Feed-in charges?! No way! The Australian Energy Market Commission (AEMC) today released a draft determination on how to integrate more small-scale solar into the electricity grid. The paper addresses the problem of ‘traffic jams’ on the network, caused by small-scale solar feeding into a grid infrastructure which was designed when power only needed to flow one way.
The draft determination suggests rooftop solar owners might be charged to export the solar power they generate in excess of what they use to the grid. In other words, instead of a feed-in tariff, a feed-in charge. The Sydney Morning Herald calls the proposal ‘controversial’.
What does this mean for rooftop solar owners? Ann-Charlott, team leader of our Solar My House program (well-informed but, she notes, ‘not an expert’), has been following the developments. Here are her thoughts:
This issue is most relevant for states like SA that have a high penetration of solar. It is less relevant to NSW and especially our Ausgrid area. As we know, the rate of rooftop solar installation for Mosman is 5 to 6% of houses, and around 14% on Northern Beaches, well below the national average and much below SA.
In the meantime, Ann-Charlott says, networks are exploring other ways to address the problem.
Meanwhile, the transition to renewable energy in Australia is happening, so the existing infrastructure – the poles and wires – will need to adapt to accommodate new technologies. The feed-in tariff is always liable to change — up, down, different pricings at different times — but the savings you get from all that free solar power from your roof remain.
Ausgrid have announced that the Northern Beaches will be one of three trial sites for community batteries. Solar My House program leader, Ann-Charlott Paduch, is very excited about the potential of this new initiative. As she says:
Installing solar panels on your roof already makes financial sense, in terms of savings on your power bills. A community battery makes the numbers even better, because you get some of the benefits of a home battery, but without the expense.
What is a community battery?
A community battery allows solar owners to share a large battery that is owned and maintained by Ausgrid. If you already have solar panels, Ausgrid claims you could make an additional $200-$300 a year by feeding excess power into the community battery, without the hassle or expense of installing your own battery.
“I think community batteries could be a real game-changer for renewable energy,” says Ann-Charlott. “As well as generating more savings for solar owners, they will encourage more people to install solar. And that will increase the amount of renewable energy in the grid and put downward pressure on prices. I’ll be watching developments closely.”
Find out more
Ann-Charlott presents our regular Solar My House webinar. The next webinar is on Wednesday 24 February, and she is expecting your questions on community batteries! Sign up for the one hour webinar, which outlines how solar works, how batteries fit in, rebates and other ways to make a difference.
For more information on community batteries, take a look at Ausgrid’s website. You can also sign up there to receive updates on the project.
I have discovered a secret weapon in my quest to persuade people to make the switch to renewable energy. It’s called GADGETS!
We’ve had solar panels for nearly ten years now. 18 months ago we bought a Tesla 2 battery for $11,500 (which, as I now realise, was quite a bargain since prices have gone up this year). The installer, who did a great job, showed me how the app tells you exactly how much electricity you are consuming at any moment, and where that electricity is coming from.
I didn’t realise at the time how powerful that insight could be. Three pictures
A sunny day in November 2019
The big yellow mountain is solar energy, collected from our rooftop panels. The jagged line is our household energy consumption. (You can see that I made a cup of tea just before 8 a.m., and I ran the dishwasher and the washing machine in the morning.) Below the horizontal axis shows how the battery works: when the sun comes up excess solar energy feeds into the battery. It’s full by noon, so the grey area is excess energy flowing back to the grid (and earning a feed-in tariff). And you can see that, on this day, the battery powered the house right through till sunrise, so we were 100% self-powered. ☺
Of course, the sun doesn’t always shine
But this screen shot shows that across 2019 we offset our usage — 8166 kWh — with 5473 kWh solar power from our roof. So a 67% reduction in our electricity bill and a 67% reduction in our carbon emissions. The retail price in NSW per kWh is 33c. So *furrows brow, doing sums* that’s $1806.09 in savings in 2019. Nice.
What’s happening here?
This is a screenshot from March 2020 showing where our power is coming from. We’re in the middle of a powercut. The Tesla battery automatically takes over, so that the house can be independent of the grid, using power from the solar panels and, if needed, from the battery. WFH with no grid? No problem.
We love checking on the app to see how much we are saving. But above all, this funky little app, with its visual representation of real time household electricity usage, is an amazing communications tool. Household power bills aren’t sexy but gadgets totally are. Therefore, my husband, even though he is not involved in environmental campaigning, gets a real kick out of showing his friends how we are helping ourselves to free energy (and helping the environment at the same time).
Do you have a battery? Do you have a story to tell about your journey towards zero emissions? Let us know by [best way to connect]