Media - Solar Citizens

Media Releases

Regional Queensland Solar Feed-in Tariff Set to Rise

16 March 2023: Regional Queensland Solar Feed-in Tariff Set to Rise 

The reward that solar customers in regional Queensland receive for feeding excess electricity into the grid is set to increase in the next financial year, despite trending downwards in the South East. 

The Queensland Competition Authority just released a draft determination suggesting that in the next financial year the feed-in tariff could rise from 9.300 c/kWh to 12.952 c/kWh for regional Queenslanders serviced by government-owned Ergon. 

In South East Queensland where private retailers set their own feed-in tariff, the average offered is trending downwards and sitting at around 5.7 c/kWh. 

“It’s welcome news that Queensland Competition Authority is again considering raising the feed in tariff for regional Queenslanders. Queensland’s solar owners are playing a critical role in bringing down wholesale electricity prices for everyone while slashing the State’s emissions,” said Stephanie Gray, Deputy Director of Solar Citizens.

“At the moment we’re seeing very high wholesale power prices due to high global coal and gas prices, and the only price relief we’re getting is during the day when the State’s 900,000-plus solar homes and businesses are generating cheap, local electricity.

“The higher power prices we’re seeing at the moment should mean that solar owners get more for the electricity they supply, but unfortunately that’s not what we’re seeing in areas like South East Queensland where retailers can offer customers whatever they like. In many cases it’s a pittance.

“Slashing feed-in tariffs is what many retailers are doing to recoup some of their profits. It can be really hard for solar customers to find a good deal.

“In this environment the last thing that we want to see is for the Queensland Government to allow solar export charging like we’re seeing being proposed right now in New South Wales. 

“In New South Wales network companies have proposals sitting with the Australian Energy Regulator to charge solar owners for putting cheap solar energy into the grid during the middle of the day. It’s an outrageous sun tax and we’re calling on the State Government to rule it out for Queensland.”

The Queensland Competition Authority’s Draft Determination is here. Consultation is set to run until 14 April 2023.

[ENDS]

Media contact: Stephanie Gray 0425 543 006

Key to Affordable Qld Energy Prices Being Overlooked

15 March 2023: Key to Affordable Qld Energy Prices Being Overlooked

Solar Citizens is this morning calling for fast-tracked investment in new Queensland renewable energy projects, following the release of the Australian Energy Regulator’s draft Default Market Offer. 

The new guideline for electricity prices shows that South East Queensland households are set to be slugged with increases of up to 20 per cent in the coming financial year. 

“Power bills are spiralling out of control and so far the Queensland Government has not delivered policies that are ambitious enough to match the scale of the problem,” said Stephanie Gray, Deputy Director at Solar Citizens. 

“A report we recently released with the Queensland Conservation Council found that Queensland’s solar and wind farms effectively brought down power bills by $100 per household last year, and the savings could have been up to $500 if the State Government brought forward the build of more renewable projects. 

“In the June state budget we’d like to see the Queensland Government bring forward their investment in new government-owned solar and wind projects to pave the way for long-term cheaper bills for Queenslanders.

“The Government’s new coal royalties scheme is smart policy and they can utilise that additional revenue to safeguard homes and businesses from further global fossil fuel price shocks.”

Solar Citizens is also calling for more government support for cost-cutting clean technology in the household, like rooftop solar and battery storage, particularly for renters and those living in social homes. 

“We know that rooftop solar provides the cheapest possible electricity to customers, but right now there are very limited state government incentives in place to help more households access affordable solar energy," said Ms Gray.

“In the ACT the State Government is offering no-interest loans to help households reduce their emissions and electricity prices at the same time by investing in solar, battery storage, energy efficiency upgrades and efficient electric appliances. 

“With global coal and gas prices likely to stay high for some time to come, it’s imperative that households be given access to the technology solutions that will provide long-term savings.

