Media - Solar Citizens

Media Releases

Solar Owners Ready to Unlock More Storage Than South Australia’s Big Battery

Friday, May 4: Survey results show that solar owners on a premium feed-in tariff (PFiT) are ready to upgrade their system and install batteries but are held back by the prospect of losing their tariff.  

A new report by community group Solar Citizens shows that a voluntary buyout of premium feed-in tariffs which provides participating households with an upfront sum for an expanded solar system or battery storage offers a viable solution.  

In Queensland alone there are over 250,000 households on the PFiT. The buyout scheme would open the floodgates for the uptake of battery storage across Australia, potentially leading to three times more battery storage than South Australia’s big battery.

“We surveyed 340 solar owners on a premium tariff and found that 76% were interested or potentially interested in participating in a voluntary buyout,” said Shani Tager, Solar Citizens Senior Campaigner.

“Early adopters of solar have seen firsthand the benefits of producing their own clean power and many are ready to go that step further and upgrade their system or install a battery.”

“The premium feed-in tariffs did an excellent job of kicking off the rooftop solar industry in Australia, creating thousands of jobs and helping households generate clean power and take back control of their energy bills."

However, the rules of the premium tariffs mean that early solar adopters are unable to upgrade their system and add storage, which many households want to do with the price of solar and household batteries coming down.

In addition to providing a lump sum for participating households, the proposed buyout scheme would also split the payment to establish a fund to help low-income households get solar.

The survey found that 46% of solar owners were more likely to participate in the scheme if the savings were shared with low-income and vulnerable households.

“This scheme could generate up to $400 million in funding for low-income and vulnerable households to access solar, storage and energy efficiency, providing much needed relief to households who are feeling the pinch of high electricity prices,” said Ms Tager.

“We emphasise that any premium feed in tariff buyout must be completely voluntary - these homeowners have contracts that give them a right to continue with the higher feed in tariff if they prefer."

Case studies

Solar owner in Premium FiT:

Brisbane locals Gordon and Mary installed a 1.2kW system in 2009 and think the buyout scheme is a fantastic idea.

“The Premium Feed-in Tariff I’m on is very generous, but with the reduction in the price of new panels and batteries it’s like having golden handcuffs,” said Gordon.

“I’m increasingly feeling trapped by the contract we signed as we can’t invest in additional panels or batteries without losing the PFiT. So I’m open to the idea of some kind of buyout scheme.”

Low-income household looking to go solar:

Susan Maygar, a pensioner from Victoria who’s looking to get solar and storage for the savings, thinks it’s absolutely a good idea to give low-income households a helping hand – both financially and by providing more advice on reputable installers.

“There’s an awful lot of people who are really struggling in Australia and they’re the ones who need solar.”

“As far as I’m concerned solar with a battery is the only way to go so that I can afford to run my air conditioner in the future.”

“In Winter, I’d say 90 percent of our pensioners are rugging up instead of using heating to save.”  

Report information

This report was funded by the Lord Mayor’s Charitable Foundation and is available here.

Media contact: Stephanie 0425543006

Rooftop Solar Owners Hung Out to Dry Under the National Energy Guarantee

April 18: New details released on the National Energy Guarantee will see solar owners doing the heavy lifting when it comes to producing clean power, letting big retailers off the hook according to community group Solar Citizens.

Documentation circulated to state and territory energy ministers over the weekend indicates that under Turnbull’s NEG energy retailers will be able to claim the carbon credits from customers’ rooftop solar as their own.

“This puts big energy retailers first at the expense of households and is another reason why the National Energy Guarantee doesn’t stack up. We really need to ask in whose interest this policy was made,” said Shani Tager, Senior Campaigner at Solar Citizens.

“Over 1.8 million households and small businesses have stumped up the cash to put solar on their roof to take back control of their power bills and do their bit by generating clean energy.

“Solar owners, from pensioners to young families, didn’t install panels so that energy retailers could profiteer and get a free ride which is exactly what this proposal suggests."

