Australia Could Do Better - Solar Citizens

What's in the way of a sun-powered future?

Australia is in the midst of a rooftop revolution, with more than 1.7 million homes all around the country sporting rooftop PV systems. Our nation has the opportunity to reap all the benefits that come with this monumental shift, including more jobs, more investment and more control for people over their power bills.

There’s no doubt this revolution challenges traditional business models and has prompted a significant backlash from some of Australia’s biggest power companies. This should come as no surprise as their profits depend on renewable energy being stuck in a niche part of our energy sector. Along with several years of federal policy failure on renewable energy, it’s safe to say solar and renewable energy has been held back and that too many roadblocks remain.

Solar at Risk

Federal policies and initiatives have been key in supporting and growing solar and renewable energy in Australia. The three most important are the Renewable Energy Target (RET), The Clean Energy Finance Corporation (CEFC) which is Australia’s green bank and the Australian Renewable Energy Agency (ARENA) which funds research and development for new technologies.

So far, the Federal Government has attacked all three of the policies. The Abbott Government slashed the large-scale component of the RET in 2015 and issued a new directive to stop the CEFC investing in household rooftop solar projects. These attacks and resulting uncertainty in the Australian renewables sector saw renewable investment plummet to almost zero. Not to be outdone, the Turnbull Government tried to strip $1 billion of funding from ARENA and now it wants to change the rules of the CEFC so it can invest in so-called "clean coal".

However, it’s not all doom and gloom. Together Solar Citizens helped save the Renewable Energy Target, the Small-Scale Renewable Energy Scheme that helps people with the upfront cost of going solar, and we clawed back $800 million of ARENA’s funding.

Australians overwhelmingly want a future powered by renewable energy but the Federal Government currently has no plan for renewables past 2020. If we don’t act soon, Australia could miss out on its slice of the global renewables investment boom and be left in the dust.

Unfair and Discriminatory Practices by Power Companies

Energy demand is declining more quickly than anticipated due to increased energy efficiency, in part driven by soaring electricity prices and the contraction in our domestic manufacturing industry. The fundamental shift to solar and renewable technologies is pushing coal and gas out of the market and threatening traditional power companies’ business models. Think about what the internet did to the media and music businesses - we’re talking a monumental disruption to the way our electricity is produced and consumed. Now, as home battery storage becomes more and more accessible, we’re looking at another energy revolution.  

Families are feeling the pressure from skyrocketing power bills and are responding by using less energy and, in many cases, choosing to go solar. Instead of embracing this new approach to energy and getting on board with technology designed to accommodate growing solar and renewable energy production, power companies penalise and discriminate against solar owners through unfair charges and often make it harder for others to go solar.

Solar owners across the country get in touch with us to let us know when they’re being discriminated against or facing an unfair charge. Some recent examples include when the Queensland Competition Authority tried to move solar power owners to a different electricity charging system, costing them $200 more each year than other electricity users. Or in South Australia, when SA Power Networks tried to introduce a penalty that would see solar households pay close to $100 more in supply charges than other residential households who consume the same amount of electricity. These aren’t isolated cases, there are many and varied examples of big electricity companies across Australia discriminating against households with rooftop solar.

Plus, solar owners are currently getting ripped off on the electricity their feedback to the grid with big retailers only paying them a fraction of the price they deserve for their solar before on-selling it for a massive profit. It’s more price gauging by the big power companies, pure and simple. Solar owners deserve a fair price for the energy they generate and feed back into the grid, that’s why Solar Citizens is calling for national, minimum fair price for solar.

We are at a tipping point that will determine how our energy systems are structured - it’s exciting and Australians everywhere want to be part of it. The voices of solar owners and solar supporters -- that’s you -- will be critical to setting policies that will shape our energy system and create a clean, sunny future.

With a government whose track on renewables is far from stellar,  we need to harness our people power to lock in the solar-powered future Australians want to see. We’ve done it before and we can do it again. Click here to check out our current campaigns.