Do You Get Paid For The Energy You Generate?

You save money with your solar energy in one of 2 ways, and usually at 2 very different prices.

How much you save with your solar power depends on how your energy is consumed, at any moment in time.

Your solar energy can either be:

a) used in your home to power your appliances


b) exported to the grid

To get an idea of how much electricity is exported in an Aussie home with 6 kW of solar panels, have a look at this graph. This graph is from my home during an Adelaide autumn.

solar electricity export graph

The spiky purple shape shows the total electricity use over 24 hours for my home on that day.

The yellow shape is the output from my north-facing 6 kW solar power system. A typical installation today is a 6.6kW solar system.

By looking at where the 2 shapes overlap we can see the 2 modes of electricity generation quite nicely:

1) Using the solar electricity in your home (aka “offsetting”)

When the purple consumption overlaps the yellow solar energy production, it shows that at least some of the solar energy is being consumed by my home’s appliances. At these times of the day my home will use any solar electricity that is coming out of my panels before it draws any electricity from the grid. At these times through the day I save money by using less grid electricity.

The financial value (or kWh) per unit of electricity powered by my solar panels is simply what I pay per kWh for grid electricity. 

But what about the solar electricity that I don’t use in the home?

2) Exporting your electricity into the grid, building a credit.

The yellow area in the graph above is the solar power that is exported out to the grid.

At these times of the day my solar panels produce more electricity than my household is using. That energy flows backwards through my electricity meter and into the mains grid.

My meter is configured to export energy (which it should be on all solar homes!), and my bill is credited. By how much? Well that depends on your particular state and when your system was installed, the rules change in most states, and really old systems can be locked in to particularly generous state government mandated feed-in-tariffs.

If you are getting a pittance for your electricity, then you want to try and export as little as possible – or find a better retailer. Unfortunately if you live in regional Queensland or WA or NT you can’t find a better retailer – because you have a monopoly retailer. Sorry! For the rest of you – comparing retailers is an essential part of maximising your savings.

So it’s really important to compare electricity plans for solar owners that offer feed in tariffs, which may vary from utility to utility. Bear in mind the highest feed-in tariff won’t necessarily be the best overall plan, so check the fine print.

It’s also vital to get a written quote from your installer on how much energy they expect you will offset and export, at what rates, compared to what you consume.

Check here to see the latest state by state solar feed in tariff information.

If you want to see how the feed in tariff in your state will affect the payback of a quoted solar system, have a play with our Solar Payback Calculator

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