Media - Solar Citizens

Media Releases

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. 

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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.

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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.’

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For comment call Ellen Roberts on 0408 583 694

Victorian solar households could be getting nothing for their energy exports

31st March 2021: Victorian solar households could be getting nothing for their energy exports

New data out today from Professor Bruce Mountain at the Victoria Energy Policy Centre shows that export income for Victorian solar households could shrink to next to nothing if a controversial plan to charge for solar exports goes ahead.

In his article in The Conversation, Professor Mountain states, ‘From the middle of this year, rooftop PV surplus will provide the typical Victoria household with feed-in income of about $120 per year. The proposed injection charge of $100 will therefore almost totally offset the feed-in income so that households with rooftop PV will effectively get nothing for their surplus PV production.’

“Charging for solar exports is not needed and not fair. Big energy consumers, like coal and gas companies, aren’t charged for accessing the grid so why should Australian solar households,” questioned Solar Citizens’ National Director, Ellen Roberts.

Of all the States, the Victorian government has most strongly taken the side of energy consumers, explaining in their submission to the Australian Energy Market Commission on solar export charging, ‘the Victorian government does not support export charging as the case for implementing this proposal has not been demonstrated at this time.’

“The best way to make the energy fairer is to help all consumers have access to cheap solar energy, not to slam households who have made an investment to get their bills under control,” said Ms Roberts.

“Victoria is leading the country in support for renters and low income households to get solar. This rule change has the potential to derail solar uptake and the progress Victoria is making.

“The rule change the AEMC is suggesting will have major implications for solar households, but will provide a very limited benefit to non-solar consumers. It’s more unhelpful bureaucracy. 

“It’s time for the Victorian government to provide certainty to solar customers and the solar industry and state their opposition to charging for solar exports.”

Ellen Roberts can be contacted for comment at 0408 583 694.

Townsville, Toowoomba Among Regions Getting New Battery Storage

25 March 2021: Townsville, Toowoomba Among Regions Getting New Battery Storage

Solar Citizens today celebrates the Queensland Government’s announcement that five grid-connected batteries will be installed in a trial in locations across the state. 

“Adding more battery storage to the network is a smart move by the Queensland Government because it means we can soak up extra renewable energy, particularly solar, when it’s abundant and then utilise that energy when we need it,” said Solar Citizens’ National Director Ellen Roberts.

“The spectacular growth of rooftop solar and large-scale solar and wind projects means we need more storage coming online so we can use this cheap energy around the clock.

“Battery storage can react to grid disturbances with lightning speed and provide valuable network services as we see the uptake of renewables grow and grow.

“Queenslanders are world leaders in rooftop solar because producing your own cheap and clean energy in this climate is a no-brainer.”

This announcement comes as the Australian Energy Market Commission today released a draft determination recommending that networks be allowed to charge rooftop solar owners for exporting clean electricity to the grid. Solar Citizens does not support this proposed sun tax.

“As we transition our energy system and clean up our power supply, we need to be encouraging more rooftop solar – not penalising people for putting panels on their roof,” said Ms Roberts.

“Rolling out battery storage is one of the key things that state governments can do to assist with network issues and ensure that more households can take advantage of the solar savings.

“Rooftop solar benefits all energy consumers by providing cheap power to the grid for everyone to use.

“The Queensland and Victorian Governments have already publicly stated their opposition to the sun tax, but now we urgently need all of our State Energy Ministers to step up and protect solar owners from this discriminatory charge.”


The trial locations are as follows:

Black River Substation – Townsville

Tanby Substation – Yeppoon

Bargara Substation – Bundaberg

Torquay Substation – Hervey Bay

Torrington Substation – Toowoomba

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Media contact: Ellen Roberts
0408 583 694

MR: Solar Citizens condemns plan to charge solar households for exporting to the grid

Key Points:

  • The Australian Energy Market Commission (AEMC) has released a draft ruling to allow networks to charge solar owners to export their power to the grid.
  • Charging households to export their power is an unfair measure that will increase payback periods for installations and may discourage more people from investing in solar.
  • Rooftop solar benefits all energy consumers by providing cheap, local energy and pushing down wholesale power prices. It is unfair to charge solar owners to export clean energy, when large generators, like coal and gas fired power stations, aren’t charged.
  • Solar Citizens’ National Director Ellen Roberts and solar owners in Melbourne, Adelaide, Sydney, Brisbane and Hervey Bay are available for interview. Contact: Ellen Roberts 0408 583 694
Media release - Solar Citizens condemns AEMC decision to allow solar export charges

Australian Energy Market Commission's (AEMC) draft decision to charge solar owners for sharing clean power with the grid is Australian transition is yet another handbrake for Australia's energy transition, Solar Citizens have said following today's announcement.

