likely to go up.  Or stay where it is.  Or fall.  Okay, maybe I don’t know what’s going to happen. Still, at least I’m honest about it.
  12. While it’s possible for a battery in a zero export home to still provide some grid support services by acting as a load, I don’t think any VPP is likely to pay much for them.  There’s no VPP my refrigerator can join, despite its ability to store coolness.  (Which is something my refrigerator and I have in common.)
About Ronald Brakels

Joining SolarQuotes in 2015, Ronald has a knack for reading those tediously long documents put out by solar manufacturers and translating their contents into something consumers might find interesting. Master of heavily researched deep-dive blog posts, his relentless consumer advocacy has ruffled more than a few manufacturer's feathers over the years. Read Ronald's full bio.


  1. For how many years have we been saying the price of batteries will fall. Whilst true for solar there has been no similar decrease for batteries. Will the prices ever fall?

    • Ronald Brakels says

      Given it’s possible to buy an electric car for the cost of 6 home batteries I’m sure they’ll come down in price. According to Elon Musk there’s only around $2,200 Australian worth of battery cells in a Powerwall 2. While the supporting electronics aren’t cheap they’re not going to cost $7,800 when mass produced, so prices will come down. Soon, I expect, especially if the dollar recovers.

      Unfortunately, South Australia’s high battery subsidy has probably been responsible for keeping pre-subsidy home battery prices high for the whole of Australia.

  2. Ian Thompson says

    Hi Ronald

    Re- your footnote 10.

    Western Power/Synergy, out of the magnanimous nature of their hearts, have decided to freeze power prices here in Perth until the Covid-19 crisis is over.

    Some we remain at the near-equivalent of zero FiT (at only 7 c/kWh), but at least can still send our excess power into the grid (except those experiencing voltage rise curtailment), to reduce the amount of filth being pumped into the air we breathe.

  3. Ian Thompson says

    So, not SOME (damn that auto-replace algorithm).

    BTW – meant to add – again a great, well researched article

  4. Ray Havill says

    There are a huge number of people on swer lines who are export limited to zero. Mostly farmers many of whom have sizeable consumption levels e.g $12,000 p.a. bills. The 10kW inverter limit in Qld isn’t enough for many to meet their daytime consumption.

  5. Entertaining and informative, as usual, Ron.

    We recently put-on-hold a 6.6 kW system, after doing the math. Cost of installation can be twice as high in regional WA.

    One reason for not pursuing this project is uncertainty in regard to WA’s future intentions in regard to FiT rebates. Six of our tenants are still owed repayment… and over two years fighting Synergy (and appealing to Consumer Protection) still hasn’t resulted in any real progress.*

    Given that dismal scenario, _anything_ might happen once our ten-year contracts expire. A state government fixated on reducing the deficit created by its LNP predecessor might remove the 7.135c FiT completely. We did the sums for that scenario last week. Without an FiT rebate, it would take us eleven years just to break even… . _Maybe_ I’ll live that long. (Dad didn’t!)

    * The most laughable electricity bill we’ve ever seen was sent to a new tenant recently. On the front of this invoice it stated in an orange dialogue box, that the tenant would lose his 47.135c benefit next year. On the back of the bill, he was paid just 7.135c.

  6. I am about to remove a large tree that will free up my north facing roof in Sydney, My intention is to install solar with and eye to having an electric bike and then an electric car. As a sole occupier I do not expect to use all my generated power and I am curious where are we at in Australia with options to sell excess power to neighbours and stop the piracy of power providers onselling for their own profit.?

    • Ronald Brakels says

      Hi Brenda

      At the moment there is no real opportunity to sell electricity to neighbours. Not unless you want to throw an extension cord over the fence and even then you can get in trouble for creating an electrical hazard.

      But the good news is, in Sydney at the moment it is possible to get a 21 cent solar feed-in tariff and that’s a pretty good deal. This is expected to fall in July, but we’ll see what happens.

      You can check what sort of feed-in tariffs are available with our retail plan comparison tool:

      Just note that the Origin plan with the highest solar feed-in tariff is not likely to be available to normal households.

    • “…the piracy of power providers…”

      Nice alliteration, Brenda. Couldn’t have put it better.