Things are already tipped in favour of the big energy retailers. In most states governments have failed to legislate a fair minimum feed-in tariff that retailers are required to pay, so solar owners are often paid a pittance for the clean energy they feed back into the grid.

“Only in Victoria are the environmental benefits of rooftop solar acknowledged in the form of a mandated minimum feed-in tariff,” said Ms Tager.

“In most states, retailers can get away with paying solar households nothing for the power they provide to the grid.

“This policy adds insult to injury by allowing those same retailers to benefit from ordinary solar households. Solar owners are already getting the short end of the stick – to let them do the legwork while retailers reap the rewards is absurd.”

Solar Citizens is also concerned about the low renewables benchmark that is set out in the NEG. Over 1,800 Solar Citizens supporters have sent emails to the federal, state and territory governments calling for a national plan that supports clean, renewable power with storage.

ENDS

In response to: “To ensure that the emissions reduction requirement remains technology neutral, all existing embedded generation and behind the meter consumption will be added to a retailer’s load but will also be automatically allotted to the relevant retailer for calculating their emissions.”

Media contact: Stephanie Gray 0425543006

 

Renters and Low-income Households Suffer Worse Through Weekend Heatwave

Renters, low-income households and apartment dwellers are sweltering through Sydney's heatwaves because of barriers to accessing cost-cutting rooftop solar says community group Solar Citizens.

“When the heat rises, many households rely on producing their own cheap solar power to afford to run their air conditioners,” says Shani Tager, Senior Campaigner with Solar Citizens.

Western Sydney local Eithandee Aung is one renter who uses air conditioning sparingly due to the high cost of electricity. “Even though I did my research before choosing a retailer, I still cringe every time I turn on my air conditioner because I’m worried about my next electricity bill,” says Ms Aung.

“I don’t turn on the air conditioner unless the temperatures become unbearable, like the 40 degrees we felt on Sunday.

“Without a doubt I would prefer to live in a house with solar so that I could have more control over my bills, but as a tenant I’m not in the position to put it on myself.”

There are many steps that the NSW Government can take to make sure that everyone can access clean, affordable solar according to Ms Tager.

“Rooftop solar could and should be accessible to everyone, and many barriers, including cost barriers, can be removed with sensible government initiatives”.  

“Providing no-interest loans so that households can invest in solar and storage, as well as incentivising landlords to put on solar, are some of the steps that the government can take to help those struggling with their electricity bills.”  

Another important step is to legislate a fair price for the clean power that solar owners feed back into the grid so that solar households don't get ripped off by the big retailers and have the certainty that they will get a fair price for their power.

“It's not just the individual households who benefit by going solar, the Solar Savings report commissioned by Solar Citizens showed that without the thousands of solar rooftops in NSW the wholesale price of power would have been 33-50% higher over a year-long period,” says Ms Tager.

“In just one year, solar helped save all NSW energy consumers a total of $2.2-3.3 billion.

“The NSW Government has an opportunity to help more people go solar, which will bring down the price for everyone.”

--ENDS--

Media contact: Stephanie Gray 0425543006

World’s Biggest Battery 2.0 Cements South Australia’s Role As World Leader in Renewable Storage

Solar Citizens has welcomed the news that South Australia will become home to the world’s biggest battery, again. SIMEC ZEN Energy will build a battery even bigger than the Tesla battery in Port Augusta to support its investment in large-scale solar in Whyalla after receiving a loan from the South Australian Government.

“The world’s biggest battery 2.0 shows that South Australia is a world leader in renewable energy and storage. While Federal politicians handed lumps of coal around parliament, South Australia has been using its leadership role to support practical solutions that will make our electricity cleaner, cheaper and more reliable,” Dan Spencer South Australian Campaigner with Solar Citizens said.

“Just in the last year South Australia has attracted the country’s first battery manufacturer, broken world records for new large battery technology and secured the world’s largest solar thermal tower with storage to be built in Port Augusta. All of these projects mean new jobs for South Australia,” Mr Spencer said.

