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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.”

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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.

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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


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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. 

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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