THURSDAY 04 MARCH, 2010 |
Electricity Retailers Undermining Australia's Solar Power Future?
Through feedback from clients, national solar solutions provider Energy
has been made aware some Australian electricity retailers appear to
be making it extremely difficult for people to fully benefit from solar
feed in tariff
Solar feed in tariff schemes are in operation in most Australian states and pay owners of solar
a premium rate for the electricity they produce.
Meter installations and associated issues commonly feature in the complaints,
but Energy Matters states they have also been informed of situations where the
feed in tariff program is "opt in" and contracts need to be signed
before the customer will benefit from the premium payment. This isn't a problem
in itself, but the electricity retailers involved are reportedly not informing
solar customers of this process; and in some cases, not back-dating payments
once the contracts are signed.
Other issues being reported include the loss of off-peak rates in order to
access the feed in tariff and customers then being switched to a high flat rate
for any electricity they do consume.
While increased electricity costs and loss
of off-peak rates is inevitable
for all Australian electricity consumers as
the nation updates electricity infrastructure and moves to a low carbon
electricity generation future, affected customers feel the new rate they are
being charged is exorbitant compared to other customers. One customer reported
being charged a flat rate of 23.6c per kilowatt hour after signing up for the
feed in tariff program.
According to Energy Matters co-founder Max Sylvester, "Affected people are
understandably very angry. They feel they are being unfairly penalised by these
companies for making a positive contribution to reducing Australia's greenhouse
gas emissions and the increased electricity cost means a slower return on their
solar power investment. As news of this spreads, it will negatively impact on
the reputation of electricity retailers allegedly involved, but the collateral
damage includes the solar power industry as these issues potentially discourage people from installing solar power."
As for who the culprits are, Mr Sylvester says, "We're not going to name
names, the companies allegedly involved will know who they are and affected
householders are naming the companies through online posts, such as those now
appearing on our community forums
We understand electricity retailers need to make a profit, but if what is being
reported by some members of our online community is correct, these companies are undermining government efforts to encourage uptake of business and residential
solar power systems."
"We suspect the relevant state government departments responsible for
overseeing these incentive programs won't be impressed when news of these
activities starts filtering through. We're hoping they will step in soon and
investigate if the retailers don't rectify the situation themselves."
Mr Sylvester offers the following advice for people installing solar power and
wanting to access feed in tariffs. "Shop around for solar friendly
electricity retailers - they are out there. Talk to your own electricity company
and if you feel what they offer is unfair, tell them so. Submit complaints to
their appropriate departments and to your state Energy Ombudsman. Then show your
electricity company how strongly you feel by making the switch to a company that will fully support your contribution towards Australia's
clean energy future. If enough people do this and if they air their grievances
publicly in a reasonable fashion and through the correct channels, at some stage
we hope the retailers will get the message."
Other news for Thursday 04 March, 2010
Return to main renewable energy news section
Other Energy Matters News Services