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Have solar households really sold out on their environmental goals?

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Last week, the head of the Queensland network operator Energex attracted some attention when he suggested that solar  households had lost sight of their environment agenda because were using more power from the main grid than those without solar.

What’s the point of solar, CEO Terry Effeney wondered out loud at a Brisbane business luncheon even on the future of electricity, if it wasn’t reducing demand and reducing the amount of coal-fired generation. And he used this graph (below) to illustrate his point.

energex solar

According to comments reported by The Guardian (and said to be a fair summary by the folk at Energex), Effeney said solar-powered households “don’t worry so much about their bill now [and] are actually using more electricity off the network on average than people who haven’t got solar [who] are still worried about their electricity”.

“Could we have imagined that that would have occurred, when the whole point of putting solar in was more about a green outcome?” Effeney was quoted as saying.

“What you’ve got now is it’s all about price … people who have solar are not worrying and are happy to leave their air-conditioning on and that’s really counter to what you were expecting to be a green agenda.”

But is that really a fair portrayal of what is going on in the electricity market and in solar homes and others? Many are not so sure. The actual graph is not in dispute, but the interpretation is.

One of the problems is that there are no direct comparisons … of, say, big families with a lot of energy use, using solar or not, and people who live in apartments, or pensioners, and using solar or not. And it doesn’t compare houses before they had solar and afterwards.

All these factors can influence what this data actually means, but let’s look at what we know.

The yellowish/green line shows consumption from the grid by non-solar households. It indicates a big fall over a five year period before flattening out.

Five years ago, there was a big difference between non solar and solar households. Now there has been a cross-over.  There could be several causes for this – the uptake of energy efficiency and “bill shock” in reaction to the soaring grid costs could have begun that fall.

It could also be that the biggest electricity users also took up solar. When you take out the biggest users, that reduces the average for the remainder. The fact that it is flattened now suggests that may be the remaining households have run out of ways to cut demand.

The blue line (solar households) is effectively the energy required from the grid for a customer with solar PV, that the solar can’t supply.

It also showed a big fall in demand from the grid, which could mean that more energy efficiency measures were used, and also that the size of the systems increased, from an average of 1.5kW to 4kW.

That meant that most daytime demand (which is around 1,500kWh a year) is supplied by solar. The 6,000kWh roughly equates to evening, night and early morning demand.

There is a further complication. Even those houses with more solar than they need have no incentive to move demand (such as pool pumps, air conditioning and other appliances) to the daytime when it could be supplied by their rooftop solar, because of the structure of the tariffs, particularly the 300,000 on the premium feed in tariff.

They get 44c/kWh for solar exported to the grid, and a lot less for imports. It is totally different to whether the solar households are helping reduce coal consumption. On Energex own evidence, they do, because they now account for 7.4 per cent of total demand.

The premium feed in tariff is a perverse incentive and one that would require some clever thinking to get around. A recent suggestion by the Quensland Productivity Commission to simply end them was dismissed straight away.

But there may be alternatives. Ergon Energy suggested a “buy out” of feed in tariffs – trying to find a way that did not penalise the solar households, but did align the tariffs and incentives that would provide benefits to all.

Shuttershock

Shuttershock

There are more questions. Why, for instance, do households now continue to put in larger solar systems than they need, and beyond their ability to self-consume, particularly with the new low tariffs of less than 6c/kWh.

The answer may be that they are preparing for battery storage, or for electrification and the dumping of gas hot water, or a combination of both.

There is no doubt that Energex finds itself at the cutting edge of the uptake of rooftop solar. In some areas, 40 per cent of its customers have solar.

It has more than 1,000MW of rooftop capacity and at its peak that could theoretically satisfy 20 per cent of demand at any one time (although South Australia and Western Australia are predicted to go to 100 per cent of demand at certain times within the next decade).

Over the year, it estimates that rooftop solar supplies 7.4 per cent of total demand in the network. That would be at the expense of gas and coal generation.

But solar is not going away. Neither is battery storage, despite Effeney’s attempts to talk that down and suggest that the uptake will be as slow as electric vehicles.

All the independent studies, and some internal ones, suggest that to survive into the future, network operators and other utilities, such as the retailers, need to engage with the consumer on the issue of solar and storage, not talk it down.

Battery storage is coming, whether Effeney likes it or not – and for the sake of his network and upgrade costs he really should be liking it. So he, like other heads of networks, should be seeing this as an opportunity rather than a threat.

And on that point, public messaging is critical. Most consumers are not going to fuss over a few percentage points on tariff this or that. They will just make a decision on whether they think that the energy utility is doing the right thing or not.  

