Solar households in Victoria hit with higher fixed charges

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Victoria energy minister leaps to defence of Hazelwood power station owner hitting solar households with higher fixed charges.

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Solar households in Victoria appear to have become the first to be hit by higher fixed charges, as utilities continue to try to clamp down on the proliferation of rooftop solar.

Simply Energy, the retail arm of GDF Suez, which owns the Hazelwood brown coal generator in the Latrobe Valley, has proposed an additional 14c-a-day levy on solar households in the fixed charge component of its electricity bills.

The proposed tariffs were gazetted in January, but have only recently come to light. It results in an extra fixed charge of $51 a year for households with solar. It takes the fixed component of their bill to $400 a year. (See below)

simply energy


The move has outraged Green politicians and the solar industry, who see it as yet another attempt by the incumbent utilities to restrict the growth of rooftop solar.

John Grimes, CEO of the Australian Solar Council, described the move as staggering, outrageous and discriminatory.

“They are not charging users who pile on demand during periods of peak demand (like air conditioner users), pushing power prices up for everyone,” he said in an emailed statement.

“Instead they are targeting users who lower demand during peak periods, take the most expensive load off the grid, push wholesale prices down, and delay or remove the need for expensive network upgrades.

“Simply Energy’s solar customers should make sure they understand what the death spiral is all about.  Instead of changing their business model in the face of new technology, Simply Energy want to punish solar customers.”

Greens MLC Greg Barber said household solar is proving popular with households in Victoria. The state had more than 19,000 new solar installations in the last six months, despite a big reduction in export tariffs.

“This is great for consumers, but power companies don’t like it,” he said. “Powercorp in Western Victoria is throwing up barriers to new connections, while Simply Energy want to charge homeowners an extra daily charge if they have solar on their roof.
“By this logic, any home which is a frugal user of power, not just solar customers, should be hit with higher fixed charges so that power companies get their money regardless. That kind of incentive shows the market rules are broken and energy ministers must act.
“It’s a taste of things to come. Power companies have been threatening higher fixed charges for solar homes and Simply Energy is the first to move. As a retailer and a generator it makes sense for them to try to squash the competition. That doesn’t mean we should allow it.”

Barber said the Greens will seek to legislate to protect solar homes and businesses from “power company rip offs and encourage the transition to this cost-effective and sustainable energy source.”

Virtually all fossil fuel generators in Australia want subsidies and incentives for rooftop solar brought to an end, and have urged the small-scale component of the renewable energy target to be dismantled.

They blame rooftop solar for taking away earnings at what used to be the most profitable time of the day.

GDF Suez, which last week said output from its Pelican Point gas plant in South Australia would be halved  because of reduced demand from the grid, recently dismissed suggestions that the cost of rooftop solar would fall.

Barber was also involved in Twitter “conversation” with Victoria Energy Minister Russell Northe, whose views on solar were revelatory, following the generators line that solar only adds costs to the grid, rather than deferring need to upgrade, and ignoring the huge demand that air-con usage puts on peak demand.

Northe claimed the fixed charge was “not a tax”, but most experts say that increasing fixed charges dissuades consumers from being efficient, and would likely accelerate the “death spiral” as users become disenchanted.

We tweeted a question about why higher users were not subject to higher fixed charges, but didn’t hear back.

twitter barber

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  1. Guest 5 years ago

    Perhaps it means that the Victorian Government already sees differently the uses of the grid by solar and non-solar households. In which case shouldn’t the “poles and wires” costs be added to the per kWh tariff from those lucky generators that service all of us ? (when we’re not putting energy back into the grid, of course !)

  2. Chris Fraser 5 years ago

    If the Victorian Government sees the daily charge as the PV usage of poles and wires, then why have it ? Don’t they really need to roll it into the calculation to work out the FiT tariff ?

  3. Winston 5 years ago

    SimplyEnergy is a retailer. You’re free to choose another retailer at any time. Your new retailer will probably give you a nice discount for switching, too.

    What I’m wondering is whether a change like this constitutes a breach such that anyone on a fixed-term contract is allowed to leave without penalty. Any lawyers out there know the answer?

    Also, why should they even care? They don’t pay for the network.

    Anyone with SimplyEnergy as a retailer and with a scrap of a care about the environment needs to drop them like a hot potato. You’re buying power from Hazelwood power station, the dirtiest power station around and Australia’s third-largest emitter after Bayswater-Liddell (NSW government) and Loy Yang A (AGL). Cunningly concealed under the name “National Power Australia Investments Limited” (

  4. John P 5 years ago

    Victoria’s electricity assets are all privately owned.
    Why do electricity suppliers get preferential treatment by government and not butchers, bakers and candlestick makers when their business model proves a failure?

