The Western Australian government has announced new regulatory measures to boost the uptake of rooftop solar in the state, and to make the technology more accessible to a greater range of consumers.
WA energy minister Mike Nahan said the state LNP government had introduced changes at the level of the Public Utilities Office that would make it easier for solar power purchase agreement (PPA) providers to operated in the state.
For consumers, the changes will mean more options to invest in rooftop solar – particularly for those who have not been able to afford to buy a PV system up front. According to Clean Energy Regulator data, a total of around 530MW of rooftop solar has been installed on homes around WA to date, putting the state behind South Australia, Victoria and Queensland in terms of installed residential capacity (systems <10kW).
Solar PPAs involve a PV company installing a system on a customer’s roof at no up-front cost, under an deal that sees the customer buy all the electricity generated by the system for a set period at an agreed price.
While this third-party solar financing business model has proven highly popular elsewhere in the world, particularly in the US, in WA the cost of obtaining a retail licence and complying with its requirements has proven prohibitive for solar PPA providers, acting as a barrier to entry into the emerging market.
The changes mean that these providers can now apply directly to the Public Utilities Office for exemptions from the requirement to hold a retail licence in order to sell electricity to consumers – a move, Nahan says, that demonstrates the Barnett government’s commitment to solar and cutting red tape for business.
It was around this time last year that Nahan declared his belief that rooftop solar was going to provide the bulk of the state’s additional generation capacity going forward, and we even replace coal.
“We expect that the bulk of generating capacity during sunlight hours in the [Perth] metro area in about 10 years time will be provided by rooftop solar,” he said in a speech to an energy conference in Perth.
“Solar will also displace a lot of the existing [coal-based] capacity. It’s low-priced, it’s democratically determined and it’s something we’re committed to facilitating.”
In a statement this week, the minister said the new measure would promote the uptake of even more solar PV systems by the community.
“By creating the exemption, we have broken down barriers, cut red tape and reduced the regulatory costs for solar PPA providers to offer electricity services to customers.
“This will help the emerging market to develop and increase the choices that customers have to access these innovative and renewable sources of electricity at an affordable price,” Nahan said.
“The Renewable Energy Buyback Scheme will also be available to eligible customers who export electricity back into the grid.
“Retail licence exemptions, which can now be submitted to the PUO, will also include important consumer protection conditions to ensure consumers are aware of their rights and obligations under the solar PPA before entering into a contract.”