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)
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.
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.