Cut to tariff to hit Bendigo solar growth

Sunergy Solar workers install solar panels on a Bendigo shed. Solar customers are likely to receive less for their electricity from January 1 next year.
Sunergy Solar workers install solar panels on a Bendigo shed. Solar customers are likely to receive less for their electricity from January 1 next year.

A CUT to the feed-in tariff for solar installations could threaten the expansion of rooftop solar to Bendigo homes and businesses, the Victorian Greens say.

The Essential Services Commission suggested cutting the tariff in a report released last week, which would reduce the amount paid for the electricity generated from solar customers to as low as five cents a kilowatt hour.

Data from the Clean Energy Regulator shows Bendigo has the highest rate of solar installation in regional Victoria, and is the seventh highest in the whole of Victoria.

Victorian Greens energy spokesperson Ellen Sandell said cutting the price paid for electricity fed into the grid by solar customers would only benefit big energy companies.

“Bendigo consistently leads regional Victoria for solar installations, but this unfair cut would discourage residents from taking control of their energy bills by installing panels,” she said.

“Continuing to cut the feed-in tariff punishes solar owners and prevents Victorians from taking control of their energy bills by investing in solar.”

The commission’s draft decision was to set a minimum feed-in tariff of five cents a kilowatt hour from January 1 next year, down from the current level of 6.2 cents.

The level had been set from January and is reviewed each year by the Essential Services Commission.

The Greens are likely to pressure the government to maintain, or increase, the feed-in tariff.

Ms Sandell said it did not make sense for solar customers to receive less for their electricity.

“It's simply not fair for solar owners to get only one sixth of what the big energy companies are paid for their dirty power,” she said.

“The big energy companies want to maintain the fossil-fuel powered status quo, and further cutting the solar feed-in tariff only helps them profit from polluting.”

The previous Coalition government changed the way the feed-in tariff is determined in 2012, making the Essential Services Commission set the price based largely on wholesale electricity prices.

Victorian energy minister Lily D’Ambrosio said the arrangement would last until the end of 2017.

“We have committed to undertaking a review of feed-in tariff arrangements which will commence in the second half of this year,” she said.

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