Solar Insights: Why PV is cheaper at the socket | RenewEconomy

Solar Insights: Why PV is cheaper at the socket

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Solar PV is clearly delivering cheaper energy than the grid, but watch out for those standing charges: Plus: Peak solar body rebrands to reflect the coming of age of solar; ACT predicts a “remarkable” result from nation’s first large scale energy auction.

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There now seems little doubt that “socket parity” is well and truly established in Australia, and rooftop solar can be installed and deliver electricity at lower rates than the main grid.

Last week we published a graph from Exigency showing how much could be saved in each state from rooftop PV, today we offer a different perspective from Nigel Morris, from Solar Business Services, which shows a comparison with grid charges and the range in solar costs.


What’s interesting about this graph is that it includes the standing charges being paid by household clients. There are two points to be made here – one is that these are often forgotten by consumers, but they add to the total cost.

The other is that as the standing charges grow, it actually reduces the attraction of solar PV to consumers – this is often regarded as the fall-back position for utilities: if they worry that too much solar PV is being deployed and their revenues are affected they simply ramp up the standing charge to the point where the numbers do not seem quite as attractive.

However, there appears to be a massive amount of confusion in the market about the tariffs on offer – even among the utilities themselves. That was one issue highlighted by this piece we published last week, but Morris says the confusion is widespread. “It’s a total mess,” he says.

New name for peak body as solar comes of age

The Australian Solar Energy Society (AuSES), the peak body of the Australian solar energy industry, is celebrating its 50th anniversary by announcing a change of name to the Australian Solar Council. CEO John Grimes says the decision to drop the word “society” and replace it with “council” reflects the emergence of solar as a multi-billion dollar industry in Australia, where four million people enjoy some form of solar energy. “We have been waiting for solar to come of age, we’ve been supporting demonstration projects and technologies at the early stage of commercialisation,” he told RenewEconomy. “Now we now that solar works and we can count on it, and it’s a rational economic choice.”

Grimes said the council would help ensure Australian policy-makers were better informed about solar energy and the huge potential for its future development, which is tipped to increase from its current deployment of around 1,700MW to 10 times that number or even 20 times that number by 2030. “Solar presents a massive challenge to the traditional energy generators who rely on fossil fuel sources,” he said. ” Our job will be to dispel the myths and misinformation that is put to policy-makers and the public about the practicalities and potential of solar as the driver of Australia’s clean energy future.”

Among the principal challenges for the revamped body and the industry were the rolling out of financial products that would allow zero-down financing, leveraging Australia’s expertise in off-grid energy for deployment in the Asia-Pacific region, and ensuring the right of access to solar for all consumers.

ACT says reverse auction will demonstrate Big Solar is competitive

The ACT Government says it will release the results of its reverse auction for large-scale solar in a few weeks, and expects it will prove the price competitiveness of Big Solar, and make the case for such a scheme to be implemented on a national level.

ACT Energy Minister Simon Corbell, the driving force behind the scheme, said on Tuesday he expected it to produce “remarkable” results. A total of 10 projects from six different proponents made the final cut for the initial auction of around 20MW. “When the price is known, it will be time for the rest of Australia and in particular the Federal Government to reconsider its approach to supporting Big Solar, and establish a reverse auction process to make Big Solar happen at the national level,” Corbell told the East Solar conference in Melbourne.

Corbell says the ACT will have allocated 40MW of large-scale feed in tariff support by July next year, and he expected the timetable for further tranches of the 210MW available for deployment under the scheme to be announced in coming months. He expected the full capacity to be allocated by 2016.

Corbell said the auction would demonstrate that large-scale solar can be delivered efficiently without complex subsidy arrangements or taxpayer risk, unlike the Federal Government’s Solar Flagships process. “The ACT scheme leaves the risk of deployment, including technology, siting and land acquisition, planning and development approvals to the proponent, with no upfront taxpayer subsidy required,” he said. The feed in tariff is not paid until the generator is generating, and the contract is passed on to another bidder.

“Secondly, the feed-in tariff scheme has the ability to bring forward the deployment of large-scale renewable generation, which would otherwise not yet be viable. By having a price for difference mechanism in place,where the level of feed in tariff payment reduces over time as the wholesale price of electricity rises, the cost to electricity consumers is minimised yet deployment happens more promptly than if generators were waiting for the price differential to close.”

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  1. Craig Askings 8 years ago

    I’m really looking forward to the results of the ACT Auction. Is there a set date for when the auction will occur and the release of the results?

    • Giles Parkinson 8 years ago

      “A few weeks” is all we know. Has to go through ACT cabinet is my understanding. Yes, it should be very interesting.

    • Ben 8 years ago

      It’s also going to be interesting to see how much cheaper the large scale installation of a very modular technology will prove to be over small scale installations, where roof space, grid connection and permitting is provided at little or not cost.

  2. Alan Baird 8 years ago

    Here’s an idea! Why not cut out the cost of electricity per kilowatt hour altogether and rely entirely on the poles and wires tax?! That would get rid of the incentive to be careful with electricity and at the same time put a stop to this nonsense with solar and wind! We could get rid of the insulation from houses and turn up the air conditioners each summer and winter flat out! If you don’t have an air-conditioner in winter, merely turn on the oven and open its door! Admittedly, it would mean that the existing poles and wires would be groaning under the increased load, but just think how much coal could be sold domestically to make the extra electricity. This would assist GDP, all beloved by economists. And the best thing is, all we have to do is continue present state government policy which has been active and bipartisan for over a decade. What’s not to like? The present billing of electricity is a farce, and has been made that way by complacent governments of both stripes fattening up utilities for privatisation, assisted by an ignorant populace who can’t understand what’s going on because it takes a concentration span of over 8 seconds.

  3. Ian Lett 8 years ago

    The graph is fascinating. However I wish my electricity tariff was as low as suggested. Here in South Australia I am currently paying a minimum winter rate of 33.253 cents /KWh plus 64 cents per day supply charge. And it goes up to 42.394 cents/ KWh in summer! Solar looks good. But as a renter that is not an option.

    • Giles Parkinson 8 years ago

      Now, someone was telling me the other week about a new model that could allow landlords and renters to share in the love and economic benefits of solar. Who was that? Whoever it was, please send me an email! Or if anyone else has a similar idea, please send it through.

  4. Rupert 8 years ago

    I enjoy reading your reading your site regularly and very much appreciate the work you put into it. However I generally read my news on an iPad and one problem I have is that your graphs do not display properly. The right hand side is overlapped by the ads and, in order to read the graph, I have to open each one separately. This article is a good example as the critical annotation on the graph was hidden. I wonder if you could ask your web guys to have a look at it.

    Many thanks.

    • Garth Freeman 8 years ago


      I have a similar display problem on a Mac running Safari. The right hand side of graphs and charts are partly obscured by the ads.

      Brilliant website Giles. I come here every day. Yours is THE BEST source of high quality information anywhere.

      • Tim 8 years ago

        I agree. Love the site and read every few days but every time there is a graphic it gets chopped. I’ve used both Internet Explorer and Chrome.

        • Giles Parkinson 8 years ago

          OK, we’ll make a greater effort to make sure that the graphics are properly visible. Let us know how we are going!

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