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  • Edwin Humphries

    It could also be, like our household, that we have replaced gas heating and gas cooking with high efficiency electrical units, using 100% Green power, at a much lower overall emissions level.

    • dave southgate

      Likewise. We have replaced gas space heating, hot water and cooking with electrical appliances. Our main family car is now an EV. Our grid electricity consumption has increased but our overall energy consumption has decreased.

    • Barri Mundee

      We have replaced our gas cooktop with induction. We had to replace the gas cooktop anyway but the rising price of gas and our solar made the decision easy-despite the higher up-front cost of induction vs standard electric cooktop.

    • Ian

      We also got rid of gas heating and hot water….and now saving a bucket of money annually

    • wmh

      I am about to replace a gas hot water service and electric room heating with PV powered hot water storage, not batteries!
      Hot water stores 65kWh/m^3, about 2/3 that of lithium batteries but water and tank insulation are cheap – you only pay for the tank – batteries cost about $500/kWh.
      I expect to have 2 days of autonomy in June with two 400L tanks and a well insulated house.
      Heating is the largest part of domestic energy in the southern half of Australia.

      • Maurice Oldis

        you mean you recover the energy stored the hot water as home heating through hydronics for ex????

        • wmh

          Yes, thats it. I will be using standard wall mounted radiators and a tempering valve to bleed the hot (up to 90C) water into the system as needed. A small pump will send the water around continuously.
          The PV will be in a stand-alone system with a variable output voltage inverter (not grid-connect) and excess PV energy in summer will run the air-con.

          • solarguy

            See post above. Use PV to power to run A/C it’s cheaper and more effective, even in winter. Ask me how.

          • wmh

            With a favourable outside air temperature, heat pumps achieve a CoP of 3 or 4, but then you have the continous drone of the compressor and a mechanical system with a limited life.

          • solarguy

            Some A/C have a COP better than 4 and are quiet, Fujitsu and Daikin. Take it from me A/C IS THE BEST WAY AND CHEAPEST TO HEAT AIR. FORGET HYDRONIC WASTE OF MONEY. And it cools in summer too!

          • wmh

            Sure, but my grid tariff increases to 57c/kWh between 2pm and 8pm so I must have storage even if I am to use grid energy at the off-peak rate (12c/kWh). I also wish to run my heating from the sun.
            My point (see my previous posts) is that hot water storage is much cheaper than battery storage and also suits hydronic heating nicely.

          • solarguy

            Heating air uses a poofteenth of the power compared to heating water. Use good A/C split’s like a Daikin and invest in 30kwh BAE lead acid gel batteries. But then some can’t be told, can they. Sorry it’s for your own good.

          • nakedChimp

            In Europe, specially Germany people run a lot of floor-heating systems. We had an insulated 800L water tank and it did go up to 80-90 deg for running water (exchanger) and floor heating (direct, mixing cold water coming back from the radiators to set temps.. wall radiators where getting 60 deg C I think and the floor got around 30 deg C warm water). Heat source was NG.
            As long as your house is well insulated you’re better of than with batteries as it’s really cheaper and way more comfortable.

          • wmh

            Thank you for your reply. I would be interested to know what pressure the tank operated at and what brand it was.

          • nakedChimp

            No pressure, the system was vented to outside air as the water expands/shrinks and you don’t want burst radiators and stuff (today that’s done via rubber membrane in a small tank t oavoid corrosion/gas exchange, back then we didn’t had that). The water column was two storeys high and the water circulation was done by relatively small grundfoss pumps, one for the wall radiators and one for the floor heating.
            The tank was what was available at the time.. vertical standing, about 600/700 mm diameter and 2 m high I think, fully galvanized mild steel (wanted to get bigger, but the house was already built and more didn’t fit through the doors ;-). It was still going strong after 20 years in service when we left, had a styro-foam insulation of 150 mm all around.

            The wall radiators where only needed during the worst colds (-20 deg C outside).. for all else the floor heating was good enough (PE pipes, 15/20 mm dia layed/bound to the reinforcing mesh before pouring the concrete floor).
            It took half a day to get the temp moving if you let the house cool down, but you don’t do that.. you circulate the water and the temps don’t fluctuate much – very comfortable.
            An air heating system won’t work like that.. it will have a hard time to heat up a stone/concrete home designed with thermal mass in mind (insulation on the outside and internally a big thermal mass) which keep temp swings to a minimum, but needs some advanced HVAC system to avoid mildew growth if you’re not careful – naturally depending on geographical region your in.

            With current state of the art insulation and HVAC systems we would def omit the wall radiators if we were doing it again.
            Back when the floor heating came up.. building time was 15 years I think (so this is like 40 year old design), it was brand new were we where and the ‘experts’ where still on the fence if it is good for humans to get hotter feet than heads from heating.. LOL.