“This is a key moment to also provide targeted support to help the third of Australians who rent or live in social housing to access solar energy and energy efficiency upgrades.

“We can make our energy system fairer and bring down power bills for some of the most vulnerable in the community by providing solar for rental rebates and implementing minimum energy efficiency standards for existing rental properties.”

[ENDS]

Media contact: Stephanie Gray 042554006

Key to Affordable Energy Prices Being Overlooked

15 March 2022: Key to Affordable Energy Prices Being Overlooked

Solar Citizens is this morning calling for more government support for cost-cutting clean technology, like household solar and battery storage, in response to the Australian Energy Regulator’s draft Default Market Offer. 

The new guideline for electricity prices shows that households are set to be slugged with increases between 20-30 per cent over the coming financial year. 

“Power bills are spiralling out of control in NSW, but so far neither major political party has announced the policy solutions needed to equitably bring down power bills in the long term,” said Heidi Lee Douglas, National Director of Solar Citizens. 

“We know that rooftop solar provides the cheapest possible electricity to customers, but right now there are very limited state government incentives in place to help more households access affordable solar energy.

“In the ACT the State Government is offering no-interest loans to help households reduce their emissions and electricity prices at the same time by investing in solar, battery storage, energy efficiency upgrades and efficient electric appliances. 

“With global coal and gas prices likely to stay high for some time to come, it’s imperative that households be given access to the technology solutions that will provide long-term savings.

“This is a key moment to also provide targeted support to help the third of Australians who rent or live in social housing to access solar energy and energy efficiency upgrades.

“We can make our energy system fairer and bring down power bills for some of the most vulnerable in the community by providing solar for rental rebates and implementing minimum energy efficiency standards for existing rental properties.”

[ENDS]

Media contact:

Heidi Lee Douglas, National Director (0401 092 570)

CopperString 2.0 Announcement Major Win for North Queensland

7 March 2023: CopperString 2.0 Announcement Major Win for North Queensland

Community campaigning organisation Solar Citizens today celebrates the Queensland Government’s announcement that they will build the CopperString 2.0 transmission line and unlock a staggering 6,000MW of renewable energy resources. 

“We’ve been campaigning for grid upgrades in north west Queensland for years now because the region has some of the country’s best co-located solar and wind resources that can be turned into abundant, cheap electricity for Queenslanders,” said Stephanie Gray, Deputy Director of Solar Citizens. 

“The CopperString 2.0 transmission line will unlock North Queensland’s world-class renewable resources and provide cheap electricity to emerging manufacturing industries in Townsville and existing heavy industry in Mount Isa.

“Right now industries in Mount Isa are struggling because they have to rely on expensive gas-fired power. An injection of cheap and clean energy is just what the doctor ordered to ensure Queensland’s industry can remain globally competitive.

“Today’s announcement is a big win for the North Queensland community as well as industry. Unlocking 6,000 MW of new renewable capacity is the equivalent of doubling the existing large-scale solar and wind farms in Queensland.

“This flood of new renewable energy potential is just what the region needs to underpin proposed local renewable hydrogen, mineral processing and manufacturing projects.

“It’s also great to see the Queensland Government demonstrating their commitment to keeping energy assets in public hands. In other states we’re seeing privatised network companies making a mint from consumers.”

[ENDS]

Media contact: Stephanie Gray 0425543006

‘Sun Tax’ to Hit Solar Customers in NSW and ACT

24 February 2023: ‘Sun Tax’ to Hit Solar Customers in NSW and ACT

Distribution network companies in New South Wales and the ACT are moving forward with plans to charge solar owners for feeding electricity into the grid during the middle of the day.

Proposals by Ausgrid, Essential Energy, Endeavour Energy and Evoenergy recently released by the Australian Energy Regulator (AER) show the companies plan to introduce charges ranging from 0.94 c/KWh to 3.6c/KWh for solar homes that export above limits set by each network.

