Tasmania considers boost to rooftop solar tariff, as cable out until end of May

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Tasmania is reportedly considering lifting its feed-in tariff for rooftop solar as it seeks to deal with a major energy crisis and faces another three months without its connection to the mainland.

Tasmania energy minister Matthew Groom has hinted that the state’s feed-in tariff, currently at 6c/kWh, may be lifted to try to encourage more rooftop solar and help offset the high cost of diesel generation.

tasmania diesel

The government has been forced – because of depleted hydro reserves and the loss of the Basslink connection – to install 200MW of diesel generation, which will cost around $300/MWh. That compares to $60/MWh currently paid to rooftop solar.

Groom was expected to make a major announcement on the energy crisis in parliament today, but that was delayed due to a vote of no-confidence in the speaker.

Another potential element of his speech was the possible construction of a second connector to the mainland, both as a security measure and as a potential avenue to export more renewable energy to Victoria – a plan that has been under consideration for some time.

However, the coal lobby is not keen on this idea, given its potential impact on Victoria’s brown coal generators. The Australian Energy Council, which represents generators such as AGL Energy, Origin Energy and EnergyAustralia, among others, warned in an opinion piece today against any hasty actions.

Basslink, meanwhile, announced today it had narrowed down the possible area of fault in the cable to a location around 98km north of Tasmania. However, it would take until the end of May to fix the cable. That will mean a total of six months without connection to the mainland.

Basslink said it still did not know the cause of the fault, but would begin cutting the cable in the next few days, weather permitting.

Tasmania has come under pressure for not having planned ahead by encouraging more renewable energy development. The lowest spring rainfall on record has cut dam levels to record lows of 16.1 per cent, threatening environmental harm on water species and damage to hydro equipment.

This and the loss of the cable has forced Hydro Tasmania to restart its gas generator, contributing more than 300MW of capacity, and to ship in dozens of containerised diesel gen-sets to ensure supply. Large energy users have already cut demand by more than 110MW, and there is talk of further reductions.  

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  • Charles

    “Another potential element of his speech was the possible construction of a second connector to the mainland” Interesting, is there any source for this? Such a cable has been in plans for years as a concept, but (assuming Basslink will be functional at full capacity) surely it would a secondary concern after increasing on-island generation?

    • Ronald Brakels

      If Tasmania gets serious about exploiting its excellent wind resources and not bad compared to Germany solar resources, a second transmission link to the mainland would be an excellent idea. This is because per kilowatt-hour, Victorian electricity kills more people through global warming than any other developed region of the world and so anything that reduces the amount of brown coal burned in Victoria is a good thing.

  • Ronald Brakels

    An increase in the feed-in tariff for solar would definitely help, but since they need the solar capacity more or less immediately, I would in addition suggest cash bonuses for solar capacity installed in the short term. And approvals should be given to install PV on government buildings, beginning with where ever the rate of return would be the highest, starting now.

    • Chris Fraser

      It still takes a while for any household to organise for solar. But at the very least, FiTs now seem to be coming into their own as a political tool for motivating a great many people. Their thinking is possibly geared towards better preparation for the future chance of any Vic ‘brownout’.

      • Ronald Brakels

        I imagine there would be a number of people who are thinking about solar, or who have considered it in the past, who would be spurred into action if a short term incentive to install was offered.

        Oh, and if current owners of rooftop solar could expand their systems without losing their current tariff, or at least not losing so much that it’s not worthwhile, that would be a big help.

    • Ian

      The conjunction of disasters in Tasmania is an extraordinary event and requires a concerted response. As you say, increase the FiT but also subsidise solar for a limited period. There is no lack of government funds or community support for renewables, there never has been. That is not the problem. Consider the Pacific highway which costs $55 million per km. The problem is the incumbants, they do not want competition. Here is a political opportunity bar none to install renewables, both solar and wind. The incumbants have failed, their greed and incompetence shows. They have retreated to their lairs, tail between their legs – importing diesel generators at great cost, shutting down industry. Pathetic. Solar is cheap, it’s rapidly deployable and it is such a good match for hydro. In the future once the link with Victoria is restored, hydro can be used for its true purpose, storage and electricity arbitrage. Tasmania’s best asset in the future will be its storage ability. A strong and reliable Tasmanian power grid with abundant solar ,wind and hydro will be very attractive to the rest of the East Coast grid. It may be the impetus to a much larger,more reliable Bass strait link. Victoria may rely on its Brown Coal generators for now, but 5 years down the line this will probably not be the case. They will be looking to their neighbours for reliable and complimentary power generation and a fully renewables Tasmania could step up to the plate. Conversely a very reliable Tasmanian power grid will put to shame any reluctance of Victoria to shut down its brown coal generators, they will have no excuse. They would be surrounded by hydro storage opportunities.

      Rooftop solar in Tasmania maybe the heaving line to get renewables across to wider sections of the electricity market.

  • Chris Fraser

    After linking across to the opinion piece, i was disappointed to conclude that the Energy Supply Council is questioning the second Basslink probably because of its desire to isolate Tasmania’s clean energy assets. Oh yes here in Vic we’re quite happy with all our brown coal smoking local residents out of their homes, thank you very much.The warrants for any kind of interconnector between any two distribution areas should be the same. That is, for the ability to share clean energy, which happens to be everywhere and spatially very distributed.

  • Ian

    A timid gesture, just a toe in the water, but a welcomed one. Now is the time to be bold and sing out loud like an ‘Australia’s got Talent’ contestant. Don’t just increase the Fit, mobilise household solar in a big way . Pay a ‘disaster grant’ to every household solar array installed over the next 6 months. Pay reputable mainland companies to instal solar, use government buying power to keep installation prices as low as they have been on the mainland. Import the necessary equipment in bulk for the project. Get all hands on deck to achieve a specific rooftop installation goal such as 300 or 400 MW installed in 6 months.

    • Jordan Moulds

      I have no real idea what the local political context is in Tas, but if you *are* facing a ‘no confidence’ motion (as someone else here suggested), what better way to instil confidence & sure-up voter support then to act decisively in a crisis like this, and incentivize the electorate to pull together and help solve the problem in such a popular and forward-thinking way; that actually benefits them longer-term – instead of just leaving them with a bill & a bitter taste (while big companies profit).

  • Roger Brown

    My sister has a 5 Kw solar system (Enphase) micro- inverters in Mole Creek Tas. Over summer she has recorded a 37kWh day , but only gets 6 cents a Kwh , while the power company sells it for many times more to her neighbors = Rip off. While me in sunny Qld gets 17.43 kWh (PB) from a 3 kw system facing north. The COALition party don’t like people taking their power into their own hands and giving their power mates the middle finger . They should at least give you 10c kWh .