            If you get uncontrolled large amounts of heat into the rooms (i.e. summer sun through large windows) then you would need to pre-emptiv turn it down, some hours in advance to avoid overheating.. but besides that it’s pretty cosy all time round. So be aware of the ‘slow’ response times.

            https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Underfloor_heating

          • wmh

            Thank you for this information.

          • wmh

            The heat that must be supplied to the interior of a house on a cloudy winter’s day is the heat that is lost through the walls, windows etc plus the heat required to heat up incoming ventilation air. One may supply this heat in way one desires. For me it is convenient to supply it via hydronic (hot water) radiators directly fed from my energy storage.

          • Ian

            There is no grone from our Sanden heat pump, it is close to silent. Being so efficient It is npt on much anyway

      • solarguy

        You won’t store 65kwh of energy in 800lt of water old son. I sell SHW systems. Even if you had the correct amount of storage a hydronic system can use a lot of it in a very short time, especially floor heating as there can be a lot of waste. Time to do some more research yeh!

        • wmh

          I am operating the tanks between 90C and 34C and that gets me 54kWh which is enough for 2 days of autonomy. This is not a hot water service.

          • solarguy

            What are you heating the water with and what time of year are we talking about, what location?

          • wmh

            Standard 400L domestic electric water heaters running from PV via a VOV inverter.
            Location is Sydney, Australia, so heating is required during winter and bit of spring. Northerly aspect so there will be some solar gain.
            I expect to have a couple of extended rainy periods during each June when I will have to use grid power into the second element in each tank to tide me over. If climate change hits then I can always add another tank.

          • solarguy

            Look, just run A/C off your PV and get a battery system of around 15kwh. Don’t piss around storing energy in water. You will spend shit loads of money and be extremely disappointed.

          • wmh

            Please see my previous posts about the relative costs of battery and hot water storage systems.

  • Brad Schultz

    Another potential factor is that solar users may be motivated to disconnect from grid gas, transitioning energy use to electricity. As part of my own move away from fossil fuels, I had solar hot water installed (replacing an old gas storage system) and replaced by gas cooktops with electric. This increased me electricity consumption but decreased my energy use overall. This possibility is not captured in Terry Effeney’s analysis.

    • Roger Brown

      Same here , dumped my dead gas heater and replaced it with a solarhart anti frost model and 23 yrs later still going . Left my gas room heater in its box and use the A/C for heating . I have a 3kw solar panels and the .44 cent + .06 from Energex contract till 2028 .After 12 mths of NO BILLS , I had a Xmas Bonus of over $638.00.

  • howardpatr

    Terry Effeney’s extremely poorly researched rant is comparable to todays similarly puerile rant by the nations Treasurer, ScoMo, in defense of Negative Gearing.

    Little wonder Australia’s GHG emissions are increasing when the sort of intellect demonstrated by Effeney and ScoMo dominates in the Coalition, especially when it comes to renewable energy future.

  • Malcolm Scott

    EV owner here. Another 10 kWh per day increase in off peak renewable electricity instead of using increasingly imported finished petrol. Gone totally off gas appliances as well. So, yes I do use more electricity from the grid, even with small solar pv and HW (boosted by heat pump in winter). Being on flexible tariffs, I also optimise when I use electricity. My home is 100% renewable energy consumption, including for transportation (well almost) which according to ABS data is 55% of household energy use.

    • Richie

      I am very much like you, Malcolm. I charge my EV at night, but it is 100% green power, so why should I or any other green power user take the rap? Regardless of how much power we use, we are not adding CO2 to the air.
      BTW Is there a breakdown on how many (what proportion) of solar PV owners use green power at night? They can be guilt free.

  • Ian

    There are 2 main types of solar homes- those interested in savong money or those interested in minimising their impacts.

    It is totally misguided to lump all solar owners as eco- people gone astray.

    • Mike

      Ian, every year since we installed solar we manage to export as much as we import. Our meter typically reads solar exports well in front of consumption at this time of year, as you would expect. We purchase our electricity from Red Energy here in Victoria who say they match every kw we consume from a renewable source, ie hydro, I assume. I reckon I’ve got the best of both worlds, we are on the old PFIT so we save some coin and I believe we are doing our bit to limit CO2. . The majority of distributors are stuck in the past and why wouldn’t they be, nice and cosy, assured returns, excellent returns to their shareholders and well paid employees. The only problem with this is consumers have had a gut full of never ending electricity price rises based on discredited data that distributors put up to AMEC. Batteries are comming, maybe not just yet, but their time will come, lets see what the distributors offer, which way will they sway, if this article is anything to go by then the past will dictate the future.

