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Energex to ban battery storage, air-con and appliances from off-peak

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Queensland government owned network operator Energex has taken the extraordinary step of banning battery storage, air conditioning and appliances such as washing machines and clothes dryers from off peak loads in a move that has stunned the solar and storage industry.

The move was announced without explanation in an email to electricians and rooftop solar installers. It seemed hastily cobbled together, it couldn’t spell “tariff” (see below), and energy experts are struggling to see the logic in it.energex tariff

Indeed, sources told RenewEconomy that the response was so savage that Energex had advised that the rule changes would be withdrawn by the end of the day, and only re-introduced after proper consultation with the industry. Indeed, that was confirmed by a new email from Energex that it was only a proposal, and apologies for the confusion.

As it is, the industry is perplexed. They say the proposed changes brings to an end decades of efforts of trying to shift consumption away from peak demand.

And they pointed out that it made no sense to exclude battery storage from off-peak loads, but at the same time allow electric vehicle batteries – as the load looks exactly the same to the network. And why allow another form of storage – hot water – and not batteries?

Some suggested it may be a sign of panic in the network industry in the face of the biggest changes to energy demand in a century, or  just a ruse to increase peak load and give the network an excuse to push the case for yet more poles and wires.

“I have been in this business for 35 years and I am at a complete loss to explain why Energex has done this,” said Mike Swanston, a consumer advocate who was a long-serving senior executive at Energex. “I cannot understand why they would make this ruling, and why there was no consultation with industry to change a decades-old practice.”

energex tariff changesThe ruling means that the cheaper 18c/kWh off-peak tariff – also known as controlled load – will not be available for newly purchased air conditioners, washing machines and dishwashers. And won’t be able to be used by households with battery storage as arbitrage by charging up at cheap rates at night and selling at higher rates during the day.

Experts say it is just the latest in a series of sudden and seemingly indiscriminate tariff and rule changes made by networks across Australia as they struggle to plug leaks in their revenue and business models caused by the rise of rooftop solar and battery storage.

All sorts of tariff changes have been proposed and implemented, including slashing export tariffs to zero or a minimal rate, blocking connections, restricting exports from solar PV, jacking up fixed network tariffs, introducing ‘demand charges’ that are seen more as a revenue raiser than a solution to peak loads, introducing high metering charges, and proposing fees and charges to households who choose to quit the grid.

Recent tariff changes in Energex, which operates in the south-east corner of Queensland, including Brisbane, the Gold Coast and the Sunshine Coast, have also been controversial.

Changes to fixed tariffs means that low-consumption households are paying up to 72c/kWh, and high demand tariffs are placing huge costs on small businesses.

Energex also recently shifted controlled-load electric hot water systems from midnight to the middle of the day – reflecting the shift in supply as solar booms – but refuses to pay higher tariffs for the solar output networks had previously described as useless.

Off-peak loads have been used widely, particularly for hot water, to move demand away from the daytime peak. Some analysts don’t mind this being reversed, because they see off-peak simply propping up coal-fired generators that had little demand at night time but could not switch off.

In its latest email, Energex hinted that the changes were part of a new series of tariffs that would be introduced in July, including alternative load tariffs and a new demand response mechanism.
Rob Campbell, from Vulcan Energy, said the concept is “definitely a step in the right direction”. But he said that  without true, cost effective time of use tariffs, the only beneficiaries are likely to be the networks.
“Considering that our off peak rate for appliances is only 10-15 per cent lesser than the peak rate, why would anyone bother with this scheme. Only once smart meters are rolled out will this make sense. But first we need competition, not monopoly corporations,” he told RenewEconomy.

Malcolm Richards, the head of the Master Electricians Australia, said his complaint derived from a conflict of interest by the network by being able to set tariff changes to its own advantage.

He said Energex was likely to create new tariffs that would incorporate battery storage, air con and other appliances, but they may not be as attractive as they could be.

Richards is also at war with Energex over its proposal to establish a new subsidiary company that threatens to compete with electricians and provide jobs for its own staff.

“This is a huge conflict of interest. They are changing the rules, creating a new subsidiary and gaining a financial advantage over others. It is not right.”

 

 

   

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  • Zvyozdochka

    After denial, rubbishing renewables and now finding their business models are fukt, all they have left is manipulation of distribution.

    It will *accelerate* people looking for alternatives and doom the grid to be a backup-trickle charger that only heavy-electricity-user industry has to pay the price of (finally).

  • Phil

    A clear window into their business model thinking.

    Any changes would likely be just window dressing.

    This is most likely the new normal

    • Mike Dill

      I can envision putting in an isolation transformer so that the utility cannot monitor what I am doing with the electricity after I buy it. So far, it looks like they want to control what happens inside my home even more than the police.

  • Chris Fraser

    Energex customers may be advantaged to get themselves TOU meters, because we don’t know the end of the madness Energex currently has.

