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Solar feed-in tariffs benefit everyone

18th Jan 2012

The benefits of solar energy have been highlighted by an Australian climate change think tank.

According to executive director of not-for-profit group Beyond Zero Emissions (BZE) Matthew Wright, electricity can be provided at a considerably cheaper price through solar rather than traditional sources.

"It may appear counter-intuitive, but getting millions of solar panels onto rooftops saves more money than it costs," Mr Wright explained in a post on the BZE website yesterday (January 17).

"Feed-in tariffs enacted by state governments have enabled ordinary Australians using their savings to build a solar power station at home benefiting the community."

Mr Wright believes that households utilising the feed-in tariff in New South Wales are given a slightly higher than average retail rate for the electricity they are generating by feeding it back on to the grid.

NSW residents utilising a 10 kilowatt system are able to avoid the fluctuating daily prices of electricity and receive a consistent rate of between 44 and 60 cents per kilowatt hour, as well as benefiting from what Mr Wright describes as the "merit order effect".

According to a recent paper by the University of Melbourne's Energy Research Institute, the real benefits of a rooftop solar panel system can be seen in the warmer months of the year, when the use of air-conditioners is at its highest.

"Eighty-five per cent of the time, during peak demand periods when the highest prices occur in the electricity market, rooftop solar is there to dampen, reduce and keep a lid on extreme prices," Mr Wright added.

The profitable news for solar households comes as the largest electricity generator in Australia has announced a new cost-cutting measure.

According to the Sydney Morning Herald, Macquarie Generation - which is owned by the NSW government - has decided to buy electricity from the wholesale market instead of producing its own.

The corporation presented its annual statement of corporate intent to NSW parliament, in which it predicts that rising coal prices - combined with the introduction of the federal government's carbon tax - will result in a significant decline in profits by 2014.

''As a result, Macquarie Generation might need to become a more active trader of the forward production ... in order to reduce the margin squeeze resulting from lower prices and restricted avenues to market,'' it claimed.

Posted by Mike Peacock - Solar correspondent

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