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Race for a Renewable Energy Future

Written by Hyacinthe Uwizera, Solar Citizens intern.

I find it disappointing that the Federal Government is dragging its feet when it comes to repowering Australia with clean, cheap renewable power, especially considering recent survey results that show that 84% of people back renewables over coal-fired power generation.

My name is Hyacinthe Uwizera and I’m an intern at Solar Citizens. I am here through a program from my school, the University of Pennsylvania, and I am Rwandan. I care about the decisions that are made here in Australia because, with so much sun and wind potential, Australia could show the world how it’s possible to transition to clean power.

The Federal Government’s energy policy, the National Energy Guarantee (NEG), is an anti-renewable plan that will be negotiated at the next COAG Energy Council meeting on August 9-10 in Sydney. The policy will directly affect the future of renewables across the country, which is why a range of groups in the Repower collaboration held an action outside of Parliament House in Canberra called the Race for a Renewable Energy Future.

To support renewables and a brighter future, I got up at 4am on a cold winter morning to set off from Sydney to make it to the action. At 8:30am, as the action was about to begin, there were people who dressed up as Malcolm Turnbull and Tony Abbott, coal to represent fossil fuels, and solar to represent renewable energy.

In the stunt, solar and coal were racing. In the beginning of the race solar was ahead, but after some time, solar got trapped in Malcolm Turnbull’s red-tape net. Coal continued but fell down after some seconds. Tony Abbott then injected a $16 billion adrenaline injection into coal. Coal then limped towards the finish line and won the race. The scene was surrounded by a crowd of renewable supporters, like me, and was watched by some politicians too.

The action was highlighting that renewables with storage are the cheaper and better option for Australia, but under the NEG they will be held back with a very low national renewable target. We were there to get our voice heard, and speak for other Australians, asking for a safe environment for the future generations.

As a young person, I care about the environment and my future. We should all care about our environment. We either choose a clean, efficient and cheaper source of energy or the opposite. We should care about our health and the health of the generations to come.

Solar just makes sense. We could power the entire world by harnessing just 1% of the solar energy we get from the Sahara desert. A national plan that holds renewables back is bad for power bills and the planet.

 

Time-of-use Electricity Rates More Attractive with Ausgrid Change

Written by Solar Citizens volunteer Peter Youll.

If you have a smart meter in NSW and are on a standard, flat electricity rate, it might be time to look at changing to time-of-use rates.

Time-of-use rates mean you pay less for the electricity you use during off-peak and shoulder times and more for it during the peak periods.  

From the 1 July 2018 Ausgrid, the distributor serving metropolitan Sydney and the Hunter Valley, has changed the hours that peak, shoulder and off-peak charges apply for electricity use. The biggest change is that the hours actually reflect when peak consumption hours occur—amazing— and will vary with the seasons.

For households on the Ausgrid network, there will be no peak hours during autumn (April and May) and spring (September and October), and the winter peak hour will be shorter and apply later than before.

With Ausgrid’s change, it means the higher peak rates won’t be charged by retailers at all for a third of the year.

Is this for you? First up you need to have a smart meter. Secondly, you need to be able to adjust your electricity consumption habits to avoid using lots of power during the peak periods. If you’re home during the day or able to run your appliances on the weekend, it will be easier for you to do things like putting on the dishwasher or washing machine in the middle of the day when you know your solar panels are producing power and not in the evening.

Have a look at the Ausgrid explanation, take a look at when and how much power you use to work out the changes you should make. Some retailers (Powership, Origin and AGL) make this easy by providing detailed consumption numbers from your smart meter on demand via their website.

For a detailed explanation about smart meters, have a look at this article from Choice. 

Not in Sydney? While Ausgrid are the only distributor who have introduced different peak times for each season, going on to time-of-use rates might still be worth it for your house, have a look at the rates and distribution times.

10 Things To Know About Batteries

The storage revolution is here!

And it’s coming to homes across Australia. Home battery storage is looking better than ever - in fact, nearly 21,000 Australian households installed a solar battery in 2017. Both the cost and size of batteries are shrinking, and the variety of makes and models is increasing. It is predicted that Australian households will install 1 million batteries by 2020.

