NSW Labor wants mandatory solar tariffs, households to trade | RenewEconomy

NSW Labor wants mandatory solar tariffs, households to trade

NSW Labor wants mandatory tariffs for solar exports, opportunity for households to trade electricity, and a focus on decentralized generation.


The NSW Labor Party has promised a fair price of solar and an emphasis on decentralised generation as the key features of its environmental and energy policies released on Tuesday.

Labor is combining the climate change and energy ministries into one, which is a statement of intent in itself. “Addressing the challenges of climate change is inextricably bound up with ways we use energy,” shadow minister Adam Searle told RenewEconomy in an interview. “This is a deliberate policy choice to address that issue.”

The document outlines around 10 major policy points, including an undertaking to decommission old and obsolete coal fired generators and remove planning restrictions against wind farms, and require government agencies to buy renewable energy.

It supports the current national renewable energy target, but Labor says it also investigate “reverse auctions”, as has been used in the ACT and also canvassed by the new Labor government in Queensland.

But the most interesting is its focus on rooftop solar and decentralized energy. It wants to stop households from being “ripped” off by energy retailers on their exports into the grid, and also wants to allow them to sell electricity into the market to help reduce peak demand – a concept that is being trialled in some areas.rooftop-solar6-150x150

Searle says that the energy system is moving so fast – energy storage is likely to do to networks what emails did to Australia Post – that the network assets are best left in government hands.

“We think there is a danger that privatization could inhibit those developments,” he said, particularly if, in privatising the system, that there are “special clauses that public will not know about”, in effect protecting the value of those assets.

Searle says a Labor government will give IPART “a strong mandate” to set a new solar tariff, encouraging them to look at the benefits rather than just the costs.

Currently, retailers in NSW are not required to pay anything for exports of excess electricity from solar panels. There are currently 260,000 solar households in the state, but the issue on zero tariff payments promises to be a significant one when 146,000 households now on the “premium” tariff find those payments ending at the end of 2016,

“There is a a lot of disquiet, especially when you look at what they (the retailers) charge their customers,” Searle said. “We will give IPART a strong mandate to set a fair tariffs for feeding into the grid. We want to encourage people to generate more solar electricity.”

Searle also said Labor supported the current renewable energy target, and warned that Australia was beginning to lag behind other countries in large scale renewables.

Searle said that Labor would also create an “office of renewable energy”, which will hold a roundtable with representatives of “old and new energy industries” to identify the key challenges that need to be addressed.

“It will remove barriers to the growth of a clean energy sector and model options for decentralised energy solutions,” the policy document says.

One such barrier to renewables growth a NSW Labor government planned to remove were the “draconian” restrictions placed on wind farms by the Baird Government.

“It’s unfair that there’s arbitrary setbacks around wind turbines, but there’s not around coal mines,” Premier Luke Foley said.

The Office of Renewable would also oversee a fund of $6 million over four years, to augment proposals put forward by councils and communities, including grants to Community Renewable Energy projects of up to $500,000.

Foley said his government would also impose a state-wide moratorium on CSG activity, which would not be lifted unless and until the industry was proven to be safe. CSG mining “no-go zones” would also be designated.

And in a show of defiance to the fossil fuel industry, the plan also commits a NSW Labor government to implementing all 26 recommendations of the Independent Commissions against Corruption’s report, Reducing the Opportunities and Incentives for Corruption in the State’s Management of Coal Resources.

The policy document says Labor would also will initiate a national framework for the decommissioning of obsolete coal generation plants.

As mentioned above, the policy commits to keeping the state’s electricity publicly owned, which Foley says will better facilitate the state’s shift to a market where individuals and communities will be able to use renewables and battery storage to generate “most, if not all” of their energy needs.

“A NSW Labor government will keep the electricity networks in public hands and shepherd the shift to affordable, decentralised and renewable energy,” the policy document says.

“Decentralised renewable energy generation will allow communities and businesses to share excess energy, trading amongst themselves. The grid will be just as important for facilitating this new regime, but it will be profoundly different.”

Labor also promises to help fossil fuel dependent communities to “diversify their economic base and capitalise on the global shift to a decarbonized economy.”

The coal-based Hunter Region, for example, would be transformed into a renewable energy hub, with $10 million to be put towards a Newcastle Institute for energy and resources research project into storage; $2 million to establish a Hunter Clean Tech Innovation Taskforce; and $2 million to ensure Hunter TaFe can train workers in industries of the future.

The plan also allows for the deployment of energy efficient lighting to all public hospitals – a $37.4 million initiative that is expected to cut hospital power bills by approximately $72.6 million over 15 years – and commits the government to purchase electricity for its departments and agencies from renewable sources, where possible.