      It’s certainly piracy in WA, where Synergy’s monopoly sells power to consumers for 26c+ and pays new sign-ups just 7c+ for solar-generated power.

      As Ron suggests, 21c is a pretty good FiT. We’re waiting to see what both parties in WA might be promising in November. Sadly, Labor appears to believe solar FiT rebates are ‘middle-class welfare’… apparently even when single-mum tenants, students, and those on minimal incomes… are the sole(r) beneficiaries… .

      We’ll probably have to take our case to the ACCC to get a result for these folk, who could really use the reimbursements they’re owed.

  7. Joseph King says

    We are in Melbourne and have only had the 6.6kW (or is it kWh or KWH or KW ……. it hurts my tiny brain) for 3 weeks and have yet to receive a bill but I have been watching the monitoring app like a kid with a new toy. I’m sure I will be surprised, badly, at the lack of return from the FiT but in reality I don’t really care. I / we are using less electrons from the blood sucking power companies and that brings me great joy. It doesn’t bring me joy that anything we put out onto the grid we get $0.08 but have to buy it back at $0.34, a net cost to us of $0.26 for providing a product that the power slime will profit from by my financial outlay.

    At present there are people working at home and have been instructed to use electric for heating instead of gas. I only wash clothes and the dishes during the day now when Mr Sun or his evil twin Mr Overcast is looking lovingly at my panels. Summer will be even better when we can run refrigerated cooling on those hotter days instead of the evaporate cooling that stop being effective at 28°C in high humidity and 32°C to 34°C in a dryer humidity and hopefully our system will provide all the electrickery that we require and hopefully a bit extra to help the grid that may be a tad short on the high temp days.

    I also want a battery and again don’t give a rats if it isn’t cost effective. On the off chance there is a power outage and this summer that may be a possibility especially if COVID-19 is still keeping people home, then I want to be able to use the generation potential on my roof and not have everything turned off so the grid isn’t kept energised while workmen are well working on the problem.

    Last summer areas experienced load shedding so does that mean those with panels also lost the ability to use their solar power? Seems wasteful to have panels and not be able to access their end product. My goal was a Tesla with the huge capacity but I am the paranoid product of unmarried parents and don’t like or trust the spying that Tesla have built into their PowerWall.

    My excellent installer told me about a couple of batteries and one is modular so it can start small and the capacity can be increased as the money tree in the back yard comes into fruit. Then it will be like having a UPS on the house and I won’t have to go and reset all the effing clocks each time the power blinks. If I could get a second battery then I wouldn’t object to being in one of the VPP. I am just selfish enough to not want to have my only battery drained leaving me with no lights at night.

    I believe that if every house had panels and a battery then the old, some VERY old COALition loved pollution producers could be put out to pasture and reduce the massive amount of CO2 that Australia pumps into the atmosphere. This is where everyone benefits and leads me to my final comment.

    We don’t inherit the earth from our parents but borrow it from our children. Boy are we handing them a dirty planet to fix up. SHAME on us!

    • Is the export limit imposed arbitrarily by retailers so they don’t have to pay consumers for electricity?

      Or is there limits to what the grid can cope with when the number of homes and businesses in dense areas of solar is great?

      Seems like the even distribution of solar around the country helps solve the need for a network that can carry large amounts of energy as the production of it is well distributed around the network.

      My retailer claims I pay a higher price for electricity and network fees because of the higher cost of transport of energy to the country despite the fact that I export far more than I consume to the grid. I put the argument to them that if the electricity costs more to get to my place the fact that I am providing energy for the network in a remote area should mean they pay a higher fit to me than to solar producers in the city. What do you think?

  8. We have been zero export for about 14 years using our power day and night. We remain connected to the grid for backup in case of malfunction and for off peak hot water. Up until recently we used to get blackouts ( once a majir H/V line was out fir five days).
    Our system is panels and 12 x 6 volt 320 a/h wired for 24 volt. I replced the first set of batteries at 12 years.
    We built our system partly to be independent of the grid and partly because we felt it would be unethical to be getting paid more than double the cost if power at the expense of those who could not, for any reason install a grid feed system. Its nice to know that during Queensland storm season we always have power.