So whether you’re considering installing home battery storage, already have it or you’re wondering what all the fuss is about, here are 10 things you should know about batteries and the storage revolution:

1. Home batteries allow solar owners to store energy generated by their solar PV system during the day

The big appeal of home battery storage is that it makes solar energy available when the sun isn’t shining. Batteries store excess energy produced by a solar PV system during the day, which can then be used at night or at peak times when buying electricity from the grid is more expensive.

This flexibility means battery owners can save money on their energy bills, maintain some independence from the grid and increase their energy efficiency. Plus, with a few add-ons, a battery may also offer protection against blackouts and power outages. Remember, for a solar and storage system to work during blackouts, you need a hybrid system that isolates the installation from the main grid.

2. Home battery prices are dropping

In 2018, the average cost of home battery storage in Australia was around $650 to $2400 per kWh capacity, plus installation. For context, residential batteries usually have a capacity of 3-12kWh, though smaller units are becoming more popular.

Prices are falling, and they're falling quickly. Consumers are already seeing the benefits of these plummeting prices; battery enthusiasts were thrilled when Tesla’s Powerwall 2 stayed the same price as its predecessor while doubling in capacity

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What prices are out there? This table gives 2017 prices for a some popular battery products in a variety of sizes.  

 

3. It’s all about the payback period

With prices dropping, batteries are on the cusp of becoming cost-effective for more and more Australians. In fact, the Alternative Technology Association (ATA) predicted that they would be economically attractive by 2020. 

You can determine whether or not installing a home battery makes economic sense for you by looking at its payback period – the amount of time it takes for the savings created by battery storage to equal or exceed the installation cost of the system. Generally speaking, a battery will save you money if its payback period is shorter than its warranty.

Battery warranties are a bit tricky to compare because they’re not standardised yet. While there are a few resources that help you compare warranties in detail, a rough baseline for home battery warranties is three to 10 years. The most common type of new batteries, lithium ion batteries, last about 10 years on average.

Under the right circumstances, payback periods will be shorter than the 10 year average warranty. A variety of factors influence the length of a payback period, including the location of the battery owner, the amount of energy you’re using and when you plan to use it. It’s a good idea to have a think about all of these before you decide on your storage system.

Of course, payback periods aren’t everyone’s top priority. If you’re less worried about the savings and more focused on the other advantages of battery storage, you might want to consider the battery technology that best suits your needs, whether your battery can be wall mounted and how much independence you’d like from the grid.

4. Some cities are more battery friendly than others

Location, location, location! Due to differences in feed-in tariffs, weather and solar PV prices, certain cities are currently more economically favourable for battery storage than others. Australia’s best city for battery storage at the moment is Perth, followed by Brisbane, Adelaide and Sydney. It’s worth doing some research on your town before deciding if battery storage is right for you.

5. Knowing how much energy you use and when you use it will help you get the most out of a battery storage system

In general, batteries make the most economic sense for homes that consume a large amount of electricity. Using Sunwiz’s PVSell software, Solar Choice calculated that households that consume 30kWh of energy per day consistently see better returns and shorter payback periods for batteries than those that consume 20kWh daily. The average Australian household uses about 18kWh per day. You can install a device to monitor how much energy you're using and when, so you can make an informed choice about what battery system is right for you.  

It also matters when you use the most energy. Solar Choice also found that consumers who use energy late in the day with an evening peak - likely households with a home office - are the best candidates for batteries.

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Source: Solar Choice, March 16, 2017

6. Battery technology isn’t one size fits all

Batteries store electrical energy and then release it through a chemical process, but not all batteries do this in the same way. There are a few different types of batteries on the market. The most common are lead acid and lithium ion (Li-on). A few less commonly used technologies are nickel-based, flow and sodium ion. 

In the past, lead acid batteries were the standard for home storage systems and electric vehicles, but they’re being surpassed in popularity by lithium ion batteries.