“South Australians are proud that we lead the way and no matter what the result on Saturday it’s clear that the Federal Government’s attempt to slam the brakes on clean energy in South Australia was doomed to fail. In the 21st century, if you back technology from the 1950s over smarter, cleaner 21st century technology you are bound to lose,” Mr Spencer said.

“With one day till polling day, only Steven Marshall opposes keeping a strong South Australian renewable energy target. Mr Marshall has 24 hours to turn his no into yes and back the South Australian community who know that renewables and storage is the surest way to reduce power prices and cut pollution,” Mr Spencer said.

For media inquiries: Dan Spencer 0423 865 632

New Data Shows SA Renewables Shine Through Summer

Renewable energy shone through summer in South Australia providing the equivalent of 45.9% of the state’s electricity consumption, according to Australian Energy Market Operator data.

South Australia has been at the centre of Australia’s energy debate with the Federal Government attempting to use South Australia’s leadership in renewable energy to slow down the transition to renewable energy in other states.

“The proof is in the pudding. South Australia’s high levels of renewable energy did not impact South Australia’s ability to keep the lights on over summer,” Dan Spencer South Australian Campaigner with Solar Citizens said.

“Almost 46% of South Australia’s electricity consumption came from our abundant wind and sun over summer, while the government-owned diesel generators weren’t needed and the net draw on the Victorian interconnector was minimal,” Mr Spencer said.

“The Federal Government has tried to use South Australia as a proxy war to hold back other states setting strong renewable energy targets but the data shows they’ve misfired,” Mr Spencer said.

Solar Citizens says South Australia continuing to invest in renewable energy and storage will reduce power bills over time.“As South Australia continues to build more renewable energy and storage people will have more control over their power bills.

“Building solar thermal with storage in Port Augusta and the world’s biggest virtual power plant starting on housing trust rooftops are two examples of renewable and storage projects that are predicted to bring bills down for the whole community,” Mr Spencer said.

Solar Citizens is urging South Australian Liberal Leader to drop his opposition to South Australia’s renewable energy target.

“Steven Marshall admitted on radio on Monday that powering South Australia with 75% renewable energy was achievable. It’s time for the South Australian Liberals to drop their ideological opposition to South Australia’s renewable energy target,” Mr Spencer said.

For media inquiries: Dan Spencer 0423 865 632 

 

Weatherill backs low-cost renewable future for SA with 75% renewable target and Australia’s first storage target

Solar Citizens has welcomed Premier Jay Weatherill’s commitment to increasing South Australia’s renewable energy target to 75% by 2025 and implement Australia’s first renewable storage target if re-elected on March 17.

“Building more solar, wind and storage is the cleanest and lowest cost way to power South Australian homes and businesses. It’s fantastic that Premier Weatherill has committed to increasing South Australia’s renewable target and funding Australia’s first renewable storage target,” Dan Spencer South Australian campaigner with Solar Citizens said.

“Projects like Port Augusta’s solar thermal plant and the world’s biggest virtual power plant starting on housing trust homes put this target well within reach and importantly, it’s being backed up with targeted funding to achieve it,” Mr Spencer said.

Solar Citizens has been calling on all political parties to commit to increasing South Australia’s renewable target ahead of the South Australian election. So far, The Greens and Labor have committed to increasing the renewable target.

“Premier Weatherill’s commitment to increasing South Australia’s renewable energy target will be welcome news to the majority of South Australians who want to see the state’s abundant sun and wind harnessed with 21st century renewable technology,” Mr Spencer said.

“We’re urging Steven Marshall to drop the Liberal Party’s thoughtless plan to scrap South Australia’s renewable target,” Mr Spencer said.

For media inquiries: Dan Spencer 0423 865 632

New Solar Milestone Reached As Households Try To Beat The Heat

A new solar milestone has been reached in Australia with 1.8 million households and businesses now generating their own clean power from rooftop solar says community group Solar Citizens.

