Hazelwood owner defends tax on solar households

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Simply Energy says its $51 extra annual charge to Victorian solar households is not discriminatory, but is justified and transparent.

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The owner of the Hazelwood brown coal generator has defended its decision to charge a higher fixed tariff to households with rooftop solar, saying extra slugs on solar households were commonplace.

Trevor Rowe, a spokesman for GDF Suez, which owns Hazelwood and other generators, and the retail arm Simply Energy, says other electricity retailers penalised solar households with reduced discounts or different tariff structures.

The Simply Energy standard rate, which charges $51 a year more to solar households in the fixed component of its bill – was simply more transparent.

Rowe’s comments came as the Victorian Labor Party also reacted to revelations in RenewEconomy on Monday that solar households were being slugged with extra charges, and its implicit support by the Napthine state government.

“Ordinary families shouldn’t be punished for saving energy and saving money on their household bills, Labor’s energy spokeswoman Lily D’Ambrosio said in an emailed statement.

“With car rego and council rates increasing, Victorian families are already finding it harder to make ends meet. 
Under the Liberals, our environment goes backwards and our power bills go upwards.”

Simply Energy has some 500,000 customers in Victoria and other states, but could not provide details on how many had rooftop solar.

Solar is emerging as a potential electoral issue, given the kick-back against the WA government when it tried to introduce retrospective changes to its solar feed-in tariffs last year. It reversed the decision.

Simply Energy’s Rowe said the company was “not discriminating” against solar households with the differentiated tariffs.

“Certainly not,” he told RenewEconomy. “There are different costs involved with solar and different companies deal with it in different ways.

“It is the total package that is important, not just the fixed charge. Customers are fully aware of the higher supply charge when they sign up.”

His comments came as customers of other retailers complained about “reduced discount” and higher tariffs imposed on solar households.

One customer, from Red Energy, the retail offshoot of Snowy Hydro, complained in a forum that he had been because he had installed a solar system, his contracted rate would change from 23.35 c/kW to 32.18 c/kW peak and 17.28 c for off peak.

Such complaints have become common. RenewEconomy will be pursuing the matter and would like to hear from others who have noticed similar moves. Please email at editor (at) reneweconomy.com.au or post a comment here.

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15 Comments
  1. michael 5 years ago

    clear it up by simply checking their contracts with the utility supply company? if it’s in there, can’t complain unless deliberately mislead, if it’s not, contest the charge.

  2. SolarPowerBen 5 years ago

    One more reason to go off-grid! The arch-conservative league just doesn’t get it, and so they accelerate their own demise. No mercy.

  3. ClearSky Solar 5 years ago

    A blacklist of energy companies with alternatives would be great – hopefully RenewEconomy’s investigation will lead to that.

  4. Matthew Wright 5 years ago

    The only difference is that they often sell less kilowatt hours to a solar customer. So the average revenue per solar customer is lower and therefore they lose some economies of scale in servicing those customers.

    There are other examples such as discrimination by Click Energy by not offering the same preferential rates to its solar customers.

    Powershop is much better of course and treats all the customers equally in this regard.

    • Chris Fraser 5 years ago

      That’s probably the motivation, of course. It’s just that they – transparently – have been dealt out of supply of energy to the neighbour of a PV household. This is shameful considering the work they put into encouraging PV. They’re flopping all about like beached fish. I’ll bet they coin a new term for solar discrimination because of this.

    • Winston 5 years ago

      Spot on, Matthew. They simply don’t want solar customers because they get less revenue out of them. For SimplyEnergy, there’s a very good reason for this: every kWh they’re not selling to customers is a kWh GDF Suez can’t generate from their awful portfolio of generation. It might seem that not wanting customers is a very strange way of doing business, but we must all keep in mind that their primary concern is to create a market for their generators.

  5. Beat Odermatt 5 years ago

    If it looks like a rip-off, smells like a rip-off and behaves like a rip-off, then it is usually a rip-off. Does Hazelwood pay for water as much as poor householders? How much water is wasted by making steam? Why do householders have to pay more for water because of a “shortage” created wasting it on steam for coal fired power stations?

  6. Peter Campbell 5 years ago

    I think this is like paying for roads and petrol. One could argue by analogy that we all have access to roads and they cost a lot to make and maintain so we should all pay a high ‘road connection fee’ because we all like to have the option to access the road network, and then we should all get cheap petrol. That way the granny who only ever drives to the local shops would pay almost as much as the person who drives long distances every day. If drivers decide to buy more efficient vehicles and thereby consume less, then the road charge for drivers of efficient vehicles should go up to compensate for the lost revenue from less petrol being sold.
    In an extreme case it is like the argument made by people who write angry letters to the paper suggesting cyclists should all be made to pay the same registration as cars.
    I would prefer that people contribute pro rata for the cost of road or electricity networks via their per-litre or per-kWh energy charges. I would even like a revenue-neutral reduction in vehicle registration with higher petrol prices.
    The analogy breaks down a bit in that I have no problem with time of use charges for electricity. When I got a PV system (in the ACT while a gross FiT was avalable) it came with a meter that could do TOU and I was able to opt in and save a bit of money. Charges are a bit higher in peak times but lower all the rest of the time.

    • Peter Campbell 5 years ago

      Put another way, this is discrimination. One person consumes less from the grid during the day because they self-consume some solar and they get charged extra. Another person consumes less from the grid during the day because they got more efficient appliances or got a job so they are at home less during the day and they don’t get charged extra.

  7. Victor Eckhardt 5 years ago

    Great if there was a list of solar-friendly retailers. Hopefully more customers would help them gain economies of scale.

  8. Coaltopia 5 years ago

    Retailers! What are they good for?

  9. hippygreenieleftie 5 years ago

    Another reason to look for green energy provider.

  10. David G 5 years ago

    We have two houses right next to each other the one with solar pays much higher tariff charges compared to the non solar house, it just plain rude I don’t like it at all. It like someone standing next you and stealing right out of your pocket.

  11. Peter D 5 years ago

    Oh dear. Again, an energy provider charges extra for a house with solar. That house (particularly for recent installations) gets peanuts as a feed in tariff. Yet the energy exported can be sold by the energy provider to a neighbour for the full peak hour rate. Yes that is fair isn’t it?…..amazing
    But on the bright side, the more the incumbents bring in measures to discourage uptake and increase prices, the more determined householders will become to invest in solar, as prices drop. I can’t believe they don’t realise this?

  12. taiyoo 5 years ago

    I know of a business in Wollongong with AGL (I believe) that had a 15% “discount” on their bill reduced to something like 3% after they installed 30kW of solar.
    I think the discounts are a way for the retailers to get round their contracted prices.

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