Big Energy Attacks Aussie Solar Households

An article published in the Sydney Morning Herald has raised the hackles of small scale solar panel system owners and solar businesses in Australia.

The article states new research by the Energy Supply Association of Australia (ESAA) shows solar owners are avoiding network charges of $340 million a year and “feed-in-tariff” schemes are adding $680 million a year; the costs of which are being met predominantly by non-solar households.

The ESAA, whose membership includes AGL, Origin, EnergyAustralia and other ‘Big Energy’ players, has not yet made the study publicly available from its web site. However, the SMH article fails to make mention of the many benefits and potential benefits of small scale solar to the wider community aside from a couple of lines toward the end of the article that really only just scratch the surface.

For example, late last month, the Centre for Policy Development released a study showing Australia’s rooftop solar power systems are saving between $300 million and $670 million each year in wholesale electricity costs; which could be reducing all household power bills if electricity retailers pass the savings on to consumers.

That Big Energy should make the claims it appears to be is no surprise – its outdated business model is in trouble and its failure to truly embrace the opportunity in small scale solar is now coming back to haunt it.

Australian households have invested over $2 billion of their hard earned cash in solar power systems; creating many jobs in the process and contributing to more robust energy infrastructure.

That solar is a plaything for the rich is a myth as many Aussie battlers have installed solar panels to save on rapidly increasing electricity bills; additional costs that have been attributed in part to the “gold plating” of electricity infrastructure.

Some of the millions of dollars families are collectively saving each day through installing solar panels are being redistributed throughout the community in other purchases; supporting a multitude of industries rather than just lining the pockets of Big Energy.

With feed in tariffs having achieved what they were designed to do – stimulate uptake – and now being reduced; Big Energy is sourcing premium, surplus clean power from solar households at bargain basement rates in some cases; which they then resell with substantial mark-up.

“It is no surprise that some of the big players in the traditional power industry are clutching at straws in media reports today to try and discourage the competition they are facing from the emerging solar industry,” said Clean Energy Council Deputy Chief Executive Kane Thornton.

“It is ridiculous to single out solar power users, who are only one part of a nationwide movement by consumers to take control of their power use and save on the cost of living.”

Mr. Thornton says what is needed now is sensible discussion about the changing energy market and more industry collaboration.