‘As we transition our energy system and clean up our power supply, we need to be encouraging more rooftop solar - not penalising people for putting panels on their roof.

’Rooftop solar benefits all energy consumers by providing cheap power to the grid for everyone to use,’ said Solar Citizens National Director Ellen Roberts.

‘Big coal and gas generators aren’t charged for exporting their power to the grid, so why should we be slugging Aussie families with panels on their roofs?'

‘The Queensland and Victorian Governments have already publicly stated their opposition to the sun tax, but now we urgently need all of our State Energy Ministers to step up and protect solar owners from this discriminatory charge.’

'If we want to look at equity in the energy system, let's look at the big players like energy retailers making big profits, not Mums and Dads with solar.'

‘Solar Citizens’ analysis shows that it’s mostly lower and middle income earners who are putting solar panels on their rooftops to cut their energy bills and do their bit for the environment.’

Geoffrey Shepherd is a pensioner and solar owner from Hervey Bay in regional Queensland and is concerned about new charges when he is on a low feed in tariff for the power that he does produce.

‘As a pensioner, it’s potentially going to impact me financially. I spent $6000 on my solar system, and I’m being hammered because I’m only getting 8c [per kWh] for my electricity via my feed in tariff – I’m lucky if I get a shirt button back from my solar!’

‘Picking on people who are trying to save the planet and save money for themselves, especially people such as my wife and I who are retired, it doesn’t seem very fair.’
Peter Youll, a retiree and solar owner in North Western Sydney also doesn’t think the decision is fair.  

'We’re in a block of townhouses and the energy I export is consumed by my immediate neighbours, so my impact on the grid is negligible. I don’t think it’s fair that I should be charged for providing this service, especially when large generators don’t have to pay.'

'If this tax is introduced, then I’ll be doing whatever I can not to export anything at all.'  
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More background:

Currently in the Australian Electricity Rules, networks are prohibited from charging generators, including small scale generators such as solar households, fees to export their power. Under this new proposal this prohibition will be removed from the rules giving networks the power to charge solar owners network fees for export. This will apply only to small scale generators, but not large scale like big coal and gas power stations.

This is not the first time the AEMC has proposed this change, but it has been defeated previously given the need to incentivise rooftop solar and ensure a decent return for solar households.

Export charging is at the request of the distribution networks, who claim that solar is impacting the network.
Media contact: Ellen Roberts 0408 583 694

Solar thermal back on the table for Queensland

22 March 2021: An agreement between state-owned Stanwell Corporation and Vast Solar for a feasibility study into the North West Queensland Hybrid Power Project was today welcomed by community group Solar Citizens. 

Across the country the profitability of coal generators is taking a hit and here in Queensland we’re not immune,” said Stephanie Gray, Energy Strategist at Solar Citizens. 

The energy system is shifting more rapidly than many people imagined and to date the Queensland Government hasn’t been keeping up.

“When our ageing coal plants start dropping like flies we’ll need clean, on-demand energy to fill the gaps – and for that we need to follow in NSW’s footsteps and get serious about rolling out more energy storage.

“Solar thermal is a very exciting technology that can provide clean energy around the clock, although it is disappointing that Vast Solar’s proposal also includes expensive gas.”

In NSW the State Government is pushing forward with a 2GW long-duration energy storage target to provide grid services and firm the many clean energy projects that are proposed across their regions.

“We’re still waiting for a report that the Queensland Government committed to commission back in 2017 that would assess the options for deploying hydro storage in the state,” said Ms Gray. 

