Panel owners could get more money, depending on the time of day

GIVING THE TIME OF DAY: Victorian solar panel owners could soon see a change in earnings for power fed into the grid. Picture: Michele Mossop/Fairfax Media
GIVING THE TIME OF DAY: Victorian solar panel owners could soon see a change in earnings for power fed into the grid. Picture: Michele Mossop/Fairfax Media

Solar panel owners could see the money they get back for supplying energy into the grid nearly triple the current rate during peak periods in a move welcomed by a local solar energy group.

The draft rates are being considered by the state’s Essential Services Commission and could see the introduction of a new payment for households and businesses feeding solar power into the electricity grid.

That payment, known as a feed-in tariff, is currently a minimum of 11.3 cents per kilowatt hour.

But the regulator wants to transition to a new “time-varying” tariff that pays more during periods of the day when demand rises.

It is considering two tariffs from July. A “single-rate” tariff would return a minimum of 9.9 cents per kilowatt/hour, with a time-varying tariff returning between 7.2 cents and 29 cents depending on the time of day power was exported.

The proposal has been welcomed by energy solar groups including MASH Community Solar, a Castlemaine-based non-for-profit operating a community bulk-buy scheme.

Project officer Jo Kaptein said changes would encourage more people to install solar.

“Particularly big systems on west-facing roofs, as the peak will be 3pm to 9pm each weekday,” she said.

“Given the high level of competition in the Victorian electricity market it is likely that some, if not all retailers, will offer the (time-varying) tariff,” Ms Kaptein said.

Making tariffs more lucrative was a notion welcomed by Environment Victoria campaigns manager Nick Aberle. He said that while the cost of solar systems was coming down there was a benefit to better financial incentives helping people switch to rooftop solar.

“The overwhelming majority of Victorians want to do something about climate change and rooftop solar helps them do that. We have poll after poll telling us that,” he said.

Dr Aberle believed solar panels could also help reduce the strain on the grid at moments of peak demand, saying summer was a time when ageing coal-fired stations could run into problems.

“They fail us in hot whether when we need them the most, and that’s when rooftop solar is at its best,” he said.

The Essential Services wants feedback on its tariff proposals. Submissions should be sent to fitreview@esc.vic.gov.au and will be accepted until 29 January.

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