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'Stop punishing households' for solar PV

9th Jul 2013

A campaign group has slammed utility companies and generators for attempting to protect their assets and halt the expansion of solar power.

In a recent report, 100% Renewable Energy said households "should not be penalised" for taking back control of their energy bills through solar power systems.

Some of the dirty tactics used by incumbent utilities include refusing connections, switching tariffs, charging extortionate connection fees and labelling it too expensive or difficult to absorb, the group said.

"If more households produce their own energy, that means less need for retailers, generators and network operators," the organisation explained.

"If Australian consumers, businesses and manufacturers are to realise the benefits of cheaper prices, they must have the 'right to connect' to solar and should not be hit by high connection fees."

A look at the figures only supports this view, with solar costs plummeting in recent years, while retail electricity prices continue to rise.

As such, there comes a point when producing energy through solar power systems becomes equal to or cheaper than buying it from the grid.

This is called socket parity (or grid parity) and is already the case with solar rooftop PV.

The case for big solar

Despite solar rooftop PV reaching socket parity - and its obvious popularity with the general public - commercial solar in Australia has lagged behind other nations.

Big solar is soon expected to be cheaper than fossil fuel alternatives, and with Australia's abundance in natural resources, many experts have expressed surprise that the country has failed to take advantage of the market.

"To get there, and to manage spiralling energy costs into the future, solar plants need to be built," 100% Renewable Energy argued.

"Low costs are not just the product of cheap modules. They come from low cost financing, construction, maintenance and other know-how gained through developing projects."

According to the group, this means retaining important environmental policies such as the Renewable Energy Target and the carbon price.

This forces utilities to approach the issue much like a consumer installing sustainable technology; the upfront capital may be higher, but the money is recouped over time.

Important institutions such as the Clean Energy Finance Corporation and the Australian Renewable Energy Agency ensure big solar projects can receive funding.

Allowing these organisations to continue functioning is vital, 100% Renewable stated, as once the first commercial solar plants are built, private financiers will follow.

Posted by Mike Peacock

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