Feed-in charges?! No way! The Australian Energy Market Commission (AEMC) today released a draft determination on how to integrate more small-scale solar into the electricity grid. The paper addresses the problem of ‘traffic jams’ on the network, caused by small-scale solar feeding into a grid infrastructure which was designed when power only needed to flow one way.
Here’s the interview with AEMC chief executive Ben Barr on ABC News this morning.
The draft determination suggests rooftop solar owners might be charged to export the solar power they generate in excess of what they use to the grid. In other words, instead of a feed-in tariff, a feed-in charge. The Sydney Morning Herald calls the proposal ‘controversial’.
What does this mean for rooftop solar owners? Ann-Charlott, team leader of our Solar My House program (well-informed but, she notes, ‘not an expert’), has been following the developments. Here are her thoughts:
This issue is most relevant for states like SA that have a high penetration of solar. It is less relevant to NSW and especially our Ausgrid area. As we know, the rate of rooftop solar installation for Mosman is 5 to 6% of houses, and around 14% on Northern Beaches, well below the national average and much below SA.
Traffic jam busters
- Big batteries like the Tesla battery in SA
- Community batteries (like the one on trial in Beacon Hill)
- Virtual power plants (VPPs) – many are already on trial
- Changing energy peak usage by educating households to run appliances or charge electric cars during peak solar generation.
The bottom line
- If the AEMC brings in feed-in charging it will not be happening any time soon. The determination is a discussion paper, and the AEMC is asking for feedback, with submissions due by May 31.
Meanwhile, the transition to renewable energy in Australia is happening, so the existing infrastructure – the poles and wires – will need to adapt to accommodate new technologies. The feed-in tariff is always liable to change — up, down, different pricings at different times — but the savings you get from all that free solar power from your roof remain.