The Independent Pricing and Regulatory Tribunal (IPART) has released an issues paper in relation to New South Wales’ solar feed in tariff and is inviting public comment.
IPART is to review and recommend a “fair and reasonable value” for the electricity generated by small-scale solar power systems and exported to the grid, consistent with the Council of Australian Government (COAG) principles for feed-in tariffs.
The recommendations will apply to solar connections not covered under the New South Wales Solar Bonus Scheme, which was permanently closed in May this year; resulting in an immediate and massive negative impact on the state’s home solar power industry. However, the NSW Government said it would allow all new home solar power system connections in the state to occur on the basis of net metering; pending IPART’s review.
IPART has also been charged with the task of establishing how the value for solar electricity it determines should be implemented in NSW – for example, whether it should be used to set a minimum feed-in tariff rate that all retailers must pay for the electricity generated by solar panels their customers export to the grid, or a benchmark price retailers and electricity customers can use as a guide in negotiating a price for this power.
The body says it will also determine the impact of small scale rooftop solar panels, if any, on the costs of distribution networks in order to make recommendations as to whether comprehensive network system modelling is warranted.
IPART invites written comment on the paper, which can be viewed in full here (PDF), and encourages all interested parties to provide submissions addressing the matters discussed by 12 September 2011
While the review has been welcomed by the solar industry, the time it will take to complete has caused great concern. According to Australian Solar Energy Society (AuSES) Chief Executive John Grimes, a solar policy may not be announced until April 2012.
“We simply won’t have an industry by April 2012. We will struggle to save the industry in coming weeks let alone a year,” said Mr. Grimes last week.
According to national solar solutions provider Energy Matters, power bills rose by a staggering 17 per cent in July in NSW and further increases of between 2 and 10 per cent are expected within the next 12 months; meaning installing a solar power system in NSW still a wise investment.