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New Attack on The Solar Feed In Tariff

Energex once again levels its sights on Queensland Solar homeowners and the solar feed in tariff

Energex Attack on The Solar Feed-In-TariffThe Courier-Mail last weekend reported a new attack on the Solar Feed In Tariff for Queensland households stating: “HOUSEHOLDS with solar panels could lose their generous feed-in tariff if they install new battery systems designed to offer blackout protection.
The Palaszczuk Government is considering the proposal from state-owned power generator Energex, which says it is worried about the “unfair advantage” households with batteries would have to store large amounts of power for release back into the network at peak times.”

On reading the news that the 44c solar feed-in-tariff will be stripped from anyone adding a hybrid battery back-up system onto their existing solar system here at Qld Solar Advisor had to laugh at the absurdity of what was being suggested, and the complete lack of understanding of what was supposedly being legislated against.

The argument is that those consumers on the 44c Solar Feed In Tariff would store the energy to then feed it back into the system at peak times giving them an unfair advantage, so because of this, they should lose their 44c FIT. So let’s get some facts established here:

  1. Any solar power not being used by a consumer on the 44c FIT is currently fed back into the grid and they receive 44c for every 1kWh they feed back in. This is a fixed fee and occurs at whatever time of the day they are feeding it back into the grid. It does not increase or decrease at the various times of the day that some of the suppliers increase or decrease their rates.
  2. Any increase to the size of the inverter fitted under the 44c FIT will automatically remove the 44c FIT. Therefore, the option of adding a separate new Hybrid system which all come with their own inverter is already legislated against. In simple terms – add an additional inverter (which you have to do with a Hybrid system) automatically increases the inverter size and you the homeowner lose your 44c FIT automatically under the terms already set out.
  3. So if someone on the 44c tariff purchased a hybrid battery system and added it to their existing system (very expensive) and then stored the excess power they produce they will not receive any extra money when they release it back into the grid just the same old 44c per kWh.
  4. The storing of power involves losses on the conversion from DC to AC and then back again from DC to AC, as would be required to use it or to feed it back to the grid. So overall this conversion would lead to the consumer receiving less money than they would otherwise gain from simply feeding it back to the grid in the first place.
  5. It would therefore not make sense to do this, especially when you add in the cost of purchasing an expensive hybrid battery system to then make less money on what you export.

The idea that any sensible consumer on the 44c Solar Feed In Tariff would consider such a stupid waste of money says more about what Energex think of their own clients intelligence than any threat to the balance of electricity in Queensland. Add the fact that the Energy suppliers would actually benefit from such a situation as they suggest makes the whole argument comical. If consumers did store the energy and release it back to the grid at peak usage times it would actually reduce the energy suppliers requirement to generate the extra power required, saving the energy supplier money overall.

However before we leave the subject it is important to point out that if a 44c consumer decided to go off-grid with another system mounted on their roof to use, while continuing to feedback from their initial system connection on the grid to receive the 44c FIT – this would not break the rules as set out. While the cost of doing this currently is extremely prohibitive it would allow the consumer a considerable advantage in exporting everything for the 44c Solar Feed In Tariff while going off grid. It is due to the high cost of off-grid systems that we believe Energex’s arguments are nothing more than scaremongering at present, but may come into play in the future as hybrid and battery systems decrease in cost.

Hybrid & Off Grid Basic Differences Explained:

  1. Solar hybrid system affecting the solar feed-in-tariffA Hybrid System is one where your home remains connected to the grid and has the ability to draw power as per normal should your batteries become depleted or your system fail.
  2. An Off-Grid System is one where you maintain no connection to the Grid and are completely self-sufficient for your energy supply.
  3. A Hybrid System still has meters installed and still has billing costs associated with the maintenance of your electricity supply.
  4. An Off-Grid System has no meters installed and has no billing costs associated with the maintenance of your electricity supply.
  5. A Hybrid System generally stores excess energy produced by your solar system in batteries and this is then fed back into your home as the sun goes down to reduce your power usage from the grid. This is particularly useful at peak usage times when the cost of your electricity is higher. Most hybrid systems are built around what you actually need and only discharge to preset limits to preserve your battery life expectancy, after which your home will go back over to grid supply for the remainder of the time until your solar kicks in again.
  6. Off-grid Solar System affecting the solar feed-in-tariffAn Off-Grid System is generally larger than you would normally require, as you have to consider inclement weather reducing your solar input, so a greater storage capacity is required to offset against 2-3 days of poor solar. There is also a requirement to have a generator input point to be able to power your home should the weather really mess with your solar production and lead to complete depletion of your system. Diesel-powered machines are reckoned to last longer and there are plenty to choose from on the market.
  7. The advantage of a hybrid system is it saves you the cost of purchasing and storing both a bigger battery system and a generator, so although it’s expensive it is significantly cheaper than an off-grid system. There is less to maintain therefore less to go wrong, and you will always have a connection to the grid so you should maintain continuous power. You may still be able to export power back to the grid should your batteries reach capacity and obtain a small FIT. The disadvantage is you still get a bill from your retailer even if you don’t end up using any power from them at all.
  8. The advantage of an off-grid system is that you don’t have any bills from your electricity retailer and if building in a remote location the connection costs involved are saved. Disadvantages are the maintenance of the generator and system become more critical to you and the cost of this system is significantly higher than the Hybrid system.

Batteries Explained:

Where we state that battery systems are considered expensive at present this is based on the general market predictions of a 50% drop in price being expected over the next 18 months – 2 years being offset against the likely cost of electricity bills while waiting for these costs to drop.

Lead Acid Batteries can generally have 50% of their rated power storage drained and then be recharged to work optimally. Further drainage to 60% or 70% power usage is likely to reduced battery life considerably. Lithium Ion Phosphate are able to be drained further usually to as low as 20% remaining, giving them an 80% user capacity without shortening their lifespan.

The expected life-span on most batteries is reckoned to be 8 – 10 years.

Got questions? Leave a comment below or contact us here and we’ll do our best to give you the right information for your situation.

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You can read the complete Article in the Courier Mail here:

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