Rooftop Solar Owners May Be Charged For Exporting Power to Grid

Australian rooftop solar owners could be charged for exporting power to the wider grid, under new rules being proposed by the Australian Energy Market Commission (AEMC). 

The AEMC says that the current electricity market is struggling to adapt to wider industry changes, as rooftop solar adds more electricity to the grid. 

The AEMC’s Chief Executive, Ben Barr says that the result is “traffic jams” inside the grid as it struggles to deal with surplus power provided by rooftop solar feeding into the grid. 

The statistics are extremely telling, with more than 20 per cent of Australians at least partly meeting their electricity needs with solar power, up from just 0.2% in 2007. 

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The result of this additional solar generation, according to the AEMC, is putting the grid under extreme pressure, and the commission is advocating for charges to be passed on to rooftop solar owners. 

“The poles and wires businesses were set up to get electricity from a big generator, like a coal plant or a gas plant, down those wires and into your house,” the AEMC’s Chief Executive, Ben Barr said. 

“That change we’ve seen over the last 10, 15 years is a two-way flow… now power is not just going to your house, but the power is coming from your house. The system hasn’t been set up to deal with that,” he said. 

These traffic jams have forced power providers to stop homes exporting solar energy back to the grid increasingly often. 

“What that means is it’s not really an equitable system at the moment,” Mr Barr added. 

The AEMC has presented a number of draft changes to the current energy landscape, including the removal of a ban that charges households from exporting energy back into the grid. 

“Introducing this flexibility should benefit the 80 per cent of consumers who don’t have solar PV on their roof. We’ve modeled that there’s a small reduction in their bills if this comes in,” he added. 

The AEMC predicts that the average Australian household would save $25 annually on their energy bills under their drafted rules. On the flipside of the equation, owners of household solar panels would see their bills increase by around $70. 

Rooftop Solar Owners May Be Charged For Exporting Power to Grid

“For a medium-sized system, we’re still modelling you’ll have a $900 return per year and a small reduction of $70,” Barr said.

For a larger system that pockets a homeowner $1,200 a year from their solar system, this would result in a $100 cut to their earnings, and those with small 2-4kW systems would lose around $30 a year.

Mr Barr continued to explain that “we want to provide the most efficient way of integrating (solar power) so everyone benefits and we can decarbonise the sector as quickly as possible.” 

The AEMC says that without major changes to the grid, large-scale blackouts could be possible as it struggles to deal with the energy mix. 

According to a report from The ABC, “households without solar could be unfairly burdened with the cost of augmenting power networks to cope with the increase of new panels, which was already placing a strain on the network in states with heavy solar penetration such as South Australia.” 

In response to the draft changes, Solar Citizens has made a submission saying that an additional fee on solar panels is not justified.

“It is inequitable to charge solar owners when generators in the transmission network are not charged for accessing the network,” their statement read. 

The draft changes are currently under public consideration until the 13th of May, with a decision expected to be made by June. 

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