“The transition is here and if we don’t properly plan for enough clean energy generation and storage to take the place of retiring coal stations it’s consumers that will suffer.”

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Media contact: Stephanie Gray 0425543006

Renewable Industry Can Power 11,000 New Queensland Jobs

9 March 2020: Renewable Industry Can Power 11,000 New Queensland Jobs

Regional Queensland is well-placed to capitalise on the world’s shift to a clean economy according to a new report, which found 11,000 jobs would be up for grabs if Townsville became a renewable energy industry precinct. 

The report, commissioned by community group Solar Citizens, analysed several advanced manufacturing and industry projects proposed in the Townsville region that would help underpin the world’s transition to a low carbon future. 

According to the report, these projects would provide a $154 billion economic boost over their lifetime and provide over 3,950 ongoing jobs if they were powered by renewable energy projects.

“Queensland has all the ingredients for a bright economic future. We’ve got some of the world’s best solar resources that can be turned into abundant cheap electricity and key minerals needed to manufacture technology like battery storage,” said Solar Citizens’ National Director Ellen Roberts. 

“Across regional Queensland there are already industry proposals that would see renewable hydrogen and battery storage materials produced right here.

“In particular Townsville and Gladstone can be thriving renewable industry hubs if all levels of government work together to facilitate projects going ahead and ensure there’s enough clean energy projects coming online to meet growing electricity demand.”

The projects analysed include the proposed Renewable Hydrogen Hub and Lansdown Eco-Industrial Precinct. Well over 3GW of new clean energy generation would likely be required to power these new industry projects – which is equivalent to powering 900,000 homes. 

“Building out Renewable Energy Zones with solar, wind and storage is a key step towards providing around the clock cheap energy for proposed and existing industry,” said Ms Roberts.

“More renewable energy projects means more jobs, and cheaper energy that can keep new and existing manufacturing industries globally competitive.”

Many of the manufacturing proposals across North Queensland are being driven by the increasing global demand for clean technology such as battery storage for households and electric vehicles. 

Queensland Pacific Metals’ proposed Townsville Energy Chemical Hub Project (TECH) is one of the industry proposals moving forward in North Queensland that would see electric vehicle battery materials produced locally. QPM has signed a Memorandum of Understanding with the proposed Majors Creek solar farm and they’re working with James Cook University to establish if the TECH project can be a world-first and produce almost no waste. 

“Queensland Pacific Metals business is built on sustainability – our processing methodology is far superior to alternatives for the production of nickel and cobalt chemicals for lithium-ion batteries,” said CEO Stephen Grocott.

“Townsville is an ideal location to produce critical chemicals for batteries because of its existing infrastructure, services and availability of skilled labour.

“The world’s transition to electric vehicles will result in unprecedented demand for nickel, in particularly the battery chemical nickel sulphate. This provides an exciting opportunity for Australia to become a major supplier of critical chemicals.”

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Media contact: Ellen Roberts 0408 583 694

Full report available here, as well as the report summary here.

Federal government needs to step up to support North Queensland manufacturing

Solar Citizens has today called on the Morrison Government to invest in vital infrastructure in North Queensland that will enable low carbon manufacturers to set up locally, as part of their commitment to developing manufacturing in Australia. 

“Right now several companies are looking to establish manufacturing and processing plants around Townsville to supply critical materials and help the world transition to a low-carbon future. Industry is moving however the Morrison Government is yet to deliver funding for key local infrastructure,” said Solar Citizens’ National Director, Ellen Roberts. 

“Townsville can be a renewable energy industry and hydrogen powerhouse. North Queensland has a rich supply of minerals needed for the global transition and some of the world’s best solar resources.

“The local council is establishing a cutting-edge eco-industrial hub that will largely be powered with cheap solar energy, but the Federal Government is yet to come to the table with funding.

“If we want more manufacturers to set up shop in strategic North Queensland then the government needs to work with local councils and the state government to rollout key infrastructure, like renewable energy zones that will provide low-cost energy.

“Here in Australia, we’re blessed with incredible solar and wind energy resources. We should be harnessing this for abundant affordable electricity for new industries.”

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For comment call Ellen Roberts on 0408 583 694.