  • lin

    A smart electricity supply company would recognise the potential to increase their profitability by encouraging households to ditch gas heating, hot water, cooking and moving to electric vehicles. Most households will not be able to supply all of this extra electricity from rooftop solar, and a healthy profit may be available in helping provide those households with storage and peak supply options – provided of course they are not ripping their customers off.

  • JohnRD

    Most of our high use lights are 6W LED’s which would make some difference. However, most of the easy stuff was done years ago.
    Power companies need to look at batteries as an alternative to peaking power. Batteries in the house where the grid has control of most of the storage should be starting to make sense to power companies that can think beyond the next profit statement.

  • Brad Sherman

    The increase in consumption was just 3% and only for the most recent year. That does not constitute a trend. If this level is sustained for several years running and covering seasonal variations in temperature (was 2015 a colder than average winter, say), then maybe it’s time to be concerned.

    For me the bottom line is that if I use 100% renewable power, which I do overall, then it’s nobody’s business how much power I use. As long as generating the power I consume doesn’t emit GHGs to the atmosphere then I am not contributing to the problem through my personal use of electricity.

    • wideEyedPupil

      and less efficient houses may now be more like the normal house putting solar on. whereas in the past it may have been more the households concerned with energy efficiency technologies and reducing their C footprint.

  • Math Geurts

    For those who disagree with mr. Effeney, read Brad Sherman’s comment: “For me the bottom line is that if I use 100% renewable power, which I do overall, then it’s nobody’s business how much power I use”

  • Chris Fraser

    Well it’s been said many times in the comments, the reasons for consuming more grid energy are multifold. Completely in agreement with covering the roof in PV for batteries. Wouldn’t want to say those stodgy old dinosaurs were employed at Energex for their business analytical skills ! They are in for a rude shock.

  • trackdaze

    Last numbers had premium fit at 194000 and post at 82000. 300000 appears to be incorrect

    • Here the numbers from Energex as at end of January:

      Of the systems connected to the network:

      o 183,706 are connected on the premium FiT scheme totalling 569 megawatts

      o 116,148 are connected on the retail FiT scheme totalling 433 megawatts

      o 2,909 are non FiT systems totalling 42 megawatts

      • trackdaze

        Thanks, premium fit then overtime is certainly becoming less of a proportion. By years end with new installations and turnover it will represent less than half of solar generation in the sunshine state.

  • Ian

    Amazing how solar owners thoughts and motivations are all exactly the same, like some hive of bees or flocks of starlings – the graph proves it. Electricity customers are just part of the Borg, they are objects to manipulate and restrain. See they’re not even environmentally conscious: the weasels even use more grid electricity than that other money milking cow the non-solar household!. Have I restated Effeney’s tirade correctly?

    The graph and the CEO’s of Energex comments tell us more about their corporate culture and attitudes than about their customer base. 1. They have a divine right to their customers’ money. 2. They are always right and their customers are always wrong. 3. They are the masters and their customers are their servants.

    What happened to the dictum ” the customer is King ” or ” how do I make my product better to suit my customer?” Or ” how do I fit in with my customers’ changing needs?”

    The reality of global warming is the excessive production of CO2 ( and other green house gases) . Humanity must stop burning fossil fuels. There are good alternatives in solar, wind and hydro energy. We need to turn off the fossil fuel burning power plants and vehicles and install and turn on the cleanest alternatives . So frigging simple.

    • Chris Fraser

      We can only hope that Mr Effeney’s little self deception gives him a warm, fuzzy rather self-entitled feeling for now.

  • Phil

    I had an epiphany when the meter reader (employed by a G.O.C ) turned up in a filthy 20 year old car with no I.D on the car or his clothing.Could have been anyone who could be wanting to do anything.

    When i complained to the electrIcity provider (another G.O.C) they stated they have no control over subcontractors, not our problem , nothing we can do.

    So as it was somehow MY problem and needed to TAKE CONTROL and solve it….
    I went 100% off grid

    My choice had nothing to do with costs , consumption , being green. I just got sick of being treated like a doormat and having an unreliable supply.

    That was many years ago and i still enjoy a more reliable and lower cost electricity supply.

    And YES i am using double the energy i used to use on grid and have swung away from gas to Electric for nearly 100% of cooking.

