Energy minister Angus Taylor has indicated the Coalition government has no plans to ditch the rooftop solar rebate, despite the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission and big utilities such as Origin Energy and EnergyAustralia pushing for its abolition.
“There’s no plan to change the SRES (the Small-scale renewable Energy Scheme),” Taylor said in an interview with the Guardian.
“The SRES and the large-scale renewable energy target are around until 2030. They fade between now and 2030, there’s decline as technology continues to improve. That’s our position.”
So, no change, no scaling back? the Guardian asked.
“The deeming rates fall every year between now and 2030. We are not proposing to change that. That’s designed to ensure the subsidy comes off as technology continues to improve,” Taylor said.
The decision is welcome, but not a surprise, given the heavy political fall-out that could have accompanied a move to abolish the SRES by 2021, as the ACCC recommended.
Firstly, many of the Coalition’s constituents – small business and farmers – are now moving into rooftop solar in increasing numbers, and the removal of the SRES would raise the costs of that transition. And it would also penalise lower income households who are seeing prices fall to the point they could make the switch.
The ACCC made its call on the basis that the removal of the SRES could save non-solar households $15 a year, but like most analysis on the impact of renewables, it did not contemplate the much more significant benefits in lowering wholesale prices, reducing demand peaks, and pushing those peaks later into the day.
The decision by Taylor, who has rooftop solar installed on the family farm in NSW, is the most welcome of the Coalition’s package of initiatives announced on Tuesday.
These included threats to force big companies to sell assets they might intend to close (think AGL and Liddell), and to put caps on standing offers for consumers – a move that may reduce costs for around 10 per cent of consumers, but result in a price rise for most others and could seriously damage competition and eliminate smaller retailers.
The government is also rushing through its planned tender for new “fair dinkum” power generation, which is likely to favour life extensions for existing coal fired generation, and even provide government indemnities against any future carbon price impacts.
Solar Citizens, which has campaigned against the SRES abolition, was due to meet representatives of Taylor’s office in Canberra today, along with Labor’s Make Butler and the Greens’ Adam Bandt. They had gathered more than 10,000 signatures against the proposal.
“It’s a great win today in the midst of a lot of bad energy policy announcements,” said Solar Citizens National Director Joseph Scales.
“This is a huge win for solar consumers around the country – saving the SRES will keep the installation of rooftop solar affordable so that more Australians can enjoy the benefits of solar and lower their energy bills.”
Rooftop solar is growing quickly, with more than 1GW of small scale rooftop solar (less than 100kW) already installed on household and businesses in 2018, taking the total to more than 7.5GW across the nation.
This growth will be further supported by another 2.6GW of rooftop solar on more than 650,000 homes supported by an additional rebate offered by the Victoria Labor government.
That initiative alone could hollow out $500 million from the revenue of big utilities who have already seen big reductions in the amount of electricity they sell – hence their opposition to such rebates.
However, this push is also being accompanied by new initiatives in South Australia and Victoria to encourage battery storage – to assist in dealing with the increasing “duck curve” created by the hollowing out of demand in the middle of the day, and to add to grid security by helping to meet peak demand and respond to network events.