31/08/2020 - 15:00

Home solar change confirmed

31/08/2020 - 15:00

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A move to replace the scheme paying homeowners for rooftop solar with a new model to protect the grid from overloading has been welcomed by industry.

Home solar change confirmed
The Renewable Energy Buyback Scheme for rooftop solar will be closed to new entrants..

A move to replace the scheme paying homeowners for rooftop solar with a new model to protect the grid from overloading has been welcomed by industry.

Business News revealed last week that the 7 cent per kilowatt hour payment for rooftop solar power, known as the Renewable Energy Buyback Scheme, would be discontinued.

The state government today said the scheme would end next week.

But homeowners on the existing payment will remain, unless they wish to change or upgrade their system.

In its place will be a Distributed Energy Buyback Scheme, paying only 3c/kWh for most parts of the day.

The rate will rise to 10c/kWh between 3pm and 9pm.

Already, 29 per cent of WA homeowners have rooftop solar.

When that electricity is sent onto the grid during the day, it puts pressure on the network and transformers, with voltages rising above optimum levels.

The Australian Energy Market Operator has warned WA’s main grid will risk breaching safe operating levels as early as 2023.

The surge in rooftop power has also meant the peak in demand from generators has shifted later in the day.

Infinite Energy chief executive Aidan Jenkins said the business was broadly supportive of the new scheme.

“It largely aligns with the value of energy in the wholesale market,” Mr Jenkins said.

“We probably would’ve liked a greater price signal in the evening.

“It’s positive that the state government has kept the status quo for existing systems. 

“People who’ve made the investment… are protected.”

A bigger change would be to allow independent retailers to compete with Synergy, he said, which would spark innovation in pricing structure.

For now, only users with consumption of more than 50 megawatt hours in a year are eligible to buy power from other retailers, although this is under review, Energy Minister Bill Johnston recently confirmed to Business News.

“We think we’ll be able to bring a lot of interesting tariffs,” Mr Jenkins said.

“Not having a choice of retailer really restricts the ability to (innovate).”

Clean NRG founder Craig Donohue said the new scheme would make batteries more attractive.

Mr Donohue said some electric vehicles could also act as home batteries, which would be able to discharge into the grid in the evening.

Already, Clean NRG has sold about 100 Tesla powerwall units since they entered the market about four years ago.

He said he was not too concerned about the impact on the market for new solar installations.

“I don’t think the financial difference is going to be that much, especially if you’re smart about it,” Mr Donohue said.

“I don’t think it’s going to stop people buying solar.”

Most of the benefit for installing solar was through lowering costs of energy use, rather than exporting to the grid, he said.

“We’re looking at it in a positive vein,” Mr Donohue said.

“It's going to help the grid a bit as well.”

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