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Solar scheme changes will reduce bills, minister claims

26th Nov 2012

Changes to Queensland's Solar Bonus Scheme will result in electricity bill reductions.

Or so says the state's energy minister Mark McArdle, who claimed recent amendments to the Electricity Act 1994 and Electricity Regulation 2006 will save more than $300 million.

The changes came into force on Friday (November 23) and McArdle said they will clarify for homeowners and businesses whether they are eligible for feed-in tariff levels.

He said: "The Newman government announced these changes in June when we reduced the solar feed-in tariff from 44 cents to eight cents per kilowatt hour to limit future costs."

Under the clarified rules, people who are already signed up for the 44 cents scheme will continue to receive solar rebates at this rate - provided they continue to be eligible.

So what affects their eligibility? Moving house for one. Or renting out a house to tenants.

Essentially, anything that involves changing the name on an electricity account to someone else's (although people who get married are protected).

McArdle also pointed out that those interested in the 44 cents scheme must have their solar power system connected or on the verge of connection by June 30 2013.

And for those who were too late for the previous rate, but want to buy in at eight cents per kilowatt hour - they have until June 30 2014 to have their systems up and running.

When the scheme was reduced from 44 cents to eight cents there was a rush for solar panels, with a number of people keen to ensure systems were installed before the switch.

Ergon Energy said it received 32,788 applications in the last two weeks at the previous rate, while Energex received 76,000 over a similar period.

The energy minister said the amendments were made after the Queensland Competition Authority (QCA) examined feed-in tariffs in an effort to find a "fair and reasonable" price for small-scale solar PV schemes.

"There are more than 240,000 participants in the scheme and QCA modelling projects it will add more than $90 per year to average power bills in 2013-2014 and $240 in 2015-16," he argued.

The QCA previously admitted that the number of people signing up for solar power had "significantly exceeded initial expectations" with 504 MW of capacity added to Queensland's networks by the end of June.

A further review of the Solar Bonus Scheme will occur after the QCA releases a final report on June 30 next year. 

Posted by Mike Peacock

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