The WA green power scheme that wasn’t

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WA consumers rail against state-owned retailer Synergy, after being told their premiums were not invested in local environmental schemes.

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West Australia energy retailer Synergy has triggered protests from consumers after admitting that premiums paid for environmental products have not been invested in its home state – for the last five years.

This comes as the RET Review panel recommended moves that would put green power schemes across the country in doubt by removing their “additionally” to the renewable energy target.

Synergy earlier this month wrote to consumers informing them that it had not been able to find a suitable carbon offset or green energy scheme in its home market since 2008.

Instead, it had invested the millions collected from schemes such as “Earthfriendly” into programs in the eastern states.

Consumers have been shocked to learn their money has been spent elsewhere, and that it took Synergy years to inform them what it was doing.

synergy letter 1

“I’ve been happily paying the Earthfriendly premium  with the expectation that this would support development of renewable energy in WA. Clearly that’s not been happening,” said Barbara Frey, from the city of Mandurah to the south of Perth.

“I’m furious about this. Like me, the majority of West Australians love renewable energy; no surprise that Mandurah was in the top 5 suburbs in Australia with the most solar PV.

“The attraction of investing in the Earthfriendly program was the opportunity to contribute to a clean energy future for WA. That future is here now, yet Synergy tells me that they’ve been spending my premium elsewhere…. since 2010.

“Don’t they get it? People like me want to invest in renewable energy, and recognise that part of the cost of transition involves retiring assets that no longer serve the wellbeing and interests of the community. How hard does it have to be?”

Another Mandurah resident, Jenny Currell, said she had been paying a 4.5618c per kWh ‘Natural Power Premium’ that was supposedly ensuring that the power that she was purchasing was being generated from renewable sources.

“I think an investigation into where this money is going is now in order.

 In WA we cannot vote with our feet and change suppliers – there is no choice for residential supply.”

A spokesman for Synergy issued this statement in response to RenewEconomy’s questions about why this was so, how many customers were affected, and how much mony had been paid into the scheme.

“Synergy has actively investigated the opportunity to support a number of WA-based projects, however due to availability and price, EarthFriendly units were needed to be sourced from other areas within Australia. There have been approximately 1,000 customers that have purchased Earth Friendly since 2010, and approximately 500 customers remain on the product.

“Earth Friendly is unrelated to NaturalPower, however, despite not being obliged to, since 2006 Synergy has sourced the majority of NaturalPower & EasyGreen – related RECs directly from WA.

“Information relating to the amount collected from individual Earth Friendly customers and how much has been invested into individual projects is commercial in confidence.”

As it is, the future of GreenPower schemes in Australia is not good, with the RET Review panel recommending that it be absorbed into the renewable energy target, meaning that voluntary commitments to green power would no longer be “additional” – it would just lessen the burden on fossil fuel generators.

There are 570,000 GreenPower households and 32,500 businesses in Australia. WWF noted that under the closed to new entrants option GreenPower would be stuck – they’d have to come up with a whole new compliance system to create some sort of additional certificates.

And under a real 20% like option, the Warburton review has failed to back GreenPower being additional to the legislated target. The approach set out in appendix D of the report would see the LRET target reduced by any amount of GreenPower generated.

As the report says: “Including renewable electricity supplied under such schemes would more accurately represent the share of renewables in Australian electricity. However, its inclusion in setting a 2020 LRET target to achieve a particular percentage share for renewables would undermine the ‘additionality’ objective of these schemes.”

WWF said it created an uncertain future for a program that is important for consumer choice and renewable energy.

 

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6 Comments
  1. juxx0r 5 years ago

    Here’s what they told me in December 2008:

    Our Reference: Ticket Number 1079781

    Dear Mr Jux Xor

    Thankyou for your enquiry re Green Energy.

    Synergy has two Green Energy products – Easy Green and Natural Power. These products allow customers to apportion either a percentage of their energy consumption, or a set dollar amount to each two-monthly Synergy account for the purchase of renewable energy.