Consumer group Solar Citizens opposes the charges, stating the ‘sun tax’ would likely increase electricity bills for homes and businesses with solar systems larger than 3 kW. They estimate the initial charges could amount to bill increases of more than $30 dollars per year for a household with a 5kW solar system.

“Before enforcing any extra charges, the network companies are meant to prove to the Australian Energy Regulator that charging solar owners is necessary to address grid congestion. But in the applications just released, their arguments have more holes than swiss cheese,” said Stephanie Gray, Deputy Director of Solar Citizens.

“Ausgrid’s own data shows that the vast majority of their network can accommodate more rooftop solar, but they want to start slugging people now because by the end of the decade there might be grid issues that arise. That’s not good enough.

“An extra $30 per year might not sound like much, but that’s just the starting point. These charges are likely to go up over time and for many families and businesses struggling with the rising cost of living it’s the last thing they need.”

In 2021, the Australian Energy Market Commission (AEMC) changed the electricity laws so that network companies could charge solar customers for feeding electricity to the grid. Under the new rules solar owners can face charges if they export more than the limit set by their network. In the new proposals the distribution network providers are also offering a reward if people can export in the late afternoon.

“The network companies pushed for the ability to charge solar owners in the name of fairness for customers without solar, but Ausgrid’s own documents show that non-solar customers will only be about $1 better off per year after these charges come into effect,” said Ms Gray.

“The other justification for these charges is to encourage solar owners to use more electricity during the day and export solar in the evening. But how many working families will be able to shift their main electricity use to the middle of the day and afford a battery so they can export at night? 

“The State Government had an opportunity to stop these charges from being implemented and they sat on their hands. Now it falls to the Australian Energy Regulator to clamp down on these unfair charges before they see the light of day.

“The NSW Government may have been slow to act, but there’s still time for them to act in the face of a worsening cost of living crisis. We’re calling on them and the Labor Opposition to support the rollout of battery storage to alleviate any grid issues and help solar households protect themselves from getting slugged.”

 

Summary of charges by NSW Distributed Network Service Providers

Distributed Network Service Providers are trying to introduce a solar export charge alongside price signals encouraging solar customers to export power in the evening. 

Their justification for this is firstly to encourage battery update to alleviate grid stress that’s emerging in some areas during the middle of the day. However, as can be seen below the ‘rewards’ for exporting at night are too small to encourage battery uptake as it would still be more economical for battery owners to use their own stored power and save on electricity tariffs. 

Secondly, these charges are being implemented in the name of fairness for non-solar customers, but as mentioned above the financial benefits to non-solar customers are insignificant. 

 

Distributor

Basic Export Level (BEL)

Charging Windows

Export charge and rewards

Evoenergy

5 kW basic export level., i.e., all exports above 5 kW in a single hour will be subject to an export charge.

Export charge window applies only to exports above 5 kW, measured hourly between 11am and 3pm

Export reward applies to all energy exported between 5pm-8pm daily. 

Export charge of 1.642 c/kW to apply only to exports above 5kW between 11am-3pm

Export reward of 4.926 c/kWh

Ausgrid

2500kWh / year. Applied in retailer billing as 6.85 kWh per number of days in the billing period. 

Export charge applies only to energy exported between 10am – 3pm that exceeds the BEL for the billing period. 

Export reward applies to all energy exported between 4pm-9pm daily.



Export charge: 1.18c/kWh

Export reward: 2.19 c/kWh

Endeavour Energy 

2kW / month

Export charge window: 10am – 2pm

Export reward window (seasonal): 4pm-8pm



Export charge: 3.6 c/kW 

Export reward: 11.03 c/kWh 

Export reward: 3.336 c/kWh 

Essential Energy 

1.5kW / month 

Export charge window: 10am – 3pm

Export reward window: 5pm-8pm



Export charge: 0.94 c/KWh

Residential Export reward: 13.67 c/kWH

NSW Clean Energy Race Kicks Off

Solar Citizens has welcomed election commitments from the NSW Government and Opposition that support accelerated rollout of grid infrastructure, renewable energy and storage which create space for more ambitious announcements to come. 

