Plans by Queensland Premier Campbell Newman and Energy Minister Mark McArdle to whack solar households with higher electricity charges appear to have been scuttled.
On Friday, the Queensland Competition Authority (QCA) released its Final Determination on regulated retail electricity prices for 2013-14. A typical Queensland customer’s annual bill will increase from $1,184 to $1,451. However, it has not recommended an extra charge for solar users.
Prior to the QCA’s final determination, Premier Newman was pushing a proposal to charge all solar homes an extra $200 a year; even though the Government had promised in December last year that there would be no fixed charge of any sort on people using solar panels.
Queensland Energy Minister Mark McArdle also launched an attack on households with solar power systems, placing the blame for electricity price increases primarily on green schemes.
This has not been echoed by the QCA, which says the increases are being primarily driven by increases in network charges. The QCA also points out the freezing of electricity rates by the Newman Government in 2011/12 has resulted in a bigger jump now.
The Clean Energy Council has applauded the QCA for moving away from the proposal to levy an extra charge on solar power users, an issue the CEC had heavily lobbied on.
“The QCA’s rigorous and comprehensive analysis of power price rises in Queensland has made it clear that renewable energy was a much smaller contributor to electricity bills than most other factors,” said Clean Energy Council Chief Executive David Green.
Mr. Green pointed out when anyone installs an air-conditioner, it costs all electricity users an estimated $7000 to pay for network upgrades. He also addressed the myth that solar users were “rich”; stating Queensland’s solar hotspots were Bundaberg, Hervey Bay, Ipswich, Toowoomba and Beenleigh.
Even though the QCA has made it clear that network charges are the major culprit in upcoming electricity price rises, the Queensland Government’s demonising of solar has continued since the Final Determination was released.
Following the Queensland Competition Authority’s announcement; Solar Citizens, an advocacy group representing current and future solar users, has written to Premier Newman and Mark McArdle asking them to address a number of critical questions about what it says are Mr McArdle’s misleading statements on the impact of solar on energy costs in Queensland.
Spurred on by threats to solar households such as those recently issued by the Queensland Government, Solar Citizens is in a recruitment drive to bolster its numbers to ensure Australian solar users are well represented under a united front – and the group’s numbers are rapidly growing.
There are now over 300,000 solar users in Queensland, who have invested over $2.2 billion dollars of their own money into reducing their electricity costs and carbon emissions impact. The upcoming electricity rate increases will see that number grow.
According to national solar provider Energy Matters, a good quality 4kW solar power system installed in Brisbane can return a financial benefit of up to $1,960 a year. Energy Matters now also offers Queensland households a zero deposit payment plan option.