NSW minister taps household push to share and trade solar energy

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NSW renewables minister says solar households should be allowed to share and trade solar and be pinged only a minimal network “freight” fee.

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Young National Party MLA Adam Marshall has only been in his role as New South Wales parliamentary secretary for renewable energy around two months, but already he is making his mark.

The 32-year-old Marshall, who was mayor of Gunnedah at the age of 23, represents the electorate of Northern Tablelands, which covers much of the same territory as Barnaby Joyce’s federal electorate of New England. Their views on renewable energy could hardly be more different.

adam marshall wind

As we reported on Friday, Marshall wants to slash the development fees for large-scale renewable energy projects, noting that in the case of one 300MW solar project slated for his electorate, fees are 10 to 20 times higher than for Victoria or Queensland.

He also used his speech to the North Coast Energy Forum in Coffs Harbour to repeat his push for peer-to-peer trading, which would allow solar households to share energy with other households, rather than being forced to sell their excess solar back to the grid for a peppercorn rate.

Marshall has pushed this line before, as we reported last month. But on Friday he went further, questioning why generators and retailers should try to clip the ticket on such transactions as it had “nothing to do with them.”

Marshall, in effect, is tapping into the massive opportunities for localised generation, for households, businesses, and local communities, and the massive frustration from solar households about the nominal sums they get paid for any exports. He is also recognising the rapidly shifting sands in the energy industry and technologies.

“If I can do only one thing – and I’ve only been in this role for 2 months – it is to have a genuine peer-to-peer energy scheme operating in this state,” he said to much applause from the audience.

“I say that because it just makes sense. I mean, duh. This is a way to get the second wave of community interest in PV solar and other renewables happening.

“We have got this thing called the distribution network – it is there, we should use it as much as possible.

“At the moment it just carries electricity from generators to us and that’s it, but there is an opportunity to use the network so much more effectively, to send electricity all sorts of ways.

“If I am generating excess power on my rooftop, why can’t I literally trade it down here with someone in Coffs Harbour? It’s all the same network, the same poles and wires.

“Why shouldn’t we then be able to pay a small fee or tariff to essential energy to freight my energy to your house, or your energy to my house? Why shouldn’t that happen? And why should generators or retailers be involved in that? They shouldn’t. It has nothing to do with them.”

“We are simply using a publicly funded and paid for and built network to have a freer exchange of energy from areas that generate excess to those that need energy, whether in times of peak demand or other times.”

Marshall says he also sees it as a cost saver for governments. So far some 2,500 schools in the state have rooftop solar and he would like to see all schools with rooftop solar.

When the schools were not in session on weekends or school holidays, the excess energy should be sold to a local hospital, fire station or ambulance station to reduce their operating costs, “rather than trickling back into grid for a nominal amount.”

The issue around feed-in tariffs for solar exports is about to intensify, with some 147,000 households in NSW about to lose their premium feed-in tariff, and likely to be paid as little as 5c/kWh – although some smaller retailers such as Enova are offering 10c/kWh for exports.

Solar advocacy organisation Solar Citizens describes the practice of paying 5c/kWh and then selling that power for four times that price (or more) to neighbours as “rampant profiteering”. It has unveiled a new campaign called ‘Fair Price for Solar’ to protect Australia’s 1.5 million solar owners.

“Solar owners are actually farming the sun, and like farmers across the country, they are primary producers who just want a fair go, and a fair price for their product,” said Claire O’Rourke, the national director of Solar Citizens.

“Just like the farming community, solar owners are up against hugely powerful companies and corporations who are trying to make obscene profits from the produce they supply. Solar owners only want a fair go for the contribution they make to powering Australia and taking pressure off the grid.”

Solar Citizens points out that this is a major issue for rural electorates, where the rate of household solar penetration is high. Eight of the 10 NSW seats with the highest proportion of households with solar installations are all held by the Nationals Party.

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9 Comments
  1. Ray Miller 3 years ago

    Thanks for the article Giles.
    As all households (in a number of States) are paying massive service charges annually about $500 each for the privilege of grid connection. This service payment has been code for paying for and using the distribution network regardless of the amount of energy carried.
    So excluding the same users from trading energy on the distribution network and from getting a fair price is preventing the energy transition we urgently need and protecting the large incumbent business using outdated business models. The solar citizens prosumers should not be paying anything more for network access and use.
    If governments want to support citizens, introducing the ability to trade energy with our neighbours is an idea whose time has come.

    • Michael Gunter 3 years ago

      Prosumers and everyone else should be getting big cuts on network charges.

