Media - Solar Citizens

Media Releases

Plan to Charge Solar Homes Splits States, Disliked by Consumers

7 June 2021: Plan to Charge Solar Homes Splits States, Disliked by Consumers

A plan to charge homes and businesses with rooftop solar panels has received push back from state governments and now consumers, with a new poll showing 57 per cent of people disagreed with the proposal even if they don’t have solar panels themselves. 

The proposal put forward by the Australian Energy Market Commission (AEMC) would allow homes and businesses with solar to be charged for putting their excess solar energy into the grid. 

Both the Victorian and Queensland governments have signalled they don’t support the plan that would affect the hip pockets of millions of Australian households, but other state governments like New South Wales haven’t yet made their position clear. 

“We’ve just commissioned polling in New South Wales that shows a staggering 59.2 per cent of people who want to install solar would be less likely to if this charge is allowed to go through,” said Ellen Roberts, National Director of Solar Citizens.

A representative sample of over 1,000 NSW residents were polled, 53.7 per cent of whom didn’t have solar.

Of those polled, 43.7 per cent said they’d be more likely to vote for a political party that opposes the plan to charge solar households, with 33.3 per cent saying their vote wouldn’t change.

“The New South Wales government is an influential state and they have a lot of power to make this ‘sun tax’ go away if they follow in the footsteps of Victoria and Queensland. It’s important that they make their position clear,” said Ms Roberts.

“Australia is a world leader in household solar and it’s these millions of Aussies that are doing the heavy lifting and substantially cutting Australia’s pollution.

“We want to see the small-scale solar industry continue to thrive because cheap solar energy is driving down electricity prices for everyone while powering a cleaner energy system.

“We fear once these charges are in place they’ll derail Australia’s uptake of clean solar energy.”

In a previous submission to the AEMC the Victorian government said, “The Victorian Government does not support export charging, as the case for implementing this element of the proposed reforms has not been demonstrated at this time.”

Queensland’s Energy Minister Mick de Brenni told the Brisbane Times, “My department is preparing a response to the proposal and I expect it will indicate that system-wide measures, especially investment in more storage, will encourage more solar and are preferable to the proposed rule change.

The AEMC is expected to make an announcement of their decision in July. 

[ENDS]

Media contact: Ellen Roberts 0408 583 694

Solar Industry, Solar Consumers and Independent Experts Warn of NEM Fragmentation if Solar Exports Rule Change Goes Ahead

3 June 2021: Solar Industry, Solar Consumers and Independent Experts Warn of NEM Fragmentation if Solar Exports Rule Change Goes Ahead 

A proposal to charge solar homes and businesses for exporting their excess energy to the grid has been opposed in a joint submission by key stakeholder groups, including the Smart Energy Council, the Australia Institute and Solar Citizens. 

The joint submission to the Australian Energy Market Commission (AEMC) was also signed by Professor Bruce Mountain of the Victorian Energy Policy Centre and innovative solar sector leaders Alex Georgiou, CEO of ShineHub, Dr. Mike Wishart, CEO of EcoJoule Energy and David Hiley, Director of WATTever.

“Allowing network companies to charge solar owners for exporting their clean energy is a big call and we have not been presented with anywhere near enough evidence to show that it’s required,” said Ellen Roberts, National Director at Solar Citizens.

"States like Queensland and Victoria have signalled they don’t support export charging, so if this rule change goes ahead we’re likely to see a piecemeal and messy application across the National Electricity Market. 

“There are, however, some really important parts to the AEMC’s proposal. We support it being formally recognised that networks provide an export service, and there absolutely needs to be increased transparency around when static zero export limits are being imposed on solar customers. 

“We need to make sure that network companies are embracing solar exports and exploring all options for increasing the grid’s hosting capacity.”

In the submission it’s argued that the proposal by the AEMC might not even reduce the network costs paid by non-solar customers, as is intended. There are no requirements in the rule change proposal for how electricity retailers pass on additional network costs to consumers. 

The submission states that in Queensland, Distribution Network Service Providers Energex already charge solar customers extra, but in many cases, this charge is passed on to non-solar customers by retailers. 

“The growth of rooftop solar has been the most constant national success story in energy and climate in Australia. This rule change will undermine that progress and put in place a messy regime that might not even be implemented uniformly across states,” said Dan Cass, Energy Regulatory Lead at the Australia Institute. 

“There is a huge amount of value in household PV, batteries, electric vehicles, demand response and other distributed energy resources. What is needed now is a clear roadmap from the Energy Security Board for DER integration and economic regulation.”

