The pushback against the rooftop solar export charge proposed by the Australian Energy Market Commission has become political, with Queensland’s state Labor government joining Victoria’s in indicating it won’t back a move to tax solar households for electricity sent to the grid.
Queensland state energy minister Mick de Brenni told the Brisbane Times that his department’s incoming submission to the AEMC was expected to indicate that measures such as investment in more battery storage were “preferable” to a solar tax.
“There is no doubt that intermittent renewables like solar are putting pressure on the network and stability needs to be addressed across the National Electricity Market,” de Brenni was quoted as saying.
“My department is preparing a response to the proposal and I expect it will indicate that system-wide measures, especially investment in more storage, will encourage more solar and are preferable to the proposed rule change.”
In a submission to the AEMC’s initial consultation paper last year, Victoria’s Department of Environment, Land, Water and Planning said the Andrews government did not support export charging, because the case for implementing it had “not been demonstrated at this time.”
The submission argued that the introduction of a solar tax, as proposed by the AEMC, would require “substantial changes to cost allocation principles” while offering “uncertain benefits” that – all told – would be a hard sell to consumers.
“The desired outcomes of these rule changes can be achieved by pathways other than export charging for [distributed energy resources], including ensuring distribution network operators are strongly motivated to buy network services from DER owners,” the submission continued.
As RenewEconomy has reported, the AEMC’s proposed solar export charge has many critics – and many supporters, including some of its original backers the Total Environment Centre, the St Vincent de Paul Society Victoria and the Australian Council of Social Services, as well as the network company SA Power Networks.
One of the most vocal critics, head of the Victoria Energy Policy Centre Professor Bruce Mountain, last week produced a new report claiming the cost of the charge – modelled by the AEMC at up to 2c/kWh – could be more than double that number, potentially leaving many solar homes with little or no income for their surplus generation.
Solar industry lobby group Solar Citizens on Thursday welcomed the Queensland energy minister’s comments on the proposed “solar tax”, and called on other National Electricity Market states to follow the lead of the Sunshine State and Victoria.
“Moving forward we’ll have to be smart about how we manage the electricity system so more households can make the solar switch, but rushing through a rule change that will slug solar households now isn’t the solution,” said Solar Citizens national director, Ellen Roberts.