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Solar feed-in tariffs: Who's getting screwed?

2nd Sep 2013

Solar feed-in tariffs sound like the stuff of dreams.

"Wait a minute, you'll pay me for excess solar power if I enroll before this date? Sign me up."

Such has been the case in states around Australia for years.

Sure, they've expanded solar adoption rates to a staggering degree. But as the programs have drawn on, it's become clear that the government is not focussed on the best interests of the public, or really anyone committed to a green future for that matter.

So instead of listing the best states for solar feed-in tariffs (as many renewable energy sites seem inclined to do), it's much more appropriate to take a different tact and look at what others are afraid to talk about: Where are people getting screwed the most?

The best snapshot of how poorly state governments are handling their solar rebate programs comes from the recently released Retail Offers and Market Transparency for Solar Customers report, put together by the Alternative Technology Association.

In a nutshell, the report confirmed that people around the country are paying vastly different amounts for "better" or "worse" solar retail offers, but when it comes down to it, annual bills are virtually the same.

A stacked deck

Take Victoria, for example. This deregulated haven offers a generous "pay-on-time" discount that is a great way for responsible customers to keep their bills down.

As long as said responsible customer doesn't own a solar power system, that is.

Solar panel owners in Victoria have been virtually stripped of any such perks. Moreover, some residents who installed solar have also seen fixed supply charges rise as high as 40 cents more every day once the system is operational.

Damien Moyse, the Alternative Technology Association's energy projects and policy managers, broke it down like this in a recent Business Spectator article.

An extra 40 cents per day is roughly the same as a three-kilowatt solar installation in Melbourne. If this system gives back about 50 per cent of the solar power it generates, that equates to a solar feed-in tariff of a whopping eight cents.

Is there something wrong with this picture?

Mr Moyse concluded that as deregulation spreads throughout Australia, the "appropriate levels of transparency and information" have not grown with it.

This, he asserts, could quickly create an uncompetitive market that would soon lead to a dire situation for solar customers.

Posted by Bob Dawson

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