The submission calls for trials of clean technology to be expedited and used to inform market design work. “Inverters with dynamic operating envelope capabilities, smart electric vehicle chargers and community batteries are smarter solutions to DER integration than export charges,” it states. 

Submissions to the AEMC have now closed. Over 1,300 solar citizens lodged a submission to oppose the introduction of export charging. 

The AEMC is expected to make the final determination in July. 

[ENDS]


Media contact: Ellen Roberts 0408 583 694 

The full submission can be read here.

Victoria's EV Tax Keeps One Foot on the Brake

25th May 2021: Victoria’s EV Tax Keeps One Foot on the Brake

The Victorian Government’s electric vehicle tax will keep Victoria in the slow lane on electric vehicles.

Legislation to introduce road user charges for electric and plug-in hybrid vehicles passed today, a move that was condemned by community group Solar Citizens.

“Australia is already lagging behind on electric vehicles, and introducing this tax now will only slow down EV uptake even more, said Solar Citizens’ National Director, Ellen Roberts.

“Electric vehicles are the future: they can be powered with clean solar and wind power, and are cheaper to run and maintain.

“It’s disappointing that the Victorian Government has gone ahead with this premature tax, while the rest of the world is bringing down the costs of EVs to encourage people to make the switch.

“If the Government wants to reach its own target of net zero emissions by 2050 then 100% of vehicle sales need to be electric by 2035, but right now we’re at less than 1%.”

“We should be helping more people to afford cleaner, cheaper to run cars, not making them even more expensive.

“The Government took an important step forward by announcing a $3,000 subsidy and a 50% EV target, but this tax is a big step backwards.

“This EV tax will add up to $5,000 to the cost of an electric vehicle, at time when they’re still unaffordable for many Victorians”

[ENDS]

For comment call Ellen Roberts on 0408 583 694

North Queensland gets Clean Energy Jobs Boost

21 May 2021: North Queensland gets Clean Energy Jobs Boost

The Queensland government has just announced the first stage of their Renewable Energy Zone roll out, a move that is celebrated by community group Solar Citizens. 

The Premier today announced the government would invest $40 million to upgrade transmission lines in Far North Queensland, creating 97 jobs for local workers and enabling projects like the Kaban Green Power Hub to proceed. 

“It’s wonderful to see the state government delivering on their pre-election commitments and driving new clean energy job opportunities in North and Far North Queensland,” said Stephanie Gray, Solar Citizens Energy Strategist. 

“This announcement comes just after federal Minister Keith Pitt intervened and stopped the Kaban wind and battery plant from getting federal funding.

“So far the Morrison government has failed to invest in future-proof clean energy jobs for Queenslanders, so it’s really great to see the state stepping up and filling that gap.

“North Queensland has incredible wind resources that blow in the afternoon and at night, making it very compatible with solar energy.

“Because of these incredible renewable energy resources, companies are looking to start manufacturing things locally to take advantage of this cheap energy.

“Just in Townsville alone there are several manufacturing proposals for products like renewable hydrogen and electric vehicle batteries, which will create good, long-term jobs.

“But we need about 3,000MW of new solar, wind and storage generation to come online in the north so these manufacturing projects can be competitively powered by cheap renewable energy.”

[ENDS]

Media contact: Stephanie Gray 0425543006

Sun tax could trigger network ‘death spiral’

12 May 2021: Sun tax could trigger network ‘death spiral’

A survey of more than 1,300 Australian solar owners raises concerns about the possibility that a ‘death spiral’ could be triggered in the country’s largest electricity grid.

In response to the proposed introduction of a ‘sun tax’, which would see solar homes and businesses being charged for exporting clean electricity to the grid, community group Solar Citizens surveyed rooftop solar owners across the country to understand their response. 

A massive 63 per cent of those polled said that they would be more likely to go off grid if the sun tax is implemented, pointing to the possibility of a network ‘death spiral’.

A ‘death spiral’ is triggered when more and more households go off grid, resulting in higher network charges for customers remaining connected to the grid. This price hike can then in turn result in more households leaving the network, which causes the spiral to continue. 

The poll also found that 65 per cent of solar owners would consider changing their vote depending on the actions taken by their state government in response to the proposal.

“The results of our survey indicate that solar households are upset about the proposed sun tax and are willing to take matters into their own hands,” said Ellen Roberts, National Director at Solar Citizens. 

“It’s hardly surprising that solar owners are concerned. The big network companies are failing to manage grid voltage and now they want to pass the bill to everyday Australians.

“We know that grid voltages are too high even at night, so it’s time to stop blaming Australians who have made an investment in solar.

