Monday, September 10, 2012

Solar Incentives Slashed Under New Rules

The Baillieu government has cut incentives for rooftop solar panels for next year as part of a shake-up of how small-scale renewable energy is priced in the state.

The changes reduce the Victorian feed-in-tariff for solar to eight cents for each kilowatt hour fed into the grid in 2013 - down from the existing rate of 25 cents - and fulfils recommendations by the state's competition advisory body.

The changes will not affect customers with existing contracts and tariff rates. Households that have paperwork lodged by September 30 with electricity suppliers can also still get access to the existing 25-cent tariff.

A review released today by the Victorian Competition and Efficiency Commission recommends a six-to-eight cents a kilowatt hour tariff be put in place, with the government accepting the top end of that range for 2013.

The tariff will then be adjusted by the government each year in 2014, 2015 and 2016 based on the wholesale electricity price, before moving to a fully floating market price in 2017.

The tariff scheme will also be opened to other forms of renewable energy systems generating 100 kilowatts or less.

The changes fall short of calls by the renewable energy industry that a fair rate of tariff for solar was 12 to 16 cents per kilowatt-hour.

Announcing the changes this afternoon, Energy Minister Michael O'Brien said the falling costs of solar panel systems and rising power prices meant households were taking up solar without the need for over-generous subsidies from other power users.

He said an older 60-cents per kilowatt-hour tariff — closed by the Baillieu government last year — would cost Victorian households $41 million a year to 2024 through electricity bills in subsidies to homes with solar panels.

"People in public housing, tenants who cannot access solar, are paying higher electricity bills in order to subsidise the rooftop solar for other people. Now that wasn't sustainable at those rates, they were over generous," Mr O'Brien said.

Labor's energy spokeswoman, Lily D'Ambrosio, criticised the decision, saying thousands of Victorian families were installing solar panels to reduce their power bills amid increasing cost-of-living pressures.

''The Baillieu government has again shown it just doesn’t care about supporting families who want to reduce their energy costs while also doing their bit for the environment,'' she said.

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