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NSW to rush through bills to address solar charges and bottlenecks

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The NSW government is to rush through a series of bills next month that it hopes will remove the anticipated bottle-necks and lower charges as nearly 140,000 households in the state seek new metering arrangements following the end of the solar bonus tariff.

The bills are being prepared in response to industry concerns about the potential train crash – highlighted in a report on Tuesday by RenewEconomy – that could cause lengthy delays, the loss in earnings from rooftop solar, and hefty bills of around $700 for the meter changes.

Chief among the amendments proposed by NSW is to lift the restrictions on who is qualified to change meters, Currently, only about 1,800 “level 2” electricians in the state are authorised to do the job – and these would be incapable of replacing even 50,000 meters in a year, let alone the 140,000 needed.

NSW proposes to follow the Victorian example and allow other electricians to be trained to perform the task. The process will also be supervised by the office of fair trading, meaning that the bill for labour will be around $25-$30, rather than the $300-$350 anticipated in the previous arrangements.

The second big change is to put the meter changes in the hands of the retailers. This is a major victory for the retailers, who want to not only seize the responsibility from network operators – their big rivals in a decentralised energy world – but also because it allows them to offer varying tariffs, including time of use offerings.

Meters may still cost around $300-$400, but the retailers are likely to make offers of free meters in turn for signing on customers to longer contracts, seeking to avoid the massive churn that has hit the industry.

However, it is not clear how customers will react to the offer of smart meters, or whether they will chose alternatives, and how they can access them. Many will look to install battery storage, with the Energy Storage Council predicting that 60,000 households could go this route in the first year. But what sort of deal will they get?

It is also yet to be seen what the retailers do in terms of feed in tariffs. In NSW, there is no compulsory feed in tariff, although most retailers offer between 5c/kWh to 8c/kWh for exports back to the grid. This compares to the 60c/kWh, plus a retail bonus, that was paid for all the output for many beneficiaries of the solar bonus scheme.

The timing of the new meters will be critical for consumers. Smart meters will allow them to make a seamless change from “gross metering” (the 60c/kWh solar bonus tariff)  to “net metering” (the 5c-8c/kWh tariff), on the night of December 31, 2016.

Any delay to changes may mean that the household will get little money for the entire output of their rooftop arrays, and will not be able to “self consumer” that output and offset the cost of grid-sourced electricity. That could cost hundreds of dollars to each household.

NSW only sought feedback from its proposal from the industry last Friday, but appears determined to push through the bill changes, government sources told RenewEconomy in response to our article of Tuesday.

A NSW government document said previous regulatory arrangements were “creating a barrier to retailers and consumers who wish to adopt new technologies and new approaches to the way they obtain and use electricity.”

According to the document, of the 146,000 NSW households on the solar bonus scheme (mostly on 60c/kWh, but some on 20c/kWh), around 130,000 were using gross meters and need these to be changed.

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  • solarguy

    Well lets hope they go ahead with a solution ASAP. Unlike when in 2010 they brought in the solar bonus scheme and people couldn’t get a gross meter quickly for love or money.

    • Doug

      Country customers in the Essential area can consider changing to Enova Energy, a new community reseller based on the Northern Rivers. It is mooted they will pay 10c/KwH for Grid feed energy. They are also trying to be 100% renewable energy, but this may take some time to fully achieve.
      Enova is not taking customers yet, but will soon (April). They will initially be focusing on the Northern Rivers area.
      I declare that I am a shareholder, but have no input into company policy or offerings. This information is to show what can be possible. Many locals like me invested in Enova, mostly as very small shareholders.

      • solarguy

        Doug, 10c is better than a kick in the tits, but I hope you realize that self consumption of your own solar will be the thing to cut your bills by way of a net meter.

      • Andrew Thaler

        Enova are full of shit. I wouldn’t go near them. I don’t see them remaining solvent for very long, and they will burn their capital raising soo fast that they will wonder what happened.
        I offered to supply Enova with renewable power from my 400kW Solar farm at Singleton, and they told me to bugger off because I wasn’t ‘local’ enough for them.. all the while Enova had established a branch in Newcastle to serve the Hunter.. ironically right where the Singleton Solar farm is located and has been for 17 years. Surely that would have been a great news story for them.. but nope.
        I can’t stand bullshit in the RE space.. and yet I see so much of it everyday. Nova are welcome to call me to have a chat, as they well know.
        But the facts are established. It would be for them to make amends. Hell, 10c would be nice, yet I’d happily settle for 8c. It is even accredited ‘Green Power’.. which is yet another bullshit con- but thats another story.

  • JohnRD

    There is no logical reason to switch away from gross metering. Gross metering with an appropriate feed in tariff will achieve the same outcome as net metering without al the stuffing around.

    • Gyrogordini

      JohnRD: is that a weird way of saying “a fair tariff for energy sold to the grid”? All PV owners – especially we late-comer Net meterers (didn’t build my house quickly enough!) – want a sensible recognition for the energy we have to sell, to assist the grid to cope. 6-8 cents ain’t it! It especially wrankles when green energy costs 30-40c – funny about that gouge. If the grossers and the netters worked together, we might all gain a fairer outcome…

      • JohnRD

        Fair is a fair return on investment. Not sure what it is these days.
        It is actually easier to calculate a fair return on gross meter because the price paid per kWh solar output is all the same.
        With net metering some is at the net feed in tariff while the rest is effectively at the much higher price you pay for the power you consume.

        • solarguy

          DEFINATLEY GOT THAT WRONG

      • Andrew Thaler

        6c is what I sell the solar power from my 400kW solar farm to UTS for. 6c is slightly higher than the average daytime wholesale rate.. which is running around 4.3c/kWhr average across the months.
        6c is stable, long-term and fair in my view. one must remember the bulk of the customer charges are NETWORK charges, the retailer makes a very low margin. It will be the networks who have to give up some of the cost in reflecting the benefit of the local generation that they take advantage of.
        Pigs will fly before then.

        • Gyrogordini

          6c is neither stable, long-term, nor fair, IMHO. My point was the disparity between 6c and retailed, accredited ‘Green Power’. It is nice that you have your own “shit sorted”: I am suggesting that a lasting, fair and equity-based solution to the whole sorry (gross and net) mess should be our collective goal.

    • solarguy

      But there will be no appropriate FIT.

  • Ian

    Amazing, 140 000 customers on the solar bonus scheme, with an end date that was known for ages and a crisis now appears at the eleventh hour. There must be grounds for those that cannot book a new meter on time to continue with the tariffs unchanged until the networks can accommodate them with new meters

    • Andrew Thaler

      I have spoken about this for several years now and nobody listened so I gave up and sorted my own shit out.
      I spoke to many NSW politicians who all chose to ignore the problem.
      I even spoke to Giles Parkinson about doing articles on this issue over the last 2 years.. and he left it rather late too.