“Ninety five per cent of solar owners we polled didn’t support the sun tax, so it’s time for state governments to use their power and rule out these changes. “Already we’ve seen the Queensland and Victorian governments indicate they don’t support slugging solar households, so now we need to see states like New South Wales and South Australia also step up.”

This poll comes after the Australian Energy Market Commision (AEMC) released a draft determination proposing a rule change that will allow rooftop solar owners to be charged for exporting solar energy to the grid. The AEMC estimates that households across the National Electricity Market (NEM) will lose up to 8 per cent of their export income under the new rules.

State and territory governments in the NEM can choose to opt out of the rules. 

“It’s in the best interest of everyone for rooftop solar to keep thriving. Solar homes and businesses provide cheap local energy to the grid which drives down the wholesale price of electricity,” said Ms Roberts.

[ENDS]

Summary of survey findings:

  • 63% said they’d consider going off grid if this rule change is implemented.

  • 95% were not in favour of the sun tax.

  • 65% said the way their state governments responded to this would influence their vote. 

 
Media contact: Ellen Roberts 0408 583 694

Queensland Minister Stands Strong for Solar

6 May 2021: Queensland Minister Stands Strong for Solar

Queensland Energy Minister Mick de Brenni has today indicated that he doesn’t support a rule change from the Australian Energy Market Commission (AEMC) that will allow solar owners to be charged for exporting clean energy to the grid. 

The announcement has been welcomed by community group Solar Citizens, who just released a report highlighting that the ‘sun tax’ would affect millions of people living in regional and outer suburban areas. 

“We congratulate the Queensland Government for joining Victoria in pushing back against this harmful proposal,” said Ellen Roberts, Solar Citizens’ National Director. 

“The same state governments that have empowered households to make the solar switch are the ones that have the power to stop solar owners from being unfairly penalised now.”

The Australian Energy Market Commission (AEMC) is considering a rule change that will allow rooftop solar owners to be charged for exporting solar energy to the grid. Workings from Professor Bruce Mountain from the Victoria Energy Policy Centre suggest the annual income from exporting solar electricity in Queensland could drop from an average of $292 per year to just $12 if the rule change is implemented.

“Here in Queensland the State Government has done a good job at encouraging households to install solar to drive down electricity bills and pollution. It’s great to see them continue to stand up for solar,” said Ms Roberts.

“With feed-in tariffs dropping, if the sun tax goes ahead it will be a double whammy for millions of Australia’s solar owners.

“Moving forward we’ll have to be smart about how we manage the electricity system so more households can make the solar switch, but rushing through a rule change that will slug solar households isn’t the solution.

“But if we want to see this proposal well and truly dropped by the AEMC, we need other states like NSW to follow Queensland and Victoria’s lead.”

The announcement from Energy Minister de Brenni comes as a new analysis from Solar Citizens demonstrates that Australia’s top solar postcodes and Local Government Areas tend to be in outer suburban and regional areas.

Australia’s top postcode for rooftop solar uptake is Bundaberg with close to 16,000 small-scale solar installations, followed by Mandurah in Western Australia and Hervey Bay also in Queensland, according to the analysis. 

Queensland now has a total of 770,000 solar installations across the state, which is by far the most of any Australian state or territory. New South Wales is a runner up with 660,000 installations. 

Queensland Postcodes with the Highest Number of Small-scale Solar Installations

Postcode

Total number of installations

Ranking

4670 - Bundaberg

15,977

1

4655 - Hervey Bay

14,705

2

4551 - Caloundra

13,367

3

4350 - Toowoomba 

12,497

4

4740 - Mackay 

10,778

5

4211 - Nerang

10,614

6

4207 - Beenleigh

10,346

7

4300 - Springfield

10,074

8

4510 - Caboolture

9,902

9

4570 - Gympie

9,901

10


[Ends]

Media contact: Ellen Roberts 0408 583 694

Analysis available here.

Households Slugged by New Solar Charges

28 April 2021: Households Slugged by New Soar Charges

A new analysis out today has found that the Australian Energy Market Commission (AEMC) has largely underestimated the impact that the proposed ‘sun tax’ will have on millions of Australia's solar homes. 

The analysis, undertaken by Professor Bruce Mountain of the Victoria Energy Policy Centre, found that after deducting the proposed network usage charge many solar homes, excluding those in Victoria, are unlikely to obtain any payment from surplus solar energy exported to the grid.

The AEMC is proposing a rule change that will allow network providers to charge solar households and businesses for exporting electricity. Under the proposed new rules, network providers will be able to charge solar households far more than the cost of integrating rooftop solar into the grid.

“This new evidence shows us the AEMC has significantly underestimated how much millions of Australians will be affected by their proposed rule change,” said Ellen Roberts, Solar Citizens’ National Director. 