    As part of the accreditation process Synergy are required to purchase Renewable Energy Certificates (RECs) for every MWh of our EasyGreen and Natural Power sold. RECs for new customers are only available from renewable generators commissioned after January 1997, so this requirement helps to stimulate development in the renewable energy industry. However, the purchase of the REC adds to the cost of Green Energy products.

    The renewable energy industry is developing and innovating. There are research and development costs, capital start-up costs etc, which make purchasing renewable energy more expensive.

    Synergy puts the extra money you pay towards purchasing renewable energy, and as a GreenPower accredited product, all power purchased is from WA renewable energy sources, to stimulate and support development of the renewable energy industry.

    If you’re interested in signing up for Easy Green and Natural Power, you can apply online or simply contact our Customer Service Centre on 13 13 53 between 7am and 7pm Monday to Friday.

    Yours sincerely

    Customer Service Representative
    Retail
    Synergy (ABN: 71 743 446 839),228 Adelaide Tce, Perth, WA, 6000, Australia

  2. Zvyozdochka 5 years ago

    Class action anyone? Synergy’s explanation for imposing the carbon price on people buying the Greenpower scheme was breathtalking sophistry too.

  3. Matt 5 years ago

    In calculating the effect of adding non-RET schemes to the total renewables share, ACIL Allen estimates 1700 GWh of electricity under schemes like Greenpower annually by 2020. However looking at the 4 most recent quarterly reports for the Greenpower scheme, total sales add up to approx 1370 GWh for the year. How significant are the other schemes? Because Greenpower by itself would need a lot more customers, or higher share of those customers total usage, to get near 1700 GWh given the continuing decline in demand.

  4. Peter Campbell 5 years ago

    I am shocked that voluntary ‘additionality’ is also under attack in the RET review. I drive an electric car precisely because I can run it on 100% GreenPower that is additional to the target, actually extra RECs surrendered to match my consumption.

    • Max Boronovskis 5 years ago

      Write to Mike Nahan, our Energy Minister, I heard him talking on the radio the other day about being at pains to reimburse every possible cent of the carbon tax. So while he’s in that mood ask for all your money in question back put it on something less likely to be interfered with like one of Carbon Neutral’s offset programs.

      I’m only half joking!

  5. Max Boronovskis 5 years ago

    I don’t envy Synergy some of the positions it finds itself in. I think solar PV stole the march on the Green Energy products, like a sonic jet! If we had a serious grid scale renewable option I’d pay up front for that as we’ll.

    Forget the RECS, I would have thought the money would be well spent on supporting the developmental study of high penetration rates of PV or storage or residential demand response, here in WA on our grid. Oh well, 20/20 hindsight and all that. Or is it just to simple to add it onto the Renewable Energy Buyback Scheme whereby Synergy pays about 8c per unit for residential rooftop solar power going to the grid. Wouldn’t that serve the purpose?

    From Synergy website today [my edits to bring it up to date J)
    ‘….
    However, selecting Synergy’s EasyGreen or NaturalPower options does not mean that an equivalent amount of electricity from renewable sources is actually delivered to your home or business. To do that would require a separate network to join renewable electricity sources directly to your home or business, which would be both impractical and economically inefficient [unless of course you use PV panels and an inverter, then it would be really easy for your money to buy renewable electricity].

    Instead, the RECs purchased by Synergy are derived from energy produced from accredited renewable sources which is fed into the [other] existing electricity network [far from here]. In the [other] network, it mixes with electricity from non-renewable sources. [insert magic here] before electricity from the network is supplied to Synergy’s customers. EasyGreen and NaturalPower customers will therefore continue to receive [sorry, pay for] a mix of energy from renewable and non-renewable sources […we are doing the best we can ok!].

    I think most opted in favour of a PV system as it was more tangible and less fungible.

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