  • Alastair Leith

    “Energex also recently shifted controlled-load electric hot water systems from midnight to the middle of the day – reflecting the shift in supply as solar booms – but refuses to pay higher tariffs for the solar output networks had previously described as useless.”

    This.

    • Jonathan Prendergast

      This is a monumental shift, and worthy of its own headline and story!

      • JohnQuiggin

        Indeed it is monumental

    • Phil

      I also believe the solar takeup will reach saturation for on grid contribution in QLD soon.

      Unless you are using the power yourself during the day with NET metering, in which case your daytime use saves you 500% more than the contribution

      As not all can do this as they are working during the day , the batteries for load shifting if viable will be an option. But only if the business model makes sense.

      But by far the biggest savings are to be had with appliance choice , especially as they are replaced . Inverter fridges , led lighting , better insulated homes , solar hot water , inverter air cons on timers for day cooling / heating , induction cooktops etc

      I believe there is an opportunity for appliances that turn on to consume spare energy on net metering when your not home

      Obviously NET METERING will be the next target to go to be replaced with GROSS metering. Cant have people consuming their own power for free you know !
      Unless you go off grid

  • MaxG

    I saw this coming, and created my off-grid system one year ago… no regrets; gone are the clowns.

    • Phil

      You and me Both Max .

      I did it 3 years ago , but i took it another step further and specifically moved to a location where there are no poles and wires.

      The next step i believe will be to legislate like sewer and town water services that consumers MUST PAY for poles and wires running past your property whether you connect or not.

      So in this situation you wont be able to at least drop your backup genset and associated costs and top up your off grid batteries off peak . They will charge you a supply fee per day for the privilege of looking at the obsolete poles and wires.

      I also believe Insurance companies and possibly even others such as local councils may legislate that they wont insure or approve your home build if you do not grid connect where the grid exists

      The clowns have not gone away. This is only the start of the Circus Performance , and it is a 3 ring one with only clowns.

      • MaxG

        It remains to be seen, whether you can be forced to consume a service offered by a private corporation. If the utilities would have remained public, different story. But then I would have stayed, we would not have higher prices, and I would be happy to feed my excess power for free to the needy (e.g. pensioners).
        I will refuse to go quiet if such ‘legislation’ should be introduced.

        • Phil

          I hope your right , but i feel the insurance and council requirements may be a “back door option ” to achieve the same result of forcing a grid connection, even if not needed, where a grid passes.

          The 3 ring circus will entertain the consumers with the WATER , SEWER and POWER show. All with price increases well beyond inflation and the C.P.I

          • nakedChimp

            I don’t think they will be able to keep the poles&wires in a condition that will allow them to charge for the possible service.. too many people out there that will play a hardball version of tit for tat with them.

          • Sam0077

            You’re tapping into what is called civil disobedience. Yeah well seems Big Brother has arrived. And to think we dreaded 1984!

      • Sam0077

        OMG sounds like you are way in front in hearing the sounds of greed and “we have ways of making them do what we say.” and they call the right Nazi’s…….

  • solarguy

    What a bunch of fools, ENERGEX! Instead of working with solar and storage, you choose to seal your own demise, you greedy dumb bastards. The QLD government need to sack the board and bring in someone with brains.

    • Sam0077

      You wish problem is brains are seemingly in shorter supply than once was the case in Labor Green dominated states. They are out of control and far too few clear minds left elsewhere in placing of influence to direct this change away from dooming most of those who aren’t on highest pay to lower lifestyles. When did governments exist to make life difficult – maybe when they started to spend our taxes as if its their own private money supply.

      • neroden

        The King of England literally treated the taxes as his own private money supply for most of history. Really, look up the history on this… responsible government has been rare, historically…

  • So, if it was introduced and has now been withdrawn, is it OK or not OK to install a new Aircon on my off peak circuit? I might be calling my electrician ASAP if it is.

  • Phil

    I think this is a real wake up call as to what CAN be done. And probably WILL be done.

    What’s to say that at some time in the future you can NOT charge your EV via the grid using off peak ?

    That will have a huge impact on running costs for EV’s as you will be paying the full cents per Kwh rate.

    And it’s not such a simple option to go off grid with EV’s as they use as much energy as a family home.

    For example if you have a long commute or your on the road for business and have no charging capability at work and consume 50kwh per day (inc all up round trip charge loss) . That’s a minimum of 100kwh of batteries and 20kw of solar panels at your home to allow autonomy in bad weather for a few days.

    Thankfully as battery technology improves a 10 minute charge will become possible and there will be a growing market for coffee shop charging where you grab a coffee and do some socialising while you wait for a charge.

    I see more opportunities for start up’s to offer renewable fed pay as you go charging options at key locations and bypass what these greedy energy suppliers are “frothing at the mouth” to implement at every turn.

  • neroden

    This is completely demented and the only appropriate response is to go completely off grid.