Trading in premium solar tariffs could spark home battery boom

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Report finds 76% of Australian solar homes on premium feed-in tariff would trade it in for chance to upgrade systems – in particular, to add battery storage.

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A new report has found that more than three-quarters of the Australian solar homes still on a premium feed-in tariff would be happy to trade it in for the chance to upgrade their systems – and in particular, to install battery storage.

The report, based on a survey by community group Solar Citizens, shows that a voluntary buyout of premium feed-in tariffs would “open the floodgates” for the uptake of battery storage across Australia.

So much so, it says, it could lead to the installation of three times more battery storage capacity than South Australia’s big battery.

“We surveyed 340 solar owners on a premium tariff and found that 76 per cent were interested or potentially interested in participating in a voluntary buyout,” said Shani Tager, a senior campaigner with Solar Citizens.

Tager says that while premium feed-in tariffs (PFiTs) were instrumental in kicking off the rooftop solar industry in Australia, they were no longer necessarily the best option for the households still on them.

That is largely because the rules of the premium tariffs mean that early solar adopters – many of whom installed relatively small systems, many years ago – are unable to add more panels, and/or storage, as prices of these technologies have come down.

This has been a particular concern in Queensland, where premium solar tariffs still run at a generous 44c/kWh until 2028. It is also an issue in South Australia, where some premium tariffs also run well into the 2020s.

As we have reported, a proposal to trade these tariffs in for battery storage was floated by Ergon Energy way back in 2014 – as a way to encourage battery storage uptake to counter-balance high rooftop solar penetration and growing network issues.

But the idea was rejected by the Queensland Productivity Commission on the basis that the cost would be too high (a payment of around $9,000 per household).

The QPC even recommended that any household be kicked off the premium solar tariff if it installed battery storage, but the Queensland government sought the middle ground by adjusting the rules, to stop any rorting of the system.

Under the new rules, PFiT households with batteries are not allowed to discharge batteries during the day, and will only be able do so at night time or during grid outages.

South Australian rules mean that any household on a premium solar tariff will forfeit the rate if they installed a battery.

The buy-out scheme proposed by Solar Citizens has a bit more to it than swapping the PFiT for a battery, or more panels. As well providing a lump sum for participating households, it would also split the payment to go towards helping low-income households get solar.

According to the survey, taking that approach would make 46 cent of solar owners more likely to participate in a buy-out scheme.

“This scheme could generate up to $400 million in funding for low-income and vulnerable households to access solar, storage and energy efficiency, providing much needed relief to households who are feeling the pinch of high electricity prices,” said Ms Tager.

“We emphasise that any premium feed-in tariff buyout must be completely voluntary – these homeowners have contracts that give them a right to continue with the higher feed-in tariff if they prefer.

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18 Comments
  1. Rod 7 months ago

    South Australian early adopters also get the minimum 44c kWh until 2028.
    I’m currently getting over $1000 in credit every Year and it would take a decent payout to encourage me to give up the PFiT.
    Although, if I was bought, out I would probably go off grid anyway.

    • Joe 7 months ago

      Wow, collecting until 2028, good on you. I live in Sydney and I thought I did well collecting 60cents until it ended 31/12/2016. I call that 60cents I was receiving small compo for the PV that I installed when it was relatively expensive. Now I’m on 12.5 cents but for how long with the talk of FiT’s being lowered from 1/7/2018. Go well with your 44cents until 2028.

      • Rod 7 months ago

        I should have pointed out that is the State Govt. portion. The retailer is additional, AGL in my case at 16.3c kWh. 60.3c kWh all up. 😉

        • rob 7 months ago

          shame on you rod for stealing from the rest of us! This should never have been allowed to occur………why the [email protected]@k should I be paying your bill!

          • Rod 7 months ago

            When I bought in 2000, 1kW was worth about $20,000
            The FiT was that high to encourage investment in CLEAN energy.
            The State FiT in SA would be about 3% of everyone’s bill (including solar owners) A pittance.
            My credit is also so high because I am very energy efficient due to my efforts in retrofitting our house.
            I don’t feel I am ripping any one off but am very proud that we early adopters have started the clean energy ball rolling.
            As for pensioners: they are the cohort taking to PV with glee.

          • Joe 7 months ago

            I first bought in 2008, 1kW was $12,000 with 6cents Net FiT. How times have changed in the 10 years since.

          • Rod 7 months ago

            Yes, I added another 1.5kW in 2008 for a similar price per kW.
            When I look at the price for a 5kW system today I think sometimes it is foolish to be an early adopter. But, no regrets, our systems have paid for themselves.

          • rob 7 months ago

            I seem so foolish now . my 10 Kw system installed 2.5 years ago cost me much less ie $12k and that was with the best available equipment at the time…once again SOZ

          • rob 7 months ago

            SORRY! I read your comments in the wrong spirit Rod! Glad you were an innovator and early adopter… Please accept my humble apologies! Cheers rob

          • Rod 6 months ago

            No problems. I might sound like a greedy money grabber but I’m not.
            Part altruist, part realist.
            The pleasing thing for me is now even those who don’t give a fig about the environment, are installing solar on economic grounds.

          • rob 6 months ago

            as you probably know I have a 10 Kw system but in truth need at least 30 Kw for my business….. that entails a huge new carport 30k 20 kw system (tindo ) another $25k plus 3 tesla batteries another $35k plus all the cost for 3 phase so all up approx $100k….. so want to do it but is in the to hard basket this year!

          • Alexander Hromas 6 months ago

            Nitwit he and others like him are helping to stabilize the SA grid and delay the need to spend more on electrical infrastructure the 60 cents is a good investment and is saving knuckle draggers like you heaps

          • rob 6 months ago

            read my apology to him sent 2 days ago fuckwit

          • Alexander Hromas 6 months ago

            Sorry about the rave so many folk who ague against private PV and feed-in tariffs don’t get the full picture and only follow the logic? of the Murdock press

        • rob 7 months ago

          just read your last comment of approx 1 hour ago………oh you poor thing losing $2500 if you move! FFS no shame!

  2. Ian 7 months ago

    This was a small sample of those on the premium tariff and probably not very representative of the majority. As Rod says he is getting a decent return on his investment. Many people churn from one house to the next and may not be able to maintain the strict conditions of these tariffs until 2028. They would be delighted that they could exchange this tariff for a battery and some cash instead of losing the tariff in a year or two anyway.

    • Rod 7 months ago

      Yes. we are contemplating downsizing but would automatically lose the PFiT when we sell our house. Or add a battery, or add some panels.
      And when you calculate the zero energy bills and cash credits it is the equivalent of about $2500 per year tax free income.

  3. Peter Campbell 6 months ago

    In the ACT you can continue to receive the gross feed-in tariff that was guaranteed for 20 years for the small system that you got when PV was expensive and you were an early adopter. It is metered separately from anything else you do. You can add a second PV system and get a current style tariff for any exports you might make from that separately metered second system. I am not aware of any impediment to that second system being integrated with a battery.

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