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Solar panel rush in Queensland 'exceeds expectations'

31st Aug 2012

Queensland homeowners seem to be a savvy bunch, new figures have suggested, with many flocking to take advantage of a generous feed-in-tariff (FIT) scheme to subsidise solar panel installations.

In fact, the initiative has been so popular that it's bumping up electricity prices across the state, with distributors desperate to pass on to consumers as much of the $25.9 million in FIT payments as they can.

The Queensland Competition Authority (QCA) has been drafted in to brainstorm a way of making sure that power costs remain stable, but won't bump up the government's contributions from its own coffers.

Queensland's FIT scheme offered 44 cents per kilowatt hour, with participants who are now signed up benefiting from this rate until 2018.

However, all good things must come to an end and the government revealed it would be lowering this to just eight cents.

Unsurprisingly, residents were keen to take advantage of the lucrative 44 cents deal before it ran out, leading to 63,000 or so applicants looking to sign up in the dying days of the scheme.

Ergon Energy saw 32,788 applications in the last two weeks, while Energex got 76,000 over a similar period of time.

To put it in perspective, Ergon had only received 51,000 applications in the entire year up to that point.

"At the end of June 2012, approximately 504 MW of solar photovoltaic capacity had been connected to Queensland networks and around 190,000 small electricity customers are participating in the scheme," the QCA added.

It noted that this "significantly exceeded initial expectations", with the $25.9 million being triple the original prediction of $7.3 million forecasted for 2011-12.

Giles Parkinson, editor of sustainable news provider REneweconomy, recently claimed that solar PV is the "only real option" for consumers hoping to reduce their bills - and with distributors hiking prices to compensate for the solar boom, it's may be hard to argue.

Posted by Mike Peacock

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