    • Sylvia Jones says

      Well done Ritchie!. Can you publish some details about the components (TYPE of panels and batteries, prices if you can remember them, Also any info. on how you adjusted to living- obviously successfully – on what appears to be a smallish battery bank. (ie 320 ah) Can’t do better than ask the man who owns on e, as they say

  9. Here in Canberra, I have a gross feed-in tariff of 4.2 kw giving 20c:20c which is expiring next month or so I am told and was offered a 2 year contract of net feed-in tariff of 20c:8c (buy:sell) which I have to sign up to soon; in tandem with my 2.4kw net at the latter feed-in rate which I installed early this year. My electricity provider has a system of peak hour, shoulder and off-peak usage and and averaging usage to arrive a final rate, if I am not mistaken.

  10. Mark Byrne says

    Ronald, can you give any details about who is being given 0 kW exports and where? I am writing a rule change request that would allow PV owners to pay for higher export limits where there is a cost to networks to provide them. This data would be useful ammo. Thanks.

    • Finn Peacock says

      Anecdotally Ausnet is very trigger happy on 0 kW export limits at the moment.

      • Respond in kind! Zero import limits!

        • Ronald Brakels says

          Not a good plan for keeping Australia’s lungs healthy.

          • Sylvia Jones says

            ? Au contraire The obvious solution is to disconnect from the lung-destroying (etcetcetc) grid, (Zero imports) regardless of price, ANY grid-delivered power causes pollution. To charge extra for the ‘privilege’ of paying more for a polluting ‘service’ is a moral outrage. Unfortunately the Great Australian Unwashed has a long track-record for not ‘upholding` the right. But at least the usual copout is ‘But it’s a good price!’ In this case not even that stands up.

    • I am in the Wyndham Council area and Powercor has comeback to my application of 5kw export with 0kw 🙁 It seems quite a few people in Wyndham council and the surrounding areas with Powercor have also had this happen…

      • Ronald Brakels says

        I’m afraid many people in Victoria are being restricted in how much solar power they can export. This means there is a strange situation where the state government is subsidizing rooftop solar while the inability of local grid to accept more exports means solar generation is going to waste.

        • Mark Byrne says

          Which is why TEC and ACOSS have proposed a rule change which would require networks to
          – make the best use of existing hosting capacity
          – augment hosting capacity where there is a benefit to all consumers
          – offer a base level of solar export, say 3 kW
          – distributed limited hosting capacity on an equitable basis.

    • Hi Mark, if you are still looking for input, I thought I would let you know that I am to be Zero Export limited with my pending 6.6kw Solar PV install by Ergon Energy.
      Located Horse Camp QLD 4671.

      • Mark Byrne says

        Thanks Selena — noted, and my commiserations. Is it just you, or have neighbours experience the same thing? Have you asked Ergon what the problem is?

        • Selena Taylor says

          Ergon has advised that the existing infrastructure/transformer does not support any more grid connection unless or until they upgrade the local system.
          I am located 12kms out of township of Gin Gin and know of 3 people that just had installs and they are all getting feed in.
          My next door neighbour went solar about 2 years ago and they have feed in. I am not aware of the situation with any other neighbours.

          • Mark Byrne says

            Selena yours is a classic example of why we need to reform the rules around solar and battery exports. It sounds like poor planning for some people to be able to export while others can’t. (How much are your neighbours allowed to export?) There may be alternatives to transformer upgrades, depending on what the problem is.
            The current debate around this issue has been hyped up as a solar tax, but there’s much more to it than that, including the potential for a guaranteed right to export: see
            If you want to provide me with more details, I can use your situation as a case study – feel free to email me at [email protected]. Unfortunately, the change will be slow, but it will come…

    • Hi Mark,

      I have just been giving a 0 export capacity as well. We are based in Thornbury, Victoria.

      Have you had any traction with your rule change request?
      Or anything else to report?


  11. Gilbert Griffith says

    Here are a few of my thoughts on solar.
    It would be fairer if our exported power was paid at the same price as imported power.
    It would be an advantage to us if we could run the off peak hot water during the day using our 5kw solar system, but this would require a wiring change. Our next investment will be a solar hot water system.
    In addition, a battery system would allow us to go completely off grid, saving the daily service fees that have increased and will probably increase more.