“It’s estimated that solar households will be charged at least 4 cents per kWh when they export to the grid.

“With feed-in tariffs dropping all the time, this rule change will majorly impact the financial incentive for solar owners to provide cheap electricity for their neighbours to use.

“Everyday Australians have made the switch to solar in good faith to slash their bills and do their bit for the environment.

“Now the AEMC wants to let big network companies decide how much solar owners get slogged. It’s not good enough.”

Key findings of the report include:

  • The AEMC’s proposed rule change is ‘likely to leave solar homes with little or no income from rooftop solar exports’ as feed-in tariffs drop.

  • An error in the AEMC’s calculations means that the average network export charge is estimated to be at least 4 cents per kWh and possibly up to 4.9 cents per kWh.

  • The AEMC’s proposed solar charge is more than ten times greater than the annual charge that would be needed to cover distributed energy integration costs.

  • It’s estimated that in Victoria the proposed charge will reduce annual income that a typical solar household makes from exporting to just $33. 

[ENDS]

Media contact: Ellen Roberts 0408 583 694

Stanwell’s Honesty Applauded as Economics Shift

21 April 2021: Queensland’s Stanwell corporation has today stated that it will shift focus from fossil fuels to renewables, a move that is welcomed by community group Solar Citizens.

The Queensland government-owned corporation is Australia’s third largest carbon emitter, owning Stanwell, Tarong and Tarong North coal stations.

“It’s a really positive first step that Stanwell is being upfront and starting this conversation with communities that will be affected by early coal retirement and curtailment,” said Stephanie Gray, Energy Strategist at Solar Citizens. 

“The economics have shifted and the state’s coal and gas-fired power stations are rapidly becoming unprofitable because they can’t keep up with cheaper renewable energy.

“In the latest financial audit the value of Stanwell’s coal and gas plants was decreased by a staggering $720 million.

“But the reality is that the Queensland government has not allocated anywhere near enough money to replace coal and gas-fired power stations with publicly-owned renewable energy and storage.

“The State government has indicated that they’re committed to maintaining majority public ownership of the state’s energy generation but it’s all words without enough money on the table.

“Stanwell has taken a lead here and been upfront about the dire situation that Queensland’s coal-fired power stations are in. Now it’s time for the Queensland government to do the same.”

Media contact: Stephanie Gray 0425543006

Community Group Pumped about New Hydro Plans

9 April 2021: Community Group Pumped about New Hydro Plans

Solar Citizens today welcomes news that the Queensland Government is considering a new pumped hydro site near Gympie. 

“It’s been almost four years since the Queensland Government promised to undertake research on possible pumped hydro locations across the state and we’re still waiting to see the results,” said Stephanie Gray, Energy Strategist at Solar Citizens.

“It’s great to finally see evidence that this work is progressing.

“Queenslanders are world leaders in the uptake of rooftop solar. Now we need to get serious about adding more storage, like batteries and pumped hydro, so we can utilise this abundant and cheap solar energy around the clock.

“We know that Queensland’s state-owned coal stations are rapidly becoming unprofitable. In the last audit the value of the state’s coal and gas generators was dropped by over $1 billion.

“The Queensland Government needs to keep pace with the energy transition and ensure there’s enough clean energy storage coming online. Queenslanders can’t afford the pretence that coal stations will keep operating for decades.

“It will hurt the hip pocket of consumers if we don’t properly plan for early coal closures and not enough renewable energy generation and storage is built in time for replacement.”

Solar Citizens is calling on the State Government to implement a 2GW by 2025 storage target to provide firming for renewable energy generation that is coming online.

[ENDS]

Media contact: Stephanie Gray 0425543006

ALP's community battery plan an alternative to fees for solar exports

Today’s announcement by the Federal Labor Party to support community scale batteries is an example of positive solutions for rooftop solar, and is a practical and useful alternative to the controversial proposal for charging for solar exports.

Last week, at the request of power networks, the Australian Energy Market Commission proposed to charge solar households for exporting their power to the grid.

‘Networks claim that solar is causing traffic jams in the grid, and that solar owners need to cough up. But charging rooftop solar owners is like penalising bicycles while the trucks get off scot free.’

‘These ‘traffic jams’ also exist at night, when solar is not exporting, and yet it's solar households that are footing the bill.

‘Community scale batteries for storage is an excellent solution that will benefit all energy users.’

‘It’s low and middle income postcodes that have the most solar rooftops - and these will be the neighbourhoods that will be able to benefit from community scale batteries.’

[ENDS]

For comment call Ellen Roberts on 0408 583 694