"Rooftop solar is getting more and more popular across Australia with many people turning to solar to take back control of their spiralling power bills," says Shani Tager, Senior Campaigner at Solar Citizens.

Ian Fletcher is one Sydney local who depends on cost-cutting solar to beat the heat in summer.

“I decided to get solar after the cost of electricity went up 30 per cent,” says retired homeowner Ian Fletcher.

“You don’t have to be a rocket scientist to work out that solar saves on power bills. My latest bill was $7.91.”

Ian credits the savings that he’s made with solar for being able to afford to run his air conditioning unit at night.

“I can sleep at night because my solar allows me to run the air conditioning unit in my bedroom. How else can you sleep in 30 degrees?”

Although, Ian concedes that he was lucky to be able to afford the upfront costs. “I think everyone would like to have solar, though how is a low-income person supposed to afford a solar system? What about elderly people? Some pensioners can’t afford it.”

Solar Citizens is calling on all Governments to do more to enable low-income households, apartment dwellers and renters to access the benefits of solar.

“There are simple steps Governments can take to boost access to solar, like no interest loans, incentives for landlords and rolling out solar panels on public housing stock,” said Ms Tager.

“Helping more households go solar won’t just benefit individual power bills – our Solar Savings report showed that rooftop solar benefits all energy consumers by reducing peak grid demand.”

“Our report found that without small-scale solar pumping out clean power, the wholesale price of power in NSW would have been 33-50% higher, which works out to a saving of between $2.2-3.3 billion in one year alone.”

“Government policies that help more households go solar bring power prices down for everyone.”

ENDS

Media contact: Stephanie Gray 0425543006

Report calls for package to transform South Australia into Australia’s first renewable superpower with clean renewables to drive cheap power

South Australia is well-placed to become Australia’s first renewable superpower by exporting clean energy to the rest of the nation and the world according to the new Solar Citizens report Repowering South Australia.

As other states move to catch up with South Australia’s renewable energy leadership, the report argues South Australia cannot afford to rest on its laurels and the next state government should set a 100% renewable energy target by 2025 and plan to export a further 50% of South Australia’s energy needs to the nation and the world through technologies like renewable hydrogen.

“South Australia is leading Australia in wind and solar uptake and is now embracing new storage technologies. South Australia now has a huge opportunity to capitalise on a new investment wave in renewable and storage technologies which mean cheaper prices, more jobs and clean power” report author and Founding Director of the Community Power Agency, Nicky Ison said.

As well as raising South Australia’s renewable energy target, the report highlights opportunities to ensure the benefits of investing in renewable energy is shared across the community, including:

  • Establishing renewable energy industry precincts to co-locate energy intensive industry with renewable energy hotspots to provide cheap energy and sources of renewable heat;

  • Establishing regional community energy hubs to increase community benefit from and access to of renewable projects;

  • Collaboratively designing a well funded Indigenous Communities Clean Power Program; and

  • Establishing a publicly owned non-profit retailer to secure cheaper clean power for South Australians on low-incomes.

“Renewable energy has the potential to dramatically reduce costs for industry, put energy back into the hands of the community through community ownership and help South Australians who struggle to pay their power bills”.

“Examples like Sundrop Farms in Port Augusta which uses solar thermal for desalination as well as electricity demonstrate that renewable energy doesn’t just provide cheap power. Co-locating industry with renewable energy precincts could reduce industry’s reliance on expensive gas for heat at the same time as providing cheap sources of power,” Ison said.

Solar Citizens wants to see the report’s recommendations adopted by politicians of all sides ahead of the March state election.

“Everyone knows energy is going to be a top issue this election. What we don’t know is whether our state leaders are going to commit to backing strong investment in renewables to create cheaper power for South Australians,” Dan Spencer campaigner with Solar Citizens said.

“We’re urging all politicians to commit to powering South Australia with 100% renewable energy by 2025 and backing policies that will see everyone share in the benefits of cheaper renewable power. These policies are long overdue for South Australians who have been ripped off by big power companies for too long,” Mr Spencer said.

