South Australia Solar Feed In Tariff Debate Continues

Sky Image: BigStock

The Australian Greens have developed an alternative proposal to the South Australian Government’s planned feed in tariff revisions they say will help ensure a viable solar industry in South Australia and allow an additional 40,000 households in the state make the switch to solar power.

The South Australian Government has tabled legislation to increase the amount paid to solar households under its feed in tariff program from 44c/kWh to 54c/kWh. Additionally,  electricity retailers would also be obligated to pay solar power system owners a rate of around 6c/kWh; which would increase over time. However, the scheme would close to new applications from October 1st 2011.

While the rate boost would no doubt be welcome by households with solar panels, South Australia’s solar industry and the Greens have expressed concerns the legislation as it stands will create another boom-bust cycle; causing a rush on installations up until the end of September, but then making solar power unaffordable for the following few years and consequently causing 1,500 job losses in the industry.

After consultation with South Australia’s solar industry, consumers and the social welfare sector, the Greens have developed an alternative model that won’t lock out new applicants after October 1, will keep solar affordable and provide reasonable payback time, while delivering savings of $70 million compared to the Government’s plan.

The Greens have proposed the 54c/kWh will include the retailer contribution. The money saved can then be used to fund a less generous feed-in scheme for new applicants for the 4 years beginning October 1; enabling an additional 40,000 households to participate in the scheme and saving jobs.

The proposal also recommends excluding concession card holders from paying the cost of the solar-feed-in scheme and boosting  the amount retailers pay for the electricity they receive. The Greens’ amendments also makes it clear that an electricity retailer cannot refuse to allow a solar household to connect through the retailer to the grid; and households choosing to add extra panels at a later date can still receive the retailer contribution.

On Tuesday, the Opposition suggested that the Government’s Bill, the Greens’ alternative proposal and modelling, and any other worthwhile alternative models should be referred to the Essential Services Commission of South Australia (ESCOSA) for independent analysis; to which the Government has agreed. It’s understood a meeting with ESCOSA will occur on Friday.