Lithium ion batteries are made of lithium and a mix of other chemicals that usually includes aluminum, cobalt, nickel or phosphate. They have a high energy density, so they are smaller and lighter than their lead acid counterparts. They are expected to dominate the storage market in coming years due to their versatility, potential for recycling and a projected drop in production costs.

Other technologies are rare in Australia right now, but they’re worth keeping an eye on since battery storage is evolving so quickly.

7. Battery inverters differ from traditional solar inverters

Solar systems change the direct current (DC) power generated by a solar panels into alternating current (AC) power for household use using an inverter.

When you add a battery into the mix, you have to add a battery inverter or upgrade to a solar and battery hybrid inverter. Unlike traditional solar inverters, battery inverters can convert DC power into AC and visa versa, which allows the battery to be charged from the solar sytem and discharged to power the load in your home.

It’s easy to add a battery inverter to many existing PV systems - so you might already be battery ready. If you’re adding a new system entirely, you might consider getting a hybrid inverter that can manage both.

8. A variety of battery brands and products are available in Australia

If you’re in the market for a home battery system, you’re spoilt for choice! More than 150 different products are offered in Australia and there are some great online tools to help you make sense of them all.

There are plenty of professionals who can help you out, too. The Clean Energy Council has a list of accredited installers who can answer your storage questions.

9. Regulations on batteries are being developed right now

Home storage batteries are widely considered to be safe - no riskier than keeping a car with a tank full of petrol in your garage. Batteries do, however, pose the same risks as any other electrical system. You can avoid risks of fire or leakage with regular maintenance and by keeping batteries in well-ventilated areas that are separate from living spaces in a household.

10. The benefits of batteries are still secondary to the benefits of solar itself

Batteries offer a great deal of potential, but they still act as an add-on to PV systems. If you’re not producing any solar power, it doesn’t matter how much storage you have! Batteries don’t generate power on their own, and studies show that batteries are most beneficial for those who are already using their solar systems effectively. 

Solar power is already an economic no-brainer in Australia. The standard warranty on a rooftop PV system is 25 years and most solar owners see a payback period of about three years. So if you want to get solar with batteries, you might as well get the panels now and install your storage later, when it makes economic sense for you. Find more info about going solar here and a free tool which estimates the economic feasibility of a solar-battery system here.

So, where does that leave you?

So if you’re already a part of the rooftop revolution, joining the storage revolution might be your next move. For those who aren’t yet ready to become early adopters of home storage, know your battery basics. And keep an eye out, because battery technology is charging ahead!    

Resources

Alternative Technology Association
Australian Battery Recycling Initiative
Australian Energy Market Operator
Australian Solar Council
Clean Energy Council
Solar Choice
Solar Quotes
Standards Australia
Australian Solar Quotes
One Step Off the Grid
Choice
Renew Economy
Gizmodo Australia Battery Guide
Solar Quotes 

 

Keeping Solar FiT

I’m Pauline and I volunteer for Solar Citizens. After the Independent Pricing and Regulatory Tribunal (IPART) proposed to cut the benchmark solar feed-in tariff (FiT) in NSW from 11.9-15c/kWh to 7.5c/kWh, the Sydney Solar Citizens group sprung into action to get solar owners a fair go.

With IPART considering slashing the solar feed-in tariff, it’s clear that solar owners and supporters aren’t being listened to. Solar owners are tired of doing the legwork and not seeing any gains. Why should solar households be punished for lowering wholesale power prices and reducing peak demand with their clean power? To make sure that our message was cutting across, we decided to make some noise outside of the NSW Parliament House.

Solar citizens turned out in front of Parliament House bright and early on Tuesday morning to say enough is enough: it’s time to lift the feed-in tariff, not reduce it! The Keep Solar FiT stunt involved performing an aerobics routine in bright, yellow sweatbands and tracksuits to the motivational beat ‘Walking on Sunshine’.

Choreographed by Kristy, the NSW Community Organiser, the dance movements and gym attire were definitely eye-catching. Pumping dumbbells and barbells emphasised how solar owners and supporters are doing the heavy lifting and reducing the cost of electricity for everyone.