  • Peter Castaldo

    I got solar moved all my usage to off peak as I had a good tariff. Then i got off gas and got an electric car. Of course my usage then went up. At end of this year though it will go down hugely as I shift my usage to the same time as production when nice tariff goes. SO my use before solar averaged about 9kwh now its around 12kwh with good tariff in place. I expect an average of around 4kwh when I shift offpeak usage to peak when the tariff goes. Then I plan on a 7kwh battery maybe that will drop my use down to about 1kwh a day average as the winter demand outstrips production from solar. I’m guessing at least 75% of days I will use no electricity from the grid. This is why retailers don’t want solar.

    • Mark Roest

      Good work! So is the passive solar design discussion above! My brother uses hydronic heating in the mountains in the USA, where it gets very cold, and he stays comfortable with it.
      In a couple of years you should be seeing batteries at $160 per kWh or less, and headed down from there. Long lifetimes are likely, too. I’d consider that before plunking down for lead acid batteries. You could keep busy on energy efficiency for your home for that long, then check the market.

  • Peter Castaldo

    I also sell solar, most of my residential sales go to big power users at the moment. You can see the uptick in solar households on the graph around the time the good tariff was being taken away as expected the proportion of big users will shift across to solar the longer a low feedin tariff exists.

  • Dispassionate

    Have solar households sold out on their environmental goals?

    Post:
    “I have a 3kw solar panels and the .44 cent + .06 from Energex contract
    till 2028 .After 12 mths of NO BILLS, I had a Xmas Bonus of over $638.00.”

    Same poster different thread:
    “… they have slugged us solar producers ( QLD) with a Solar meter Charge = 6.767 cents a day ,a $105.92 supply charge .Power now is 22.238 cents/kWh . …. Just now received bill online and saved PAYING a Printing/POSTAL FEE of $1.75? What’s next?”

    I think the first question should be “How many solar households had environmental goals to start with?”

    I have a sneaky suspicion that many are just rent seeking and it is all about their hip pocket rather than any altruistic cause.

    • Roger Brown

      All I did was take on some debt to install a 3kw solar system , not my fault that the LNP govt. gave everybody the same chance to produce Green energy and get paid for it ? I produced 818 kWh of Green energy this quarter and only used about half of it . After having a solar hot water system for 23yrs+ and still going (Solarhart) , I think I have helped the environment and my wallet. Going Green is a smart way to help the planet .

      • Dispassionate

        Sounds like greenwashing to me, but only you know your real motivation Roger.

        • Chris Fraser

          Why don’t we count the ways ? There’s a better economic outcome than doing nothing, a better environmental outcome than doing nothing, a better non-polluting industry being created, and more employment for Australians than doing nothing. Think those reasons through.

          • Dispassionate

            Better economic outcome for who? because it certainly isn’t a game of no losers…where do you think the 44c/kWh comes from? Not too sure about the more employment thing either, more than likely there are better more economic productive avenues that the money could have been spent (otherwise no subsidies at all would be required) that would have created more employment, in this case it would actually be a negative on this score.

            All that aside, I have no problem with people chasing a buck, in fact I encourage it, but let’s be out there and honest about it if we are in it for the economics rather than the green movement. We are happy to have our neighbours pay more than they should for their electricity so we can be economically better off, we really like the idea of “a better environmental outcome” and “a better non-polluting industry being created” as long as we as individuals are better off economically!
            I do apologise for the rant but I am tired of people pretending their first and foremost interested in the environment when in fact they would never have bought in if not for the overly generous economic scheme implemented by many of the state and federal governments.

          • Chris Fraser

            I’m sure you know for whom the economic bell tolls, Dispassionate. You’re seeing a stream of guaranteed wealth for utilities slowed to a crawl by simple homeowners with an idea. You’re apart from it, disenfranchised by it. Why ? For years you’ve seen your hard earned tax dollar disappear down the throats of the big end of town. Here’s just a bit of balance.

          • Dispassionate

            Happy to see some balance, but I can’t see that this is it. We just have two groups of people doing exactly the same thing!
            So my tax dollar (or in this case my electricity dollar) doesn’t go to the big end of town*, it goes to a group of individuals doing the same thing that the big end of town is supposedly doing.
            Again I am happy for people to chase the dollars and if they are offered up then go for it, but be up front about it and don’t complain so bitterly about the utilities doing the same thing.
            Wouldn’t it be great if people stepped back and said things like yes we are on a over generous wicket here, my system has paid itself off three times over and I would like to relinquish my premium feed-in tariff…and that’s not to say that the I wouldn’t expect businesses to do the same…let’s remember the big end of town is run by individuals just like you and I.
            *who by the way here in Queensland is the Queensland government, who by the way employs a lot of people and, in the main, is trying to look after the majority of the Queensland people. (whole different topic there but the idea is they are trying to look after the population of Qld)

          • Roger Brown

            PAID OFF MY SYSTEM 3 TIMES OVER ??? Come back next century maybe . What will happen when the price of power goes over .44 cents ? Remember we ( select green group of solar owners ) have a contract till 2028 .That’s 12 more years of price rises . I even talked my older sister into the scheme , but has now moved to Tassie .She now has a 5Kw system from Enphase with micro inverters and so far she has a PB(Personal best ) of 37 kWh in a day in Tassie . With the price of power down there , she will be putting in a battery pack and cutting the cord . Only 5 cents to return power to grid ?

