Don't tax the sun: Solar group takes petition to Canberra | RenewEconomy

Don’t tax the sun: Solar group takes petition to Canberra

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Solar group heads to nation’s capital to present a petition asking the Coalition not to increase fees and tariffs on household solar power.

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Twenty members of Australian community solar group, Solar Citizens, are travelling to the nation’s capital to present a petition to the federal Coalition government asking it not to tax solar power.

The group drafted the petition – which now has 25,000 signatures – two months ago, after the Australian Energy Market Commission released a recommendation to charge higher fees or tariffs for rooftop solar owners, claiming that the cost of uptake was being subsidised by other homeowners.

The group hopes to meet with federal politicians to discuss the petition, namely Coalition environment minister Greg Hunt and resources minister Ian Macfarlane.

The group – which currently boasts a membership of a 50,000 nationwide – argues that solar energy has been made a scapegoat for increased electricity prices, but that the facts show this isn’t accurate.

“The average electricity bill is increasing because of investment in poles and wires and network costs, which accounts for 50-70% of your energy bill,” said Solar Citizens spokesperson Adrian Brown.

Brown says solar is accountable for only “a small portion” of the rise in the cost of household electricity bills  – less than 6 per cent – with the majority coming down to “big energy companies … trying to dictate our energy future, attempting to salvage their profit margins”.

Brown notes that nearly one in seven homes (over 1.1 million) in Australia currently have solar on their rooftop; “that’s three million Australians, mostly low-income households and families in regional areas, who have invested over $8 billion dollar to take power over their bills,” he said.

“This investment has translated to saving families nearly $650 million on energy bills while generating 2,800 megawatts of clean energy.”

Geoff Bragg, NSW Chairman of the Solar Energy Industries Association (SEIA) and a solar installer in regional NSW with a decade of experience in the industry, notes that growing solar also has the ability of creating local jobs for Australians. Currently, it employs over 18,000 people domestically.

“Obviously an introduction of extra costs or fees to solar would hamper this growth [of jobs] and stall the growth of solar – and solar industry jobs in Australia.”

But this has not been the message from the federal government. Recently, Prime Minister Tony Abbott took the opportunity while talking with Alan Jones on Sydney radio, to suggest, again, that renewables were driving up power prices.

“One of the things that we’ll be looking at is the impact of renewable energy on power prices because not only is the carbon tax adding about 9 per cent to everyone’s power bills … renewable energy targets are also significantly driving up power prices right now”.

Brown hopes that Solar Citizens’ trip to Canberra will highlight “positive measures [that] need to be in place to ensure the growth of solar in Australia, which reduces household energy bills, provides jobs in our communities and allows families to do their part to help the environment. Obviously, implementing extra fees or costs for solar would be the antithesis of this.”

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  1. Paul 7 years ago

    Power to the Solar Citizens group, but let’s be honest about the FIT being paid for out of the pockets of those who do not have it or cannot have it for all sorts of pragmatic reasons.
    What’s fair about my 87yo mother subsidizing the power bills of her DINK neighbors.

    • Melissa Kaulfuss 7 years ago

      But is your 87 yo mother getting a concession on her bill? If that’s the case, I’m subsidising that.

    • Pedro 7 years ago

      Hi Paul
      Maybe it’s not fair for your Mother to subsidize the FIT of people who have solar. I wonder at what level she is actually subsidizing the FIT (5% of her total bill)? In most cases a generous FIT is not available nationwide anymore and those with a generous FIT have a time limit that will run out over the next 10 years or so. There are many examples where we subsidize others, flood insurance for those living on a top of hill for example, pensioners through our tax system. You may also have noticed that the going price for a 1.5kW system is about $2K, which has about a 5 year payback period. I am sure she would love it as a Christmas present from her kids.

  2. Mick 7 years ago

    This campaign is peddling a great deal of mis-information, and further confusing an already complicated problem…

    No-one is trying to “tax the sun” – and the ‘cost of uptake’ is not the real issue that the AEMC is concerned with. In fact, the AEMC explicitly said “stakeholders are concerned that network costs of consumers with solar PV are cross-subsidised by
    other consumers, due to current inefficiencies in network tariffs” – not the cost of uptake, as reported in this article.

    Correcting inefficient tariffs is hardly a “tax” – in fact, it is actually removing a cross-subsidy – i.e. reducing a “tax” that is currently unfairly being paid for by everyone else.

    Even within this group there is some kind of cognitive dissonance or double speak going on . . . How can they (correctly) identify that network cost account for such a large part of the bill (and contributing to increased), and simultaneously believe that PV owners shouldn’t have to pay for this? PV owners still use the grid – why shouldn’t they pay for it?

    I am a big proponent of solar PV – but I think this issue has been approached in entirely the wrong way by these solar advocates. It is simply unsustainable, and ultimately bad news for the solar industry in the longer term if these tariffs are not amended.

    • Pedro 7 years ago

      Hi Mick

      “PV owners still use the grid – why shouldn’t they pay for it?” Doesn’t everybody who is connected to the grid pay a connection fee, including PV owners? It is just some PV owners who have a big PV system and a generous FIT end up with their bill in credit. I think the issue is that AEMC want to discriminate against PV owners and charge them a higher connection fee, which PV owners feel is unjustified and unfair.

      • Mick 7 years ago

        Hi Pedro, no that is not entirely right. At present, everyone does pay a (very small) connection fee – but it is not actually ‘cost reflective’ (or even close to being cost reflective).

        The variable component of the bill actually contains costs that should actually be charged in a more like a fixed charge (i.e. $/kW of capacity or something similar). It would be more cost reflective if everyone paid (say) $750 in connections costs and 15-20 cents per kWh for useage, then (say) $200 per year in connection costs and 25-30 cent per kW for usage – which is what happens now. Essentially connection costs are currently being ‘smeared’ across all users. So if you use solar for example – you are paying less than you should be.

        There are plenty of reports and reviews that look at this issue. E.g. AEMC’s Power of Choice, and Productivity Commissions Electricity Network Framework Review among many others.

        The AEMC does *not* want to discriminate against solar users – it want’s everyone to pay their “fair share”. And their “fair share” is a lot more than the current (cross-subsidized) connection costs.

        • Catprog 7 years ago

          If someone uses a lot of power (air conditioning for example) should they pay more for the connection costs then someone who uses a small amount of electricity.

          • Mick 7 years ago

            Would completely agree with that – if someone wants to draw a lot of power at once (e.g. multiple AC’s + large plasma screen TV’s etc) then they should pay for that. Perhaps they would have to pay $1000 in connection costs – for the right/ability to draw the kW of capacity they need to run all their equipment etc. Perhaps someone who draws less power would only pay (say) $500-$600.

  3. Andrew 7 years ago

    Perhaps they could also take a petition to disallow solar companies from allowing systems that have no true value. When solar “efficiency” actually results in structural damage, it’s not true value:

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