Electricity industry must open its eyes to benefits of homes installing solar panels

By Rob Stokes

Read more: http://www.smh.com.au/comment/electricity-industry-must-open-its-eyes-to-benefits-of-homes-installing-solar-panels-20131027-2w9kh.html#ixzz2iyOeGi64

 

'Solar panels have moved from being a fringe technology to a disruptive technology, challenging the way energy businesses operate.'‘Solar panels have moved from being a fringe technology to a disruptive  technology, challenging the way energy businesses operate.’ Photo: Emma  Kelly

Solar panels are revolutionising the Australian electricity market.  The pace  of change is faster than official projections, and the effects  on customers and  energy companies are profound and irreversible.

Australian homes and businesses have installed almost three gigawatts of  rooftop solar photovoltaics  –   one of the highest rates  in the world.

Solar  panels have moved from being a fringe technology to a disruptive  technology,  challenging the way energy businesses operate.  As with every  revolution, the solar  revolution is facing a reactionary response by the  established order.

Last week the body charged with the development and maintenance of the   national electricity market, the Australian Energy Market Commission,  set out  its   priorities for  developing  the electricity market.

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One sentence in the report grabbed my attention in particular: “Stakeholders  are concerned that network costs of consumers with solar  are cross-subsidised  by other consumers, due to current inefficiencies in network tariffs.”

In other words, energy companies want households with solar panels to pay  more to access the electricity grid than customers without solar.  The idea is  that because  electricity pricing reflects the total volume of energy taken from  the grid, households generating some  energy are not paying their fair share of  the cost of being connected to the network, and should therefore compensate  those who buy more electricity.

This is a really bad idea. First, it is  unfair.  In  the past few years,  more than 1 million  households have installed solar panels on the understanding  that they would pay the same amount for  electricity they buy as everyone  else.

Second, it is discriminatory.   Solar panel users are not the only  electricity customers having  an impact on the electricity grid.  The  installation of cheap, imported airconditioning units in hundreds of thousands  of households in recent years is a big contributor to the rise  in capital  spending by networks to enable them to meet peak demand.

However, I cannot imagine  anyone seriously arguing that households with  airconditioners should pay more network costs than other customers.

So, why is solar energy  being targeted?  Perhaps because solar-powered   households buy less electricity than non-solar households with  airconditioning?

While solar  might disrupt the way in which the electricity grid operates,  rooftop solar in the right locations can actually help to defray network  upgrades by supplying energy in constrained areas of the grid to meet demand  spikes.  The hot, sunny weather that induces people to buy airconditioning also  generates lots of  photovoltaic electricity.

A strategic approach to solar panels  can lessen  the need to bolster  the   grid, the main contributor to higher  electricity prices.

Finally, the idea of slugging solar households for extra network costs is bad  politics. Already 1 million households have solar  panels and the  government  plans to support installation  for another  million.

Rather than seeking to target and penalise households that are taking  advantage of renewable energy technology to lower  their bills and environmental  impact, it is time for energy businesses to change their thinking to embrace  innovation,  rather than thinking up ways to stop it.

Dr Rob Stokes is the NSW parliamentary secretary for renewable  energy and energy innovation. He does not own solar panels, or an  airconditioning unit.

Read more: http://www.smh.com.au/comment/electricity-industry-must-open-its-eyes-to-benefits-of-homes-installing-solar-panels-20131027-2w9kh.html#ixzz2iyOLJQj9

 

Australians lead in fitting solar panels on homes

Australians lead in fitting solar panels on homes

Date : August 18, 2012
Ben Cubby

Ben Cubby

Environment Editor

Shining homes ... about 392,500 new household solar systems were switched on last year.Shining homes … about 392,500 new household solar systems were switched on last year. Photo: Quentin Jones

AUSTRALIANS put more household solar panel systems on their roofs than anyone else in the world last year, new data from the Clean Energy Regulator and the International Energy Agency show.

The statistic astonished many in the solar industry, given Australia’s small population compared with renewable energy market leaders such as European Union countries, China, Japan and the United States. About 392,500 new household solar systems were switched on last year.

Australia still generates far less solar electricity than those countries, but the nation’s preference for small, individual panels mounted on detached, owner-occupied suburban homes means a greater number of systems were actually installed.

”It took me by surprise that we were first, because Germany and Italy are so big,” said Ric Brazzale, the president of the REC Agents Association, a body representing traders and creators of renewable energy certificates.

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”Australian support for solar has had a lot of support at the residential level, and all political parties in the country have supported residential solar. Elsewhere in the world, most policy is geared towards much larger-scale commercial projects.”

Altogether, 785 megawatts of solar power was installed in Australia last year, virtually all in the form of small-scale panel systems on homes and businesses.

This meant Australia just scraped in ahead of Japan and Germany, which deployed about 759 megawatts of small-scale solar power – although that represents only about 10 per cent of total German solar production. Similarly, in other big solar nations such as the US and China, government incentives emphasise big solar power plants, and only a small proportion of renewable energy comes from household rooftop panels.

The end of generous state feed-in tariffs, such as the NSW Solar Bonus Scheme, had created a late rush to get panels on roofs, said Nigel Morris, the director of market analyst Solar Business Services. Mr Morris analysed the data, which was then scrutinised by others in the industry and found to be accurate, after cross-referencing with International Energy Agency figures for last year.

”In terms of total megawatts, Japan and Germany still beat us,” he said. ”In Australia you have a combination of factors, but especially the renewable energy certificate system that’s optimised for [rooftop solar] systems of 1.5 kilowatts. Our market is designed to favour small systems.”

Based on an average household size of 2.5 people, nearly 4 million Australians now live in a house or work in a business with solar panels on its roof.

The amount of electricity generated by rooftop panels has increased almost tenfold between 2009 and 2011, and continues to grow despite rebates and tariffs being wound back.

Altogether, renewable energy made up about 7 per cent of Australia’s total electricity generation last year. Much of that came from hydroelectricity in the Snowy Mountains Scheme, the federal government’s most recent Energy in Australia report shows.

MIRZA JAMAL’s COMMENTS ::
I am always thinking of PAKISTAN. Also I think Pakistan needs FREE ELECTRICITY like we in Australia Sydney ALREADY do by THOUSANDS. Pak Government should authorise electrician FIRMS to learn, KEEP STANDARDS, and install solar panels on Lahore and Karachi etc ROOF TOPS. Presently NO PAKISTANI knows HOW or WHAT this can be done ! Again MY SHOW that RUINED EDUCATION SYSTEM of TECHNICAL SCHOOLS has produced low and third class ELECTRICIANS who are USELESS without extra training so electricians can INSTAL PROPERLY FREE Solar SYSTEM. Its NOT mistry or CAR mechanic learning ! Its new TECHNOLOGY and again shows even WHEN LPG came to Pakistan ZIA ul HAQ’s GOVERNMENT totally ignore car LPG Technology as long as he the GENERAL lived LPG was nothing in Pakistan. Remember motorcycle Crash Helmet FRAUD ?