To see everyone get involved in the theme of the stunt made getting up early in the cold morning totally worth it. The energy generated from all the volunteers was infectious and actually made you want to do a couple lunges and bicep curls. With all the flexing and ‘blue steel’ looks, solar power has never looked better.

Tamara Smith, the Greens Member for Ballina, and Adam Searle, the NSW Shadow Energy Minister, also came along. Even though they themselves didn’t wear tracksuits, they both demonstrated their support for a fair feed-in tariff. The Greens also took the opportunity to announce their intention to introduce a Private Member’s Bill to mandate a minimum fair price for solar.

With 12,107 signatures on our Fair Price for Solar petition, and the overwhelming benefits of solar power for energy savings, health and the environment, it’s time for the NSW Government to recognise solar owners for their heavy lifting and mandate a minimum fair price for power exported to the grid.

Want to know more about the action? Watch our video here.

Click here to watch the Keeping Solar FiT video

 

Solar Citizens welcomes new National Director

We’re excited to report that Solar Citizens has a new National Director!

Joseph Scales has been appointed by the Solar Citizens board as our new National Director and will be starting with us at the end of April.

Joseph has been a champion in the union movement for a just transition for coal communities. He was most recently the Secretary of the South Australia and Northern Territory branch of the Australian Services Union (ASU) since 2013, where he led the ASU work on the Repower Port Augusta campaign. ASU members were directly affected by the crisis of a lack of transition strategy in Port Augusta with the sudden closure of the town's coal-fired power station, and so the campaign pushed to have one of the world’s biggest solar thermal plants with storage built there.

Joseph has also been a long time campaigner for LGBTIQ rights, including for the reform of parenting rights in South Australia, through to marriage equality, including being a YES Equality Campaign senior staffer in the successful 2017 postal survey and legislative reform.

Joseph has many other strings to his bow, and will add enormous value to our small but mighty organisation. He's passionate about solar and renewable energy, and is looking forward to joining all of us from Monday 30th April campaigning for a sun-powered future for Australia.

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South Australian Renewable Energy Election Guide

On March 17, South Australians will go to the polls.

South Australia leads the world in renewable energy, but South Australians are still being ripped off by big power companies. That’s why the next state government can’t afford to rest on South Australia’s renewable energy laurels and must double down on investing in new renewable energy with storage.

Solar Citizens has surveyed and spoken to a range of parties and their leaders contesting the state election about their policies. Below we outline where the parties stand, in no particular order, on a range of key renewable energy issues.

Increasing South Australia’s Renewable Energy Target

South Australia’s Renewable Energy Target sends an important message to the community and to industry that South Australia embraces a renewable future. It’s also important that the target is backed up by targeted funding and support for key renewable and storage projects to manage the transition. The Federal Government and big power companies have constantly attacked South Australia’s existing 50% renewable target because they are worried South Australia will show the rest of the country what is possible.

Both the Greens and Labor have committed to increasing South Australia’s Renewable Energy Target.

The Greens have a 100% renewable energy target by 2025.

Labor have announced a 75% renewable energy target by 2025. Labor also announced Australia’s first storage target of 25% of South Australia’s peak demand (750MW).

SA-BEST have committed to maintaining South Australia’s existing renewable target of 50% by 2025 and are open to supporting an increased target.

The Liberals have pledged that they will scrap South Australia’s target in favour of a national target.

Invest in Renewable Energy and Storage

Backing up renewable energy targets with targeted funds to support building the right combination of renewable energy and storage is a key recommendation of Solar Citizens’ Repowering South Australia report. Making these investments brings online new technologies that will help lower costs and make South Australia less reliant on our expensive gas power stations.

Here’s what the parties have committed to:

Labor established while in government a $150 million renewable technology fund which has funded multiple projects: including, the world’s biggest virtual power plant using 50,000 household solar and battery systems, 25,000 of which are housing trust homes; grid scale battery storage; pumped hydro and renewable hydrogen. On top of the existing Renewable Technology Fund, Labor have committed to:

  • A $100 million no interest loan scheme for household solar and batteries.
  • Providing an extra $20 million to the Renewable Technology Fund to support reaching Labor’s renewable storage target.