    • Sylvia Jones says

      Spot on Gilbert. Everything I’ve read suggests that’s THE way to go…..But of course there’s no kick-back from commercial businesses, which is why nobody recommends such options. One consideration is to eschew the suggestions of those making money from pushing various alternatives. (ie Avoid the very pricey hi-tech batteries; stick with the proven gear and methodology ~ which is always cheaper if much less grand. And ALWAYS operate on the KISS principles. As for hot water: a simple heating panel on the roof (and/or a pipe/collector of some type running through your ‘fire-place/whatever) will suffice.
      You will save a shitload of money, in both the short-term and also over time.
      Go for it!

    • Des Scahill says


      Have you looked at adding whats known as a water heater ‘Diverter’. to your system? Cost is of the order of $550 or so installed, but could be a little Can need an upgrade to your switchboard wiring in older homes, depending on how old it is

      Even with that, the cost is significantly less, and additional wiring might even be needed anyway for a solar hot water system.

      Solar hot water systems are very expensive by comparison, Depends a lot on how many kwh a day you are being charged for, the rate per unit, and your time of day hot water usage patterns.

      Anyway, suggest you look more closely at the alternatives available and their expected life before replacement. (10 years seems the norm, but some can last a lot longer) I’ve had solar hot water in the past, also tried heat pumps, etc over the years. These days I have a plain stock standard basic hot water system, which are quite cheap but very reliable, and the water is mostly heated during the day via my solar panels.

      Not perfect, but it does the job

  12. This is a repost. Ended up as an unrelated reply to someone else.
    Is the export limit imposed arbitrarily by retailers so they don’t have to pay consumers for electricity?

    Or is there limits to what the grid can cope with when the number of homes and businesses in dense areas of solar is great?

    Seems like the even distribution of solar around the country helps solve the need for a network that can carry large amounts of energy as the production of it is well distributed around the network.

    My retailer claims I pay a higher price for electricity and network fees because of the higher cost of transport of energy to the country despite the fact that I export far more than I consume to the grid. I put the argument to them that if the electricity costs more to get to my place the fact that I am providing energy for the network in a remote area should mean they pay a higher fit to me than to solar producers in the city. What do you think?

    • Ronald Brakels says

      Hi Brian

      Export limits are imposed by Distributed Network Service Providers (DNSPs) that are in charge of the local distribution of electricity to homes and businesses and operate local transmission and substations. Retailers aren’t involved in this decision making. There are limits to how much distributed solar energy the grid can accept in its current state. The problem is, with the current incentives in place it can be easier for DNSPs to simply forbid homes from exporting solar electricity than it is to change the grid. This is a massive waste given the market, health, and environmental benefits of clean solar energy.

      The question of whether or not you deserve a higher fit in a remote area is complicated by the limited capacity of rural transmission, but I will say people in remote areas should be compensated more for having appropriate battery systems as they can be of great help at the edge of the grid.

      • Then they should be installing batteries in remote areas or subsidising consumers to install them if it helps smooth out energy fluctuations. Too many short term decisions made based on profits and not enough based on long term network and electricity requirements.

        Thanks for your response.

  13. ?? If the cost justification lies in the transport, then at most it should cost the same either coming or going. the obvious response is to cut out THAT cost-factor by disconnecting.

  14. Gilbert Griffith says

    When a significant number of people disconnect, they’ll put a tax on our solar panels.

  15. Ian Thompson says

    Hi Sylvia – are you disconnected? If so, how much did it cost you in batteries, off-grid inverter, battery charger, extra panels, etc? Is it worth it? Ron’s figures suggest it might not be in general, as do my own.

    If you disconnect, I see 2 issues (as well as the one Gilbert mentions), that you perhaps need to factor in:

    1. If you don’t export, then ALL the power required for industry to displace the loss of your excess will be generated from coal or gas – I’m presuming you’d want to buy foods from the supermarkets using power for refrigeration, lights, airconditioning etc., buy manufactured equipment and devices such as beds, ovens, vacuum cleaners, etc. Plus power to make products for export to balance out imports.
    2. The capital cost of the poles, wires, and transformers doesn’t change much, nor the maintenance thereof – so if many go off-grid, those who can least afford it will have to pick up the slack by way of increased connection fees to cover these (actual) costs over a reduced customer base – seems a little selfish to me, but each to his/her own?