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  1. Rob G 6 years ago

    It would be great to see this rolled out, but sadly even with the Abbott factor I believe the LNP will get over the line. Mind you, if they don’t win I think we’ll finally see the back of Abbott and a possible rethink on renewables at the federal level.

    • Alastair Leith 6 years ago

      what signs tell you LNP are on a rethink trajectory? I think they’re on a MAD trajectory!

      • Rob G 6 years ago

        Abbott is toxic to his backbenchers seats, he will cost the liberals the next election if they stick with him. Malcolm is pro renewables as are 90% of Australians they need to get with the program if they want to stay in tune with voters. Take America, for example, you have right wing extremists (republicans) including renewables in their campaign advertising – even they know that’s where the votes are won.

        • greenmail 6 years ago

          Abbott is the precise voice of the LNP. Long ago they were captured by the “uglies” faction that originated in NSW. Think Tea Party nutters and you have it. Abbott IS the voice of the LNP machine and even if they replace him the voice will drone on.

          Privatisation is a fools errand and has never served the public interest. Neo-liberal economics is a sophisticated system of theft and encouragement of banksters in suits. Our energy future is right now being transferred to community hands and they are much too sophisticated to let morons stuff it up. The return to the commons with energy is a fine thing and may just save the marsupials and quite a few other nice things on this planet.

  2. Alastair Leith 6 years ago

    Finally ALP starting to ged it.

  3. Vincent Selleck 6 years ago

    I wish i could believe election promises. It would be great to see the grid become a meeting place for energy exchange and decentralisation, because the way its going we are looking at mass defection. I wonder what one state government can do when the rules are set nationally by the AEMC. I note their Demand Management Incentive Scheme Rule Change is being supported by Solar Citizens as a way for solar users to have an influence on their bills by changing peak demand patterns, albeit by the introduction of storage systems. Unfortunately pure grid connected solar would be disadvantaged massively by these changes with the reduction of kWh rates causing a massive fall in the value of their daytime power replacement and the imposition of new Network Demand Charges to punish their evening use of the power network.

    Much more work is being done on a community level and privately than by governments to implement new distribution and sharing arrangements. Ultimately if we want change we should not expect governments to implement it. They just follow the trends and the votes, or in the case of the LNP, the money!

    With battery storage now at costs below 23 cents per kWh the economics will drive this revolution long before governments can claim responsibility. Many of our customers are already enjoying the benefits of quality upgrades to batteries at prices below $6,000. Hybrid is out of the gate and not getting back in for any political persuasion.

    More at http://www.888solartek.com.au
    Viva’ the solar revolution.

    • Chris Fraser 6 years ago

      Export only solar would disadvantage pv owners. Storage permits even encourages efficiency and demand management (or is that the other way around ?) Solar Citizens must be seeing that increasing storage take-up happening to better protect the interests of members.

      • Vincent Selleck 6 years ago

        Hi Chris

        That’s ok if you have the cash for storage. A 3kw grid connect solar system has rebates from STC’s and comes in under $4k. The storage cost for a modest 9.6 kWh is about $6k on top with no rebates, even at our best discount prices. A network demand charge tariff system will force solar users down the storage track or they will find the savings they thought they were going to get from their grid connect system evaporate. Save your pennies folks…

        • Chris Fraser 6 years ago

          The large generators may participate in Rules set by AEMC but electrons flow on sovereign State property. There is no reason I can think of for the Exchange not to exist beside AEMO measurement on demand. Of course they need to be aware of each other in real time to help avoid grids exceeding their capacities, and the grid needs to be smarter, but i think AEMO should firstly recognise demand met by distributed sources, prior to dispatching the balance of demand. At least that method puts increasing priority on cleaner distributed resources and helps avoids waste.

  4. Farmer Dave 6 years ago

    It is very good to see the proposal for climate change and energy ministries being rolled into one. Addressing climate change is about getting off fossil fuels, and so there should be one department dealing with both matters and one Minister responsible for both. This is such a fundamentally important arrangement that any government that tells you it is serious about climate change but has not put climate change and energy together is lying about its commitment.

  5. john 6 years ago

    The delivery of power to the community is a part of social responsibility exactly the same as the other responsibilities of government like roads, rail and once upon a time mail.
    So now we have a change in the energy mix to do with energy.
    Efficiency measures have delivered a big downturn in demand as well as a downturn in industry.
    As to the ordinary householder he may be able to export a few KwH’s of power some time during the day.
    In transmission loss areas this is very beneficial to the retailers, however close to the gen sets this is not exactly much use to them.
    A government is put in place to do what is best for the community.
    With roads we all know in the outer city area transport services are far more efficient.
    As to mail we all realise that the business case has gone.
    Now to electricity the best mix of distributed energy utilisation and efficiency measures is best for everyone.
    Let us please just look at the available technology and utilise it best for all.

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