The Greens have supported redirecting funds currently used for gas exploration into renewable energy.

The Liberals have committed to supporting existing solar households to install battery storage with a $100 million battery storage fund. A further $50 million has been pledged to support grid scale storage.

SA-Best have not made any announcement regarding the investment of government money into renewable energy and storage, but have pledged to use the establishment of a government backed non-profit retailer to underwrite a new dispatchable 150MW renewable power station with storage.

Make Sure All South Australians Can Access The Benefits of Affordable, Renewable Energy

Ensuring all South Australians benefit from the transition to renewable energy is a key issue for Solar Citizens. In our Repowering South Australia report, we outlined priority policies including:

  • A government owned, non-profit retailer for South Australians on low-incomes.
  • Working with Indigenous communities to fund and collaboratively design an Aboriginal Communities Clean Power Program
  • Growing a vibrant community energy sector through a Smart Energy Communities program.

Other important areas include targeted programs to support people who are renting access the benefits of solar.

Here’s what the parties have committed to:

The Liberals have committed to:

  • Considering proposals for community owned energy projects and exploring the viability of co-designing and funding an Aboriginal Renewables Program.

SA-Best have committed to:

  • Establish a government backed, community owned non-profit retailer for South Australians on low-incomes and small business.
  • Fund the development of community owned and led energy projects.
  • Work with Aboriginal communities to fund and collaboratively design an Aboriginal Renewables Program.
  • Provide incentives to landlords and renters to install solar pv and/or batteries, “looking at what makes most sense considering a combination of PV, energy management, energy efficiency, batteries and maybe subject to means testing”.

The Greens have committed to:

  • Establishing a publicly-owned, non-profit energy retailer which guarantees the lowest prices for low-income households.
  • Expanding the scope and amount of energy concessions to low-income households.
  • Installing solar panels and solar hot water on all suitable government buildings and tenanted public housing properties.
  • Establishing an Indigenous Communities Clean Power Program to ensure that all Aboriginal communities in South Australia have access to clean, affordable, local renewable electricity.

Labor have:

  • Funded the world’s largest virtual power plant, beginning with a roll out of solar panels and batteries to 25,000 public homes and expanding to a further 25,000 homes. Labor has committed to using the trial phase of the virtual power plant rollout to look at ways to strongly encourage uptake in the private rental market.
  • Strongly supported non-government groups participating in the virtual power plant retail tender to establish a ‘community retailer’ and have held significant meetings.
  • Established the ‘Fund My Neighbourhood’ program and strongly encourage community energy groups to apply for funding through the $20 million program’s second round of funding.

Make South Australia a Renewable Powerhouse for Australia and the World

South Australia has a major opportunity to be a renewable energy powerhouse for Australia and the world by using new technologies to export our solar and wind interstate and overseas.

Here’s what the parties have committed to:

Labor has:

  • Developed a renewable hydrogen export roadmap, including export targets
  • Funded a range of renewable hydrogen projects, including the recently announced world’s biggest hydrogen electrolyser co-located with a large wind and solar project proposed for Crystal Brook.
  • Attracted Sonnen to manufacture batteries in South Australia, who plan to export these batteries interstate and to the South-East Asia Pacific region from Adelaide.

The Liberals have committed to:

  • $200 million to build an interconnector to NSW, enabling more of South Australia’s renewable energy to be exported interstate.
  • They are also open to considering proposals for renewable hydrogen.

The Greens have committed to:

  • Setting a renewable export target of a further 50% of our electricity needs by 2030.
  • Establishing a renewable hydrogen export industry.
  • Building a state owned interconnector to NSW to enable more of South Australia’s renewable energy to be exported interstate.

SA-Best has:

  • Supporting research and development into renewable hydrogen.

You can read the full responses of Labor, Liberal, the Greens and SA-Best to Solar Citizens and other NGOs on energy and a range of other issues, here.

