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Solar could help households as electricity prices continue to rise

23rd Jan 2012

Increasing electricity bills in summer may encourage Australian households to make the switch to solar power, according to a leading energy group.

Speaking to News Limited yesterday (January 22), Australian Solar Energy Society chief executive John Grimes explained that there has "never been a better time to buy" solar panels, thanks to falling solar panel prices.

"In the past 18 months prices have dropped by about 80 per cent," Mr Grimes said.

"There has been a winding back of government support but, even taking that into account, if you were to put in a metered system today it would be cheaper than it was, even with the higher level of government support in the past."

According to Mr Grimes, electricity prices are expected to rise over the next ten years as the government addresses ageing electricity infrastructure - which he predicts will require an investment of up to $140 billion.

While the average rooftop solar panel system currently being installed has a capacity of 2 kilowatts, Mr Grimes suggests the average family would require a system of between 3.5 and 4 kilowatts.

"If people have the funds and want to make a longer-term investment it's a pretty smart thing to do," he says.

The suggestion from Mr Grimes comes as Victorian households brace themselves to pay more for electricity.

A ruling by the Australian Competition Tribunal could see electricity prices rise by an average of $14 per year between 2013 and 2015.

State energy minister Michael O'Brien believes the ruling indicates that electricity companies are taking precedence over consumers.

"At the moment, the power companies can take the decision from the regulator and they can cherry pick and decide which bits of it they want to appeal," he said (January 20).

"If the power companies want to challenge the regulator's initial pricing decisions, then everything should be on the table and the power companies should be at risk of losing some of their gains, not just challenging their losses."

According to Mr O'Brien, while new appeal rules would come into effect before Victoria's next pricing determination in four years' time, the state government is doing all it can to deliver on its promise to cut the cost of living.

"As a state government we don't control all things — we don't control the power companies, we don't control the federal rules or the federal tribunals that set the prices for power companies," he added.

Posted by Mike Peacock - Solar correspondent

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