Bills to rise from reduction in solar tarriffs

OWNERS of solar panels who have enjoyed six years earning feed in tarriffs of 20 to 60 cents per kilowatt hour could be in for bill shock after December when the NSW Solar Bonus Scheme ends.  

With the Northern Rivers boasting one of the highest uptakes of solar power in Australia, local residents are being encouraged to get $600 smart meters installed to monitor their use and avoid massive bill increases.  

For people who applied for the feed in tarrif before 2010 and have been getting 20 to 60 cents per kw/h, this will drop to a measley 6 cents per kw/h from December 31.  

Currently there are only 2000 contractors qualified to install the smart metres, but this hoped to jump to 35,000 contractors if a government bill passes through parliament.  

Rainbow Power Company director Paul O'Reilly said due to the tarriff reduction, residents with solar could lose almost $2000 per year.  

"Currently a residence with a 2 kw system on a 60 cent tarriff gets about $2000 per year but at 6 cents per kw/h they will only get $200 a year without a smart meter," he said.  

"If they change their meter, and we assume they use 50% of their solar energy and export 50%, then they will be back up at $600 a year."  

There had been 'a bit of lethargy from government' in regulating energy companies and networks which are government owned, Mr O'Reilly said, to install modern metering systems.  

Another limiting factor for solar customers, Mr O'Reilly said, was that it was impossible to replace 150,000 gross meters before December 31, due to the small number of qualified contractors.  

"Six years ago solar customers had to replace their meter with a 'dumb' metre and now they are having to replace that with a 'dumb' meter, so we are not seeing any of the advantages that come from modern metering which allows for good data display," he said.  

"On the latest meters consumers are able log in and see how much power they used 15 minutes ago, they can also see what their solar is producing, and they actually control load, where they turn off things like air conditoners and pool pumps."  

NSW Energy Minister Anthony Roberts said consumers can choose if they want a smart meter or not.  

"Our policy of a market-led rollout will ensure households and businesses are free to choose whether they want a smart meter and the best retail offer that suits their needs," he said.   

"And if you're a solar-generating customer on (or soon to be on) a low feed-in-tariff, it'll definitely be in your best interests to get a smart meter installed and stop paying too much for the energy you're generating yourself."  

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