History and State of Solar Shingles

Written by Solar Citizens supporter Kyle Pennell. 

Back in 2016, Tesla acquired solar panel installer and manufacturer SolarCity to help it produce a new product, the solar roof. Tesla’s solar roof is made of a series of roofing tiles, some of which have solar cells inside. To all outward appearances, the tiles are identical, and each produces only a small amount of energy on its own. But when joined together, the tiles generate energy at a level that rivals standard solar panels.

When it was announced, the solar roof seemed like a revolutionary idea: a product that offered all the benefits of clean solar energy without the need for big, bulky solar panels. But what few people realized was that Tesla’s solar roof was actually a variation on the solar shingle (sometimes called a solar tile), a technology that has has been available commercially since 2005 and was patented in the 1970s.

Solar shingles consist of three three main layers. Like regular solar panels, each shingle absorbs and transmits the sun’s energy using a solar cell. A thin film known as a louver is placed over the cell. The louver allows light to pass through and makes the solar cell and other components within the shingle invisible from the street level. Finally, the louver and the cell are sandwiched between two pieces of tempered glass.

Compared to regular rack-mounted solar systems, solar shingles offer a number of advantages. Small and lightweight, the shingles are much easier to install than regular solar panels. And since they don’t require a roofing evaluation, the whole installation process proceeds much easier.

Some solar shingles are bundled with longer-than-average warranties. Tesla’s solar roof, for instance, is guaranteed to produce power for 30 years; the standard solar panel warranty is just 25 years. On top of that, the tiles themselves are warrantied for the entire lifetime of the house.

Manufacturers also celebrate solar shingles’ aesthetic value. Standard solar panels are highly visible and jut out visibly from the roof. Solar shingles, on the other hand, are often (though not always) indistinguishable from standard tiles on any other roof.

Tesla isn’t the only company that produces solar shingles. Solarmass, for instance, offers a tile that the company claims has a carbon footprint 136 times lower than that of standard solar panels. Aesthetic Green Power, headquartered in Minnesota, offers two solar tile products and recently partnered with Columbia University and Virginia Tech to improve its production processes. And Redwood Renewables currently manufactures a solar tile that, the company claims, has an energy efficiency rate that exceeds that of standard solar panels by nearly 20 percent.

But before Tesla, Dow was the biggest name in the solar shingle industry. When the technology behind its solar shingle, the Powerhouse, was first unveiled in 2009, Time named it one of the inventions of the year. The company claimed that the Powerhouse would cost 10 to 15 percent less than traditional solar arrays and projected sales of $10 billion by 2020.

But Dow stopped selling it in 2016 after just five years in production. Compared to traditional solar panels, the shingles were both more expensive and less efficient. The final nail in the Powerhouse’s coffin was the merger between Dow and DuPont, which saw both companies reorganized into DowDuPont.

But the company, it seems, isn’t ready to throw in the towel on solar shingles just yet, and recently announced its intention to revive the Powerhouse. In partnership with RGS Energy, the new ”Powerhouse 3.0” will utilise standard silicon solar cells rather than the CIGS thin-film technology that previous iterations of the Powerhouse did. This design decision should boost the shingles’ efficiency and lower their cost. DowDuPont plans on beginning installations this year.

The cost of getting your roof outfitted with solar shingles depends on the particular tile you choose to install and the number of tiles you want. As is the case with regular solar panels, the more energy you use, the more solar shingles your home will need. Tesla’s solar roof, which became available for preorder in Australia last year, will cost about $22 per square foot. According to some estimates, that means that a standard rooftop solar setup will cost about 30 percent less than the average cost of Tesla’s solar roof.

Australia-based Bristile Roofing offers its own solar roofing product which, like Tesla’s, consists of a mixture of solar and non-solar tiles. While it costs about three times as much as a regular solar setup, Bristile’s solar roof boasts efficiency rates on par with standard solar panels.