          • Dispassionate

            So has it paid itself off Roger?
            If so then you are doing exactly the same as the networks by taking money off your neighbours, friends and family for the betterment of your back pocket. You are rent seeking!
            I have no problem with this to the point where you then want to complain like you are being hard done by when the daily charges are raised and you want to pretend you are in it to save the world first.

          • Roger Brown

            No it hasn’t paid it self off ? Only had it for under 3 yrs . Just because I have brought a new Tesla car with personal plates – 44 CENTS – and booking a o/seas holiday (which means I won’t use much power while on holidays). The cheques keep rolling in and no petrol bills to pay (except my mower and motor bikes ). i hug my power meter lady when she comes to read it . Life is great with solar power and solar hot water. You should try it ! instead of whining .

          • Roger Brown

            Its actually 50 cents a kWh , Energex throws another .06 cents a kWh into my Bank Vault for being environmentally friendly and helping save the world !

        • nakedChimp

          Even if he did it for the money alone, who cares?
          There is way worse people out there, than the ones who install solar to gain a buck or two.

          • Dispassionate

            No doubt there are worse people out there, same could be said for the supposed money grab by the networks then, all apples from the same barrel?

          • Roger Brown

            Ha Ha Ha putting me in the same barrel as the “Networks” ??

          • Dispassionate

            yes Roger I am.

        • Roger Brown

          When i fitted my solarhart hotwater system over 23 yrs ago , i didn’t get any subsidy or any hand outs. It was just that my parents had fitted a Solarhart hotwater to the family home many years ago and was trouble free hot water and it paid it self off. Its called being smart with your money , “Look after your pennies and the pounds will look after themselves” my mother’s wise words . You sound like you missed out on the LNP Hand out ? Nothing wrong with being Green and using a renewable source for power ? Dis – why not use your real name ?

    • Pfitzy

      This belief that we all need to be some kind of hippie extremists to install solar indicates a narrow mind. Scepticism is fine, but with the advances in technology, people do not need to compromise their lifestyle to help contribute to an environmental cause.

      In fact, moving to a commune and switching off our connection to the world is entirely counterproductive; we need to keep capitalism moving at a place to allow investment in new and better technologies for the entire race. If people make a living or profit out of it, so what?

      I’ve paid a substantial amount to get into solar hybrid to begin with, and the benefits I’ll get over the next ten years will cover the financial and environmental perspectives. So yeah, I’m winning, but it’s hardly like I got given the system for nothing.

      • Roger Brown

        I think he works for the Coal Industry ?

    • Ian

      C’mon, you call yourself dispassionate, yet you take sides by accusing solar owners of, what is it, “rent seeking” . Every solar panel installed reduces the need to burn fossil fuels, that’s got to be a good thing, no matter the supposed motivation of the owner.

      Don’t you just love that old 44c/KWH nugget: tariffs are going up and designed to discourage new solar installations – 44c/KWH, higher CO2 emissions – 44c/KWH. Misguided investment in Poles and Wires- 44c/KWH.

      Enough already, you’re fracking my insides.

      • Dispassionate

        No sides Ian, just want people to be honest about what their goals are and look at the situation without the holier than thou attitudes that mask a lot of peoples true aim…more money in their pocket.
        If people are in it for the $$ first then be honest about it, that’s all.

        • Pfitzy

          You’re ignoring the fact that the user you quoted with a 3kW system invested a significant sum in the system in the first place. If a capital investment helps me save on running costs, then why is that a bad thing just because you want to point fingers at my aspirations towards a proven green technology?

          I think most solar owners will say there is a very good financial argument IF you’re prepared to stick it out. But there are other reasons too, and each reason will have different weighting depending on the individual.

  • Colin Nicholson

    Of course Giles it could all be crap. Nationally Australia used 208 or 210 TWHr in 2010 (depending on the stats) and 194 TWHr in 2014-2015, a decrease of about 8%. His chart shows nearly 20%. Either Qld is totally out of step with the other states or its crap

  • MaxG

    While I agree with the author, the interpretation fo the graph can by wi(l)dly debated, I am one of those who use more energy with solar — simply because I can. I see no point in feeding for 6 Cents, and rather run pumps and other bits… and I am loving it. Have moved to battery-power tools… every time I weld, I have a grin on my face: solar-powered. It is liberating!