“The announcements, from both major parties, are acknowledgement of the need for investment enabling more affordable renewable energy, but much more needs to be done to ensure the benefits reach those who need it most.” said Joel Pringle, National Consumer Advocate Campaigner at Solar Citizens.

2,600 NQ Jobs Stalled by Grid Needs

20 February 2023: 2,600 NQ Jobs Stalled by Grid Needs

Three major renewable energy projects touted for North West Queensland cannot proceed until major grid upgrades take place, stalling 2,600 clean energy jobs and 2,800 MW of new wind generation. 

According to campaigning organisation Solar Citizens, the three major wind projects, Mount James, Prairie and Wongalee wind farms, will require the Townsville to Hughenden transmission upgrade to proceed – a grid project not slated until 2035 in Queensland's Energy and Jobs Plan.

“There’s a lot of excitement, and rightly so, about North West Queensland’s clean energy potential. The region around Hughenden has some of the country’s best co-located solar and wind resources, but currently the State Government’s timeline for unlocking this potential is still more than a decade away,” said Stephanie Gray, Deputy Director of Solar Citizens. 

“What’s unique about the region is that it gets more than 300 days a year of sunshine and a wind resource that tends to blow at night, providing around the clock affordable energy.”

The proposed Renewable Energy Zone in North West Queensland, called the ‘North Queensland Clean Energy Hub’ by the Australian Energy Market Operator, is planned to be one of the last to be developed in the State. This is despite the zone having a staggering 26,600 MW of potential – more than the entire electricity generation currently operating in Queensland.

“North Queensland could be a key powerhouse for the whole state. That’s why it’s so disappointing that the vital grid investment needed to unlock the North's potential, including massive employment and economic potential, is the last grid project planned in Queensland’s Energy and Jobs Plan,” said Ms Gray. 

“The State Government’s recent announcement of a $75 million critical mineral processing facility follows several private proposals to produce renewable hydrogen and battery materials locally. But if the region is going to become a hub for renewable hydrogen and clean manufacturing then we need to be connected to abundant cheap and clean energy.

“We’d like to see the Queensland Government be visionary about turning North Queensland into a hub for clean industry and manufacturing. The full potential of the north won’t be unlocked until they bring forward the build of this key grid infrastructure.

“It’s also imperative that existing industry and mining in Mount Isa can access affordable renewable energy to stay globally competitive. Right now they are relying on gas generation and facing crippling electricity prices. That’s why transmission projects, like CopperString, will be vital to underpin long-term economic prosperity right across the North.” 

A recent report by Solar Citizens and the Queensland Conservation Council found that large-scale solar, wind and storage projects across the Sunshine State brought wholesale power costs down by $25/MWh in 2022, equivalent to nearly $100 per household. The groups say that further renewable energy investment would have brought costs down by more than $500 per household.

[ENDS]

Media contact: Stephanie Gray 0425 543 006

Ballarat backs Fuel Efficiency Standards and EVs

10th February 2023: Ballarat backs Fuel Efficiency Standards and EVs

A clear majority of Ballarat residents say the government should assist electric vehicle (EV) uptake through better Fuel Efficiency Standards, as 81 per cent of local residents said they were concerned about rising petrol prices. Some 45 per cent of Ballarat locals would consider an EV for their next car - a number which jumped to 60 per cent if more affordable EVs arrive in Australia.

The poll of a representative sample of more than 800 Ballarat residents was conducted by UComms and comes as petrol prices heavily impact the cost of living, after almost two consecutive years of fuel price rises. Eighty-one per cent of people polled said they were concerned about rising petrol prices, especially men (85%). 

