Solar Homes to Bear Brunt of Energy Policy Failings - Solar Citizens

Solar Homes to Bear Brunt of Energy Policy Failings

I was furious when I read the headlines that the Australian Energy Market Commission (AEMC) is going to let homes with solar panels be charged for feeding excess energy into the grid. 

I’m just about to install solar for the first time. After years of renting and saving to buy a home, my partner and I were so excited to win an auction for our first home just over a month ago. Even though we haven’t moved in yet, we’ve already lined up quotes from different solar providers because organising the solar installation was the first thing on our home improvement list. 

The AEMC’s decision is a kick in the guts and already we’re considering opting for a smaller system size to avoid getting charged for producing clean and affordable energy for our neighbours. This means that my neighbours will miss out on the cheapest electricity in Australia – solar from rooftop panels.

There are 2.8 million Australian solar homes and businesses with solar panels on the roof. This decision will literally hurt the hip pocket of millions of Aussies who already have solar, plus the many more like me who are champing at the bit to join the rooftop revolution. 

As a federal body, the AEMC’s ruling represents another failing of the federal government to plan for the inevitable shift to a renewables-dominated electricity system. The AEMC’s rule change, also known as the ‘sun tax’, could be avoided with the right government investments.

To decarbonise Australia’s economy and transport system, experts suggest we need to produce about three times more electricity than we generate now. To achieve this we shouldn’t view abundant and cheap solar energy in the middle of the day as a curse: it’s a blessing.

We should be using solar electricity to charge electric transport, produce renewable hydrogen for export, or store it in batteries or pumped hydro to use at night. But the Australian government, and particularly Energy Minister Angus Taylor, have let down Australians by failing to support the rollout of electric vehicles and battery storage. 

This comes as another federal body, the Energy Security Board (ESB), is proposing a reliability capacity market that would see consumers effectively pay to keep coal-fired power stations running even if they aren’t producing any electricity. 

For a government that touts ‘technology not taxes’ the Morrison government sure like to slug Australian households to keep fossil fuel generators, like big coal and gas companies, operating for longer. 

I don’t want to install a smaller solar system, but Angus Taylor’s policy failings are giving me little choice. 

This post was written by Solar Citizens' Energy Strategist Stephanie Gray and originally published in the Canberra Times