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Queensland solar feed-in tariff endangered

26th Mar 2013

The Queensland Competition Authority (QCA) - which provides independent pricing and access advice to Queensland's industries - has recommended the deregulation of solar feed-in tariffs across south-east Queensland.

The QCA has submitted these recommendations to the Queensland state government.

As the Solar Bonus Scheme currently stands in Queensland, eligible customers are paid for any surplus electricity generated from their solar panels, which is fed into the Queensland grid.

Those who were existing customers earlier in the scheme are paid 44 cents per kilowatt hour (kWh) for any surplus electricity that is distributed into the state's grid. Since July 2012, participants of the scheme have been paid 8 cents per kWh.

The March 22 report from the QCA is titled 'Estimating a fair and Reasonable Solar Feed-in Tariff for Queensland,' and its recommendations are currently being considered by the Newman state government.

QCA has suggested that those bearing the cost of the solar feed-in tariff are those who cannot afford to buy solar panels themselves. It argues that traditional electricity customers are subsidising the cost of those in the Solar Bonus Scheme.

“The QCA are recommending this [to be] de-regulated in south east Queensland where there is a competitive retail electricity market and a solar feed-in tariff of between 7.06 to 14.5 cents for the remainder of Queensland, which does not have a competitive retail market," said Queensland minister for energy and water supply, Mark McArdle in a March 22 press release.

Mr McArdle also stated that the government doesn't intend to do away with the 44 cent feed-in tariff for customers already participating in the scheme as long as they continue to meet the scheme's eligibility criteria.

Government legislation currently states that the tariff is payable until 2028.

A number of organisations and individuals have criticised the QCA report. Policy director of the Clean Energy Council (CEC) Russell Marsh labels the report anything but fair or reasonable to households and businesses.

"What the Queensland Competition Authority has proposed is the equivalent of telling people they can’t just use the lemons growing on the lemon tree in their backyard – they have to sell the produce to a wholesaler for next to nothing, and then buy the lemons back at a premium from the supermarket," said Mr Marsh.

"Installing rooftop solar panels is one of the best ways households can save money on their electricity bills because it can significantly reduce the amount of electricity they need to buy from the grid."

He also stated that along with being unfair, any changes to the feed-in tariff would discourage people from doing the right thing in being more energy efficient.

Posted by Mike Peacock

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