  • rick

    I have solar, three sorry four, I will explain, 1.( on grid 4kw). 1.( 5kw off grid), 1. (3.6 kw) on grid under repair at the moment. Oh yes an Apricus solar hot water system, now this is round tube and is about 20% more efficient than flat plate collectors ( have not paid for hot water since install about 6 years ago, except when we get extreme over cast for more than 5 days concurrent. Plus I put the Off Peak backup on a switch that I control so that when the water temperature gets too cold then I can turn on the off peak backup. Now I am solar installer so all work on my site is at my cost only, the next step in my system is battery backup to run my house and work shop Off Grid ( NO power bills is my goal). Still looking into battery backup as I do not think that battery backup has come off age just yet but with more work it will be soon. I am looking for some one to work with in the battery department would be interested in working with someone with share of information and skills. Just a thought as the battery backup is expensive and there are many different directions to go in at the moment.

    • Phil

      Battery backup came of age about 100 years ago with wet cell forklift traction battery cells.

      If you have come this far with D.I.Y then 1000ah 2v @ c20 discharge rate batteries are available for approx $400 (Australian) per 2V cell with 3000 cycle life at 20% d.o.d. You can make a 24V system for about $4.4k @ 1000 ah.

      Typical battery life is about 7 years to 80% capacity (end of life) AND either self watering kits are available or add your own water in a well ventilated and bunded battery box all that is required.

      Not for all , but crunch the $$ c.o.o numbers and you may be surprised

      I also find my off grid mains is more reliable , with 99.9999% uptime with redundant design.Simply by splitting the solar panels , mppt charger and inverter system into 2 identical groups , rather than 1 big one ( apart from batteries ) and add a genset and you have triple redundancy .

      And it’s cleaner with no storm (lightning ) spikes as i have my own 80,000 amp MOV surge supressors on the solar panel outputs for induction lightning protection.As well as a catenary earth wire well above the panels for direct strike protection as a “field of influence” .

      I’ve also noticed extremely high voltage ( up to 263 v ac on a 230 v ac system ) and high distortion levels on the ON GRID AC mains due the CUMULATIVE effect of on grid solar panel inverters additive harmonic distortions.

      This is very obvious on partly cloudy days where the impedance of the on-grid system is so poor as to not cope with the voltage and current changes caused by the passing clouds.

      I had concerns that insurance companies may not cover any damage to my appliances. I also noticed that insurance companies are “dumbing down” claim amounts to per appliance , rather than a group of appliances damaged .

      There has also been a major spike in house fires in Australia caused by appliance fires. Perhaps not directly related to the mains exceeding recommended voltages of no more than 10% higher (253 volts max) , but one wonders about the timing being in sync with on grid solar panel uptake.

      But i have had no issues since going OFF grid as the system is far more stable and closer to 230 volts AC at all times.

      I can recommend looking at what this company has to offer for inverters available on EBAY http://www.mppsolar.com/v3/

      I’ve not lost a single appliance due overvolts or lightning since going 100% off grid , and this was quite a common event in my On grid days.

      • rick

        Phil we forgot what batteries were when gasoline became cheap took over from electric vehicles ( the most prolific vehicle 100 years ago), since then until recently batteries have done nothing except start petrol cars. But then came along laptops, mobile phones, ipods ,you get the drift it took a need for a new type of battery for someone to think it up. Guess what if we had done this 100 years ago can you guess how far we would have gone in new battery technology. We would have 1000 KM batteries(EV dream) and no petrol powered cars etc. So like I have been saying we need to put renewables , batteries ,chargers, MPPT ,wind , wave all on the forefront of our thinking, Taking funding way fro m the CSIRO shows how far out of step POLLIes are . We should be increasing funding not cutting back. Dumb pollies real dumb. don’t think I have ever met one. So when it comes time to vote try and find a smart one with renewable leanings and we might have a chance at a clean Green future, I would like clean air to breathe.

  • rick

    Look what people need to know and see is that if the original FEED IN TARRIF of $0.60 was not introduced this country would not have a solar industry and we would all be burning massive amounts of more of that dirty filthy coal. Now people need to look at the future that solar and all renewables have brought us and will bring as the technology matures into the electrical supply system we should have had. Now any one who does not see this should go back to riding their dinosaurs as that is as far as they can see. Anyone that argues against a renewable based future (PS the only one I want to live in) should have their rights to breath air removed and leave the rest of us with clean air and NO pollution.

  • trackdaze

    The head of the network would be well across the jevons paradox or rebound effect. After all the paradox pertains to the coal industry in 1865.