    • Alen 5 years ago

      That’s simple, the butchers, bakers and candlestick makers don’t have as deep pockets when the bucket for campaign funding is passed along and unfortunately this seems to be the case all across Australia.

    • Tulipa 5 years ago

      If we make a long term wrong judgement in our business, we pay. How easy is life for the anonymous faces of our big

  5. MrMauricio 5 years ago

    First they ignore you then they laugh at you then they fight you-THEN THEY LOSE!!!!

  6. Alan Baird 5 years ago

    The Beatles ‘Revolver’ album is STILL relevant. Taxman. A really gormless form of taxman. What he means is we hate people NOT using the coal. The brown stuff. Brown energy. Glorified peat. And the Victorian Govt are sods. From the bog. Care for the people (who run/own corporations) and stuff the rest. Funnily enough, they never seem to think of taxing AIR which is used to burn things. Colourless of course.

  7. RobS 5 years ago

    Sounds like a successful way of ensuring 20%, and growing, of households choose another retailer. Staggering shortsightedness.

  8. Ben Courtice 5 years ago

    Energy retailers already get to buy my peak-period PV output at 8c per kWh, and sell it on at the going rate (after network operators take their cut). A pretty safe bet, you would think, given that otherwise these retailers might be buying their electricity at many times that on the spot market. Of course, being in generation as well, GDF Suez are a monopoly of sorts so they want to have their cake and eat it too. And Russel Northe MP is clearly the dunce of the class. “You don’t get to feed your power into the grid for free or have it overly subsidised by the rest of us” — so I have to pay for providing my electricity generated, virtually for free at that?

    Whom the gods would destroy, they first drive mad.

    • Ronald Bruce Jones 5 years ago

      You say they want thier cake and eat too, I say they want thier cake and eats yours as well

  9. Cam 5 years ago

    Stupid has just been taken to a whole new level in this once proud, intelligent nation.

  10. Fred 5 years ago

    The argument that that it costs money to supply the infrastructure to send solar power around the state does not hold water as detailed below.
    1. The power system works as a demand driven system. This means that the total power supplied into the grid is decided by the demand, this then means that if there is more solar supplied power put into the grid the base load generators are wound back to reduce their input into the grid system.
    2. So if there is no extra power circulating in the system why is there a reason to blame the solar supplied power for extra maintenance requirements?
    3. The power distributor buys 1KWHr of power from a base load station at around $0.03 and from a solar producer at around $0.06 to $0.08 per KWHr. they then resell it at the peak rate of around $0.31 per KWHr. (That is all the distributor/generator pays to solar producers anything above that is a government rebate). It should also be remembered that the distributors resell green power at a premium price so again their profit increases.

  11. Jay 5 years ago

    Screw this, I’m moving to Germany.

  12. Ronald Bruce Jones 5 years ago

    I have been looking at the price some have been quoting on the price per Kw of power, and I am surprised by what you are paying in comparison to my price per Kw.
    I just recieved a letter from AGL advising me that the new chages are as follows :- peak 36.883 cents, Controlled load (1) 14.487 cents Kw, Controlled load (1) supply charge c/day 13.431 cents, supply charge c/day 147.983 cents.
    As you can see my charges for power are a rip off!! and I am wondering if my supplier is putting my power up because I have a 3 Kw solar system and they are padding up my price in comparison to my neighbours so they can milk as much out of you as possible.

  13. Sijo Zed 5 years ago

    I think what is even more concerning than this overt discrimination on Renewable Energy by seemingly ALL side including government and billing companies is the double dipping when charging Solar Power Customers. You would think that say, when you used (using a 3 month period) 1200/kWh and having say generated 1000/kWh, the amount of energy created would be deducted from the amount of energy used and you will be charged for only 200/kWh. But the Billing companies have come up with a unique way of double dipping. In addition to all the extra charges for Solar, they charge you full price for your usage eg. $0.20/kWh but pay you only $0.08/kWh. So where you should only pay say for 200/kWh times 20c being say $20 they credit you your usage at 8c ($80) and charge you the usage at 20c ($240) and thus you end up paying $160 instead of $20.

    What is even more interesting, the markup on you receiving your own solar back is over 100% as all these calculation i just listed do not include all the little extras we need to pay too including GST, the Solar Charge and more.

    So, if you are a Solar User you are part of the Cash Cow Energy System that charges you in many hidden ways. I think even the Banks could learn from this. Selling consumers back their own energy at over twice the price and even adding charges on top of this.

    Now, do you feel stupid as an Solar Power Owner? Maybe we should choose our politicians a bit more carefully and do something about this at the next election!

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