      The late Garth Sullivan who used to be an SEC District Manager at various rural depots around Victoria was angry from late ’90s up until his recent death at the way DNSPs have captured the 5-yearly price review mechanism under privatization, putting in grossly inflated ambit claims which the regulators don’t have the wit or resources to adequately challenge. AND then not even spending what they told the regulator they would spend!! “Efficiency gains” was newspeak for windfall profits, often offshored. In VIC anyway, YMMV.

      The poles and wires are flaky and old, but the gold plating now happens in the board rooms and elevators of the mega-rich UBOs such as these guys laughing all the way to the piggy bank, possibly one in a tax haven (see 4 Corners, Panama Papers to find out who is implicated) https://uploads.disquscdn.com/images/9f99a5da2f16540db3d633054f324499ec34d9f29c8d8dec0a84ba73e496b98d.jpg

  2. howardpatr 3 years ago

    Marshall need to have a word in the ear of Frydenberg.

    Regrettably the likes of Joyce and other right wing religious conservatives like Abbott are not wanting to support citizens by introducing the ability to trade energy with our neighbors.

    Instead of Joyce moving unwilling public servants from Canberra to Armidale the funds saved could be spent on seed funding community owned PV farms and renewable energy storage facilities in his electorate.

  3. david H 3 years ago

    Isn’t it great to see a young MP who not only exhibits common sense but also a determination to get thing moving in the right direction. It may take time but this new breed will replace the fossils.

  4. Chris Fraser 3 years ago

    What a (wonderful) difference. What can we do to protect him from being shut down by the NSW Nats ?

  5. Ian 3 years ago

    What a good man, finally someone in government who recognises the need for an electricity transmission network designed for peer to peer trading. Next is to work out the nuts and bolts of this electricity marketplace. The task is large to make the grid a true marketplace for electricity., but this recognition of the right of people large and small to trade electricity on the common network is the most important first step.

    • Michael Gunter 3 years ago

      DNSPs are duty bound to protect shareholder value. The public good doesn’t even enter into their heads. We have to face the awful truth that distributors are just formerly public owned natural monopolies now sold or leased (or acting that way, due to corporatisation fads)…AND that retailers are just neo-liberal fig leaves to give the illusion of competition via this natural monopoly. #SmokeAndMirrors

      • Ian 3 years ago

        Maybe you are right, there could be an awful lot of resistance to distributed generation and its unfettered access to the grid by the operators of the grid. That’s to be expected in this energy transition climate, but the more the opportunistic politicians of this country see renewables and distributed power generation as being the side on which their political bread is buttered, the more likely we are to see this sort of transition happen. There are a few politicians that actually believe in the renewables energy transformation, and they have done amazing things – witness the activity of ACT.

        There are a few other trends which may help convert the grid to a two way energy import export market place. 1. The retirement of coal generators in Victoria 2. The up take of EV. 3. The Maintenance of expensive rural community grid connections.

  6. Michael Gunter 3 years ago

    Northern Tablelands surely must have SOME frosty windless midwinter mornings coming after days of overcast skies. At all such times the existing grid will be importing baseload at traditional usage rates. Cheap coal, expensive nukes or uncosted CST+storage.

    IMO the only thing that avoids widespread fuel poverty, and offers affordable energy service provision, is MUCH more emphasis on intensive energy conservation efforts at every household and small business in the electorate. Off-gridders like me soon learn how to be abstemious during cloudy winter weather, but grid-connect perpetuates the habitual laziness of energy-wasting consumerist lifestyles. This is not helped when even such esteemed NGOs as BZE make incorrect claims such as “the power grid serves as a big shared battery” (on page 3 of their book “The Energy Freedom Home”. Scribe 2015)….a claim used repeatedly to justify the greenwash concept of zero net metering…

    …while the big three (QLD, NSW, VIC) continue to burn coal and petromethane, belching CO2 at unsustainable rates, often around 18-20GW. The only credible way to affordably slash CO2 emissions while avoiding nukes is to attack nocturnal baseload consumption by the extreme application of #negawatts concepts. The cheapest quickest path for households to decarbonise their energy service requirements is mass exodus off-grid, preferably starting at the periphery of the lossy, fire-prone Third World grid element: rural SWER lines — an organised retreat, to be replaced by SAPS en-masse. #ExeamusIgitur (“so let’s get outta here!!”)

    At present the retail tariff pricing schedules are still trying to encourage more night-time usage, when sun don’t shine and wind energy is woeful compared to typical daytime wind energy availability. #WrongWayGoBack Wind is much more like baseload profile if the wind farms are sent some way offshore, such as the middle of Port Phillip Bay for example.

    [M Gunter, former wind farm owner-operator, @voltscommissar]

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