    This is nothing more than typical consumer behaviour. This rebound is likely to be reversedl overtime eroded by the extortionate network cost of transporting energy. The contempt of the networks management is likely to. Enlist further response by all consumers.

    Those with solar will eventually improve efficiencies or install more solar and battery as the networks value increasing moves out of step with its …utility.

    those saddled with network only delivered electricity look to have responded logically by reducing demand question is will the contempt the managment of the network holds for its consumers and its holier than thou retoric bring on next wave of solar?

  • rick

    I have kept detailed records of my electrical consumption so I know how much battery backup I need so now all I need is the Right type of battery to do my job, some things need to be qualified such as AC or DC feed to battery for replenishing when used. Next the question becomes a dollar equation how much do I want to spend as opposed to life span. This is where the type of battery comes in. I am still researching the different types this is why I say battery backup is still a young not mature system many different types with varying outputs. I need someone who has collected battery Data on all the different types or point me in the right direction it would be great something without any particular bias on type. Anyway the more discussion on the subject the better. I hope people will look for themselves and their own research. The outcome will be interesting to see.

  • rick

    Sorry but an Enphase system must be connected to the grid for the inverters to start up will not work if it cannot see the grid, I have an Enphase system myself. I have been told that they can be taken off grid but at the moment I don’t know how it is done. More research needs to be done. If anyone knows how to do it please let me know I would be very interested.

  • rick

    yes some good ideas and I do plan much more research, as I have on grid ,off gird , solar systems and solar hot water Round tube not flat plate. back to the battery still plenty of types out there and I will look at various types to see which best suits my overall needs.

  • Not an Australian, but nevertheless, I now draw more electricity from the grid than ever before I had solar panels. Main cause: my EV. The EV was the main driver in getting (more) solar, but I don’t have enough roof to cover all my extra consumption.

    Yeah, without background information these kind of graphs are pretty meaningless.

  • rick

    Look the point about the FIT is that it was designed as a carrot to get the average person to invest their own money in solar so that it would kick off the new industry of solar and without that cash boost it would not have taken off at all as the only people that had solar before were the experimenters that did it for themselves. There was practically now importation of solar components eg panels, inverters, isolators, relays, in fact very little. So you should be looking to the future of a solar economy and not backwards to a coal based electrical system, dirty filthy stuff it is, the good thing about the FIT was and still is it provided jobs which this country badly needs and anyone who is so stupid as to put solar down or argue against it should leave this country now and not come back. With solar it is clean does not pollute provides jobs. Now on the idea of the FIT we should be campaigning to have it retained after the end 31.12.20016 when the liberal government has legislated it will end. We should be getting something like $0.44 which is about the world average to provide for investment in this relatively new industry. Start massing your resources for a fight as all you will get is $0.05 or $0.06 cents as per Origin Energy as I have asked them. All I can say is be prepared to change energy suppliers until you get one that provides a decent return on your investment. Or if it is not forthcoming then I will leave the grid with OFF GRID system and battery backup, and they will not get my solar produced energy. PS do you know how much the energy retailers buy electricity for $0.05 per KWH and you all know how much they on sell to the poor dumb consumer

    • Dispassionate

      Just so many wrong things here…

      44c the world average? Please direct me to where I can verify this thanks Rick.

      Also wondering who is paying for the subsidisation of solar?

      On the very last bit about the retailers and the price of electricity
      http://www.ipart.nsw.gov.au/Home/For_Consumers/Solar_energy/why_is_the_solar_feed-in-tariff_less_than_the_price_of_electricity

      • rick

        Disspasionate the last I heard of it Germany had a Government mandated $0.44 FIT it was implemented to encourage the up take of solar and renewables such as wind . This has caused Germany to become a leader renewables who would have thought that it would be possible when they in a climate like they have and we have virtually unlimited sunlight for free and we make such poor use of it. It comes down to political direction (who is in power) Now it is up to you to push polly lunatics in the right direction. Remember to vote an vote for change.

        • Dispassionate

          Didn’t answer any of the questions I asked. Still so many wrong things in your post.

        • Dispassionate

          In answer to which questions weren’t answered:
          You stated the world average was 44c, whatever is paid in Germany is not the world average.
          Who pays?
          And I suppose while the last bit wasn’t a question, did you read the link and do you have comment in regard to your comment about the resale of electricity

  • rick

    Now we see people all carrying on about the FIT and who is getting what, it was the Liberals that kicked this solar bashing off as they only want you to keep buying coal generated electricity. This is a terrible idea, it pollutes and is destroying large areas of land and bush not to mention that fracking rubbish even worse for the water table and the farm land,It makes me angry