    • Gilbert Griffith says

      I see where you’re coming from. But industry has its own obligation to install solar (etc).
      But retailers will have to change tactics or go broke. Wholesalers will have to embrace solar and storage and bypass the retailers.

  16. Yes, I disconnected quite a while ago. And yes: It was ‘worth’ it, though much dearer than today. And no: you/Ron should not ‘presume’ things of which you have no have no knowledge and, apparently, no experience.
    The prattling about what ‘supermarkets’ might do is beyond my control, but I make the pont that if everybody disconnected the pollution would be reduced to an enormous degree. It’s not all that long ago that supermarkets didn’t exist – and neither did solar systems – but yet everybody managed well enough. Do YOU use the supermarkets, air-con and the rest of the quite unnecessary? How much power do YOU contribute? At what price?

  17. Or more likely the ”Estimated’ amount of sunlight landing on your property. (‘estimation is more ‘adjustable’).

  18. I’ve also been aero export limited, in Melbourne’s SE, what I am so confused about it the prospect of being put onto the more expensive time of use tariff as well. I don’t understand why if I can’t export why it has anything to do with the power company. I should be allowed to keep my current meter and current electricity usage rate. Installing solar in this case has NOTHING to do with the power companies.

    I would appreciate any feedback in this regard

    • Ronald Brakels says

      I’m afraid the situation is definitely not fair. Rather than letting market forces operate and let people choose what they want — which was supposed to be the benefit of electricity privatization — when it becomes inconvenient for the large players choice disappears for households.

      As mentioned in the article, if there are usually people at home during the day or electricity consumption can be shifted to the day solar can still pay with zero export limiting, but it will be necessary to decide if it is likely to be worthwhile for your situation and what size system would be best.

  19. Mark Byrne says

    Hi Richard
    While I don’t know your particular situation in detail, I think these days everyone who puts on solar or has a change of meter is also put onto a time of use tariff for their great import/consumption because they are more cost reflective than flat tariffs. This has nothing to do with being export limited, which is certainly unreasonable. I won’t try to justify the network’s policy, but there are reforms underway at the national level which should see the end of zero or low export limits in the next year. But collectively the boom in rooftop solar has a lot to do with the distribution networks and the market operator, especially because in some places they are now dealing with negative grid demand in the middle of the day, which is technically problematic.

    • Hello Mark and thanks for your reply.

      I don’t have any objection to the TOU tariff, but unfortunately it increases my kWh rate from 41c/kWh to 58c/kWh 7am-11pm, which means for about 6 hours a day I’m using electricity at a higher rate and that doesn’t seem fair.

  20. In Spain we consider “self-consumption” as the ratio between solar energy / total energy consumed

    Whereas “solar utilization” is the rate of solar energy / total energy produced by the solar system

  21. I recently accepted a quote for a second solar PV system of 5/6.6kW on my home. We already have 8.2kW with most panels west facing. I was assured that I would be allowed to export excess power but that is another story. The plan being to have some east-facing panels to offset our morning usage. Our distributor has sent a letter approving the grid connection but has enforced a zero export limit.

    I have two questions;

    Why do I need a grid connection if I am export limited?

    If I have a current export limit of 8.2kW (3 phase) is there a method of limiting the total export to 8.2kW rather than limiting one of my systems to zero?

    I am in the process of cancelling my order as the system is unviable if it is export limited to zero.

    • Mark Byrne says

      1. You need a grid connection in order to import energy when the sun isn’t shining, and to export from your existing 8.2 kW system.
      2. That would depend on the capacity of your existing inverter – suggest you get advice from installers about upgrading your current inverter
      In the short-term, probably the best thing to do if you want to install a second system but can’t export from it is to link it to a battery.

  22. Why would our energy supplier (Western Power) restrict the size of our PV system to 4kw of panels and a 3kw inverter rather than just make us export limit to 3kw with a larger system? (We would like to install 6.6kw of panels with a 5kw inverter)
    It seems dumb to me and discriminating to country consumers.

    • Ronald Brakels says

      I’m afraid export limiting of solar inverters — as far as I am aware — isn’t allowed anywhere in WA. While grid managers can be very conservative, I think they stand to gain much more than they lose by allowing it.

  23. Ronald Brakels says

    Yves Renaud, I’ve seen your comment and have sent you an email, so keep an eye out for that.

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