“Regional Australians are really feeling the pain at the petrol pump – we have to fork out more cash when we fill up, because we have to drive longer distances, and petrol and diesel are more expensive than in the city,” said Ben Lever, Ballarat local and Regional Clean Transport Organiser at Solar Citizens.

Of the people polled, 45 per cent would consider buying an electric vehicle as their next car, but this number rose to 60 per cent if there were affordable models on the market. By far the biggest barrier for Ballarat locals when considering electric cars was purchase price (42.3%), especially for young people aged 18-34 (48.7%).

“One of the big barriers stopping more Australians from investing in an EV is the huge price tag – you still can’t buy a new EV in Australia for less than $40,000, and the second-hand ones are snatched up quickly. We simply need more affordable models, and stronger Fuel Efficiency Standards will mean more affordable EVs come to Australia,” said Lever.

63 per cent of the people polled agreed that the Federal Government should be doing more to tackle low EV uptake, and 63 per cent agreed that we need to implement Fuel Efficiency Standards that at least match the ambition of our major trading partners.

“The data is telling us that the Federal Government has the mandate to catch up to the rest of the world with a practical Fuel Efficiency Standard to drive down petrol bills, and give Australians real choices when they’re buying. This would include affordable cars and utes that are already available overseas,” said Lever.

“Our trading partners have access to these vehicles because they have strong Fuel Efficiency Standards – Australia’s weak Standards mean we miss out. And because we spend so much on fuel, it’s regional Australians that would benefit the most from fixing this gap.”

[ENDS]

Full polling results:

  • 81.7% of those polled are somewhat concerned or very concerned about rising petrol prices.
  • 45.4% of Ballarat locals would consider buying an electric vehicle as their next car, and only 1.7% already own an electric vehicle.
  • 59.6% of Ballarat locals would consider an electric vehicle if there were affordable models on the market.
  • The biggest barrier for Ballarat locals when considering electric cars was overwhelmingly purchase price (42.3%), in particular for young people aged 18-34 (48.7%)
  • A majority (63.3%) of Ballarat locals think it’s important for the Federal Government should introduce policies, infrastructure and industry that assist people to buy and drive electric vehicles in this term of government.
  • 63.2% of Ballarat locals agree that any Fuel Efficiency Standard implemented by the Federal Government should be at least in line with our major trading partners, if not stronger. 

 

Media Contact: Ben Lever, Regional Clean Transport Organiser, [email protected]

Queensland’s solar and wind slashed $100 off power bills

 7 February 2023: Queensland’s solar and wind slashed $100 off power bills

Fast-tracking Queensland’s rollout of renewable energy and making clean technology available to more Queenslanders would create 27,200 new jobs and bring down electricity bills for consumers, according to a new report by Solar Citizens and the Queensland Conservation Council. 

The report titled, Five Ways to Improve Queensland’s Energy and Jobs Plan, found that large-scale solar, wind and storage projects across the Sunshine State brought wholesale power costs down by $25/MWh in 2022, equivalent to nearly $100 per household. The groups say that further renewable energy investment would have brought down costs by more than $500 per household.

“High global fossil fuel prices and breakdowns at ageing coal plants have sent our electricity bills spiralling out of control, especially in coal reliant states like Queensland,” said Clare Silcock, Energy Strategist at the Queensland Conservation Council. 

“Our analysis shows that our large-scale renewable energy projects are already reducing power bills for Queenslanders, but to maximise the benefits we should be bringing online more clean energy projects as soon as possible.”

The groups are calling on the Queensland Government to build another 2,500 MW of new large-scale renewable energy and storage projects by 2025 on top of the nearly 4,000 MW already in the pipeline. They’re also calling for government investment in household clean technology, such as rooftop solar, energy efficiency upgrades and household battery storage, in an effort to help vulnerable Queenslanders manage their energy bills. 

“The best way to protect yourself from inflated global coal and gas prices is to produce your own solar electricity straight from your rooftop,” said Stephanie Gray, Deputy Director at Solar Citizens. 