--ENDS--

The full Repowering South Australia can be accessed here.

For media inquiries:
Dan Spencer 0423 865 632
Nicky Ison 0402 034 580

Western Sydney Locals Beat the Heat with Solar

Cost-cutting rooftop solar helps households beat the summer heat with affordable electricity, but more needs to be done to help low-income households access the clean technology says community group Solar Citizens.

“In the scorching heat, having access to rooftop solar can be the difference between some households being able to afford to run their air conditioning while others are forced to go without,” says Maria Cirillo, Solar Citizens’ Acting National Director.

Peter and Karen Murphy are Blaxland East locals and they say that their solar makes a big difference when it comes to keeping cool.

“With solar power we're almost covering our entire bill. The last one was $14,” Peter Murphy said.

“We've had ducted air conditioning in our house since 1995 and when we got solar panels we really noticed the difference in our power bills.”

“We know a few people that want solar but the initial outlay is difficult when you've got a mortgage and kids, some people are on a tight financial budget,” Karen Murphy said.

“It's just not accessible for so many people.”

But it doesn’t have to be that way according to Ms Cirillo.

“Solar could and should be accessible to everyone, whoever they are, wherever they live, any barriers, including cost barriers, can be removed with sensible government initiatives”.  

While there are barriers for low-income households, renters and apartment dwellers to adopt solar, incentives like the ACT Government’s Solar for Low Income Households program and battery rebate scheme will help more people access the cost-cutting benefits of rooftop solar.

Other approaches include legislating that solar owners receive a fair price for the clean power they feed into the grid, so that the households that invest in rooftop solar are able to recoup the initial outlay they made when purchasing the panels.

“And it's not just the individual household who benefits by going solar, the Solar Savings report commissioned by Solar Citizens showed that in just one year solar helped all NSW energy consumers by reducing the wholesale cost of electricity by $2.2-3.3 billion,” says Maria Cirillo.

“Without all those solar owners pumping out their rooftop power, the wholesale price of electricity would have been 33-50% higher.”

“Government policies that help more households go solar bring power prices down for everyone.”

--ENDS--

Media contact: Stephanie Gray 0425543006

SA Solar Shines Through Heatwave Reducing Peak With More Power Than Former Port Augusta Coal

Over Thursday and Friday as South Australia sweltered, local solar owners shined reducing peak grid demand across both days. On Thursday, solar owners produced more power than the capacity of the now-closed Northern coal-fired power station in Port Augusta when grid demand would have peaked just after 3pm on Thursday without the state’s solar.

“Without solar, demand on the grid would have peaked just after 3pm on Thursday. Instead, rooftop solar provided more power than the now-closed Northern power station in Port Augusta, keeping the lights on with clean energy. On Friday, solar reduced the peak by 358.6MW far exceeding the capacity of the government’s new backup generators” Dan Spencer, South Australian Campaigner for Solar Citizens said.

“Everyday people generating their own clean power meant that peak demand was pushed back by more than 4 hours until after 7pm on Thursday and by nearly 3 hours on Friday.

Solar Citizens say the failure of Victorian coal plant Loy Yang B during the heatwave on Thursday highlights the need for South Australia to continue investing in renewable energy with storage.

“The failure of Victorian coal during the heatwave meant prices went up for South Australians. With a state election just around the corner we’re calling on all parties to increase South Australia’s renewable target to bring more local renewables with storage to SA,” Mr Spencer said.

“Along with raising South Australia’s renewables target, we’re calling on all South Australian politicians to do more to make cost-cutting rooftop solar accessible to all South Australians,” Mr Spencer said.

“More accessible solar means that more people will be able to take back control of their electricity bills while helping to safeguard the grid.”

Media contact: Dan Spencer 0423 865 632

Source: Dylan McConnell, Researcher at the University of Melbourne’s Climate and Energy College