Tractile offers a somewhat more affordable and more efficient solar roof. Priced at $13,000 for a four-kilowatt system, the Tractile Eclipse is unique in that its tiles are far larger than normal tiles, and resembles a grid of interlocking solar panels more than it does a standard solar shingle installation.

The most affordable Australian option today is from Nulok Roofing. The company’s award-winning “solar inserts” boast efficiency rates of 18 to 22 percent and can cost as little as $8,000 (excluding the cost of an inverter and installation).

But according to PowerScout, a California-based solar startup, the price of solar shingles will continue to decline along with other costs in the solar industry. That’s even more likely now that big players like DowDuPont and Tesla are in the market.

Solar shingles are an especially good idea for anyone building a new home or replacing their old roof. By combining roof replacement and solar panel installation into a single process, homeowners could save money that would otherwise be spread out over two separate upgrades. Thanks to Australia’s generous financial incentive programs, installing a solar roof is both easy and affordable. And like regular solar panels, a solar roof can help you save dramatically on your energy bill while doing your part to lower your carbon footprint.

South Australia should aim for 100% renewables by 2025, not 50%

South Australia can show the rest of the nation how to build an energy system that makes people's lives better. But to get there, whichever party is elected at the March 17 state election must be committed to a clear target and plan to achieve a fair transition to 100% renewables in the state by 2025.

South Australia already leads the nation in renewable energy and despite the continued bluster from the Federal Government in Canberra, South Australians are proud of it. Recent polling by the Climate Council found the majority of South Australians wanted the rest of the country to follow our lead. Renewable energy is the pride of South Australia.

But the job isn’t done. South Australians are still too often left at the whim of big gentailers who’ve consistently pushed up the price of power. That’s why Solar Citizens worked with Nicky Ison from the Community Power Agency on a new blueprint Repowering South Australia which not only shows how South Australia can get to 100% renewables by 2025 but also how we can ensure nobody is left behind along the way.

To get there, Repowering South Australia recommends:

  1. Making South Australia a renewable energy superpower by setting a 100% renewable energy target by 2025 and making a plan to export a further 50% outside of the state through technologies such as hydrogen.  
  2. Supporting low-income households by establishing a publicly-owned non-profit retailer to secure cheap, renewable power.
  3. Boosting local manufacturing by establishing renewable energy industry precincts in locations where renewable energy hotspots meet energy-intensive industry.
  4. Working with Aboriginal communities to design a well-funded Indigenous Communities Clean Power Program.
  5. Giving communities back power by establishing regional community energy hubs that increase community benefit from renewable projects.

A big step forward was made on Sunday to support South Australians currently locked out of the benefits of clean energy. 25,000 South Australians living in public housing will now be part of a connected home solar and battery power station with another 25,000 households. This program not only makes solar and storage available to people currently missing out, it will eventually reduce grid demand and wholesale power prices across the state. The big question is who will be running the show.

A government or community owned, non-profit retailer could be the retailer managing this world-leading project. This would put power back in the people’s hands and ensure existing gentailers aren’t able to use South Australians’ rooftops to keep gaming the system.

With this virtual power plant, Port Augusta’s solar thermal plant, and a wave of new solar, wind, battery and pumped hydro recently supported by the South Australian government’s renewable technology fund, there is no doubt we are going to eclipse our existing state renewable target of 50% renewables by 2025. That’s why South Australians and the renewable industry need to know where South Australia plans to head next and a strong 100% renewable target tells us just that.

In this context, it is maddening that Steven Marshall’s South Australian Liberal Party has committed to scrap the state renewable target in favour of a national target. With the Federal Government’s national energy guarantee predicted to send new renewable investment off a cliff and the national renewable target largely met, leaving South Australia’s transition waiting on a new national target makes no sense.

Some people might think that South Australia should wait for the other states to catch up before we move any further, but that would leave the job half done. We can’t risk leaving too much power in the hands of the big gentailers and allow jobs in new storage technologies to go interstate or overseas.

People across Australia and the world have been watching South Australia transform into a world leader in renewables with storage. By committing to a strong plan for a fair and fast transition to 100% renewables South Australian politicians can give people a reason to keep watching.