“Queenslanders are world leaders in the uptake of rooftop solar. It’s now time for the State Government to support Queensland’s 900,000 solar homes and businesses to take the next step towards energy independence by helping them invest in battery storage and more efficient electric appliances. 

“It’s also imperative that the third of Queenslanders who rent or live in social housing are supported to access cheap solar energy. Recent polling of 2,000 Australians found that 71 per cent of people agree governments should do more to help this significant proportion of our community access affordable solar.

"Especially on hot summer days like we've been having, we need to make sure that everyone can afford to keep their homes at a healthy temperature and that means access to affordable energy."

Overall, the report suggests that the Queensland’s Energy and Jobs Plan could be improved with the following initiatives:

  1. Rollout more renewable energy and storage by 2025 to bring down power prices and improve reliability.

  2. Provide support for everyone to access cheap solar energy.

  3. Fast-track measures to help everyone save with household electrification. 

  4. Establish Renewable Energy Industrial Precincts in Townsville and Gladstone.

  5. Improve Energy Efficiency in Queensland’s Rentals.

[ENDS]

Media contacts:

Stephanie Gray 0425 543 006
Clare Silcock 0481 055 531

Full report available here.

Fuel Efficiency Standard crucial to saving regional fuel costs

3rd February, 2023: Fuel Efficiency Standard crucial to saving regional fuel costs 

Solar Citizens has today welcomed the publication of submissions to the government’s National Electric Vehicle Strategy, which Solar Citizens gathered over 600 detailed responses from its community to the submission process. Ben Lever, Solar Citizens’ Regional Clean Transport Organiser said this showed widespread community support for a strong Fuel Efficiency Standard, which is necessary to avoid a regional fuel crisis. 

“A strong Fuel Efficiency Standard is crucial to cutting skyrocketing transport costs for regional drivers. We know that spiking petrol prices have hit regional communities hard, at a time when the cost of living has risen across the board,” said Lever. 

“Regional communities are hit even harder than cities – we depend more on our cars, we drive longer distances, and we pay more at the pump than city drivers. If the government doesn’t introduce a strong Fuel Efficiency Standard and catch up to our international peers, we’ll continue to pay the price at the fuel pump for years to come. 

“Australia’s lack of Fuel Efficiency Standards means we’ve been left with fuel-guzzling models that can’t be sold overseas, and denied zero-emissions vehicles that are becoming the norm overseas. 

“A strong Fuel Efficiency Standard would mean more efficient petrol and diesel vehicles in the short term, while turbocharging the rollout of electric vehicles by increasing the availability of a variety of models, including affordable cars and those popular in the regions—like utes—that are already available overseas. 

“Australia’s weak policies mean we’re a low priority for car makers, so we don’t get the range of models that are offered overseas – and for the models we do get, our allocations sell out within hours.

“It’s about time we caught up with our international peers and implemented a Fuel Efficiency Standard that’s ambitious, has integrity, and ensures all Aussies get a fair go. And we’ve really got to get cracking if we want to see some of the same pragmatic cost savings they’re already seeing in countries like New Zealand.” 

[ENDS]

MEDIA ENQUIRIES: Ben Lever, Regional Clean Transport Organiser, [email protected] 

Quick facts: 

  • Fuel Efficiency Standards require car makers to sell cars and utes that meet a limit for CO2 emissions (calculated as an average across all the cars they sell) 
  • In 2019, the average Australian car emitted 169.3g/km 
  • The European Union’s Fuel Efficiency Standards started in 2009, and are now at 95g/km
  • Australia needs to match the EU standards or we’ll be at the back of the queue for EVs 
  • Experts agree that robust standards that tighten to 0g/km by 2035 at the latest are crucial for meeting Net Zero targets 
  • Solar Citizens recommends a Standard that commences no later than 1st Jan 2024, and starts at 95g CO2/km