Dan Spencer is a South Australian Campaigner with Solar Citizens

**Originally posted on Reneweconomy 

Renters and low-income households feel the heat more than others

On Sunday western Sydney baked. When I checked my phone at 2pm it was 43 degrees in my area – a heat so intense that my Opal card melted when it was left in the car. Turning on the air-conditioning unit is a luxury that I seldom enjoy because of the spiralling cost of power prices. In the nearly intolerable Sunday heat I made an exception, but I know not everyone can afford to make that choice.

With many more summer scorchers to come, it's unacceptable that many of the most vulnerable people in our community will suffer the heat more harshly than others because of the barriers to accessing cost-cutting technology, such as rooftop solar.

As someone in their mid 20s, owning a house in Sydney is an impossibility in the short-term, and as a renter, I don't have the option of using the sunny roof of my share house to generate cheap power.

Renters, apartment dwellers and low-income households should have the option to take control of their power bills by having access to rooftop solar and storage. In NSW not nearly enough households are taking advantage of our abundant sunshine, likely because many people are renters.

The numbers tell us how far NSW is lagging: Queensland has nearly 150,000 more solar rooftops compared to NSW despite having a population almost 40 per cent smaller. The Berejiklian government needs to get serious about making cost-cutting solar and storage accessible to everyone.

Initiatives that give landlords an incentive to invest in solar and help other households where solar is out of reach will be good for individuals struggling to pay their bills and the hip-pocket of the whole of NSW.

The Solar Savings report commissioned by the community group I work for, Solar Citizens, found that in just one year rooftop solar saved at least $2.2 billion from the wholesale price of power by lessening peak demand.

Everyday people are outbidding expensive generators with clean, affordable power, and in the process helping keep the lights on by reducing demand during our summer heatwaves.

While there are some options for renters, such as Matter Solar's model that helps landlords install solar as an investment so tenants then reap the rewards of cheaper power, more can be done.

The ACT government recently announced a program to support low-income households to go solar, and it's initiatives such as this the NSW government needs to implement for a fair, bright future for all – not just those who can afford the upfront costs.

There are plenty of hot days to come this summer, but will the state government help all energy consumers take control of their power bills by going solar? After this past weekend's extreme heatwave, I can only hope.

Stephanie Gray is the Digital Campaigner for Solar Citizens. 

*First published in the Sydney Morning Herald, January 9 2018. 

Feed-in Tariffs in SA

South Australia is a leader in solar – there are hundreds of thousands of solar homes across the state that are pumping out clean power and slashing electricity bills for both solar owners and the whole community. But some retailers are giving solar owners a raw deal by paying them next to nothing for their clean energy that’s fed back to the grid. To make matters worse, those same retailers on-sell that same electricity for between three to five times the price. It’s daylight robbery!

That’s why Solar Citizens is campaigning for a Fair Price for Solar – to make sure that retailers recognise all the benefits that solar provides, including the environmental, health and network benefits.

At the beginning of this year, the Essential Services Commission of South Australia deregulated the minimum feed-in tariff retailers had to pay to solar owners, while threatening to re-regulate a minimum if the retailers did not increase their feed-in tariffs inline with rising wholesale power prices.

Since then, some retailers have done the right thing and increased their feed-in tariffs when power prices rose in July 2017, but some retailers have refused to recognise the role of solar households in the 21st century electricity grid.

The commission recently released a table of the feed-in tariff offers provided by retailers. It’s as clear as day that not all retailers are offering a fair price of at least 11 to 19 cents. Solar owners aren’t getting a fair deal and it’s time to re-regulate.

As always, when looking for the best offer from your retailer it is important to check the feed-in price against other charges to make sure you’re not getting paid more for your solar while being ripped off somewhere else. At least with this table, you have a place to start.

Add your voice with thousands of other solar citizens and join the campaign for a Fair Price for Solar by signing our petition.

If you’ve found this blog useful, changed your supplier or contacted your retailer to get a better deal for your solar and saved money, please let us know by emailing dan@solarcitizens.org.au.