On discovering the shocking low rate for the NT solar feed-in tariff

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LETTER TO THE EDITOR

I recently sent this letter to Minister for Essential Services Eva Lawler:-

Dear Honourable Minister,

We bought our house here in Alice Springs five years ago hoping to move in imminently but I was struck down with Acute Leukaemia, so we were delayed and moved in March this year.

On buying the house we saw to our disbelief that it had no solar panels, so immediately spent $10,000 having 20 of them installed. On moving here we discovered that a huge African Mahogany tree covered half the roof throughout winter months, so rather than cut it down, we installed another eight panels on the west facing roof ($3,500).

I see from an ABC report that the NT government cancelled their 1 for 1 tariff rate last year without any warning, so any expectation that we could pay off our solar panels within the expected five or six years has been thrown in the trash.

If I take October as an average month, we received $16.54 From Jacana Energy for generating 1,034 KWH of electricity to be used (one assumes) in the NT. Does that sound to you like any kind of deal? Or a complete rip off?

At this rate (earning approximately $192 a year) we will have only earned $1,920 in 10 years, and $3,840 in 20 years (assuming we are even alive by then – I am a working 70 year old) by which time the solar panels will probably need to be replaced. Would you agree to any transaction like this? It verges on disgusting.

I have spoken at length with Katrina (a manager) from Jacana Energy to find out what is going on. Jacana says the NT government is solely responsible for the collapse of the solar feed-in tariff and it is something they have no control over. This is possibly because Jacana has the ear of the NT government and their profits have dropped over recent years with the uptake of solar – I have no way of knowing as there is no transparency – I do know that profits and shareholders have priority in our economic system.

Anyway last year we were getting  24.23 cents a KWH and now we are getting next to nothing at .083 cents a KWH. I realise in a capitalist world, companies have to make a % profit but this is way beyond that – it’s obscene.

If the NT government is seriously committed to a green future (let alone saving the planet for their children and children’s children) as opposed to the occasional green wash statement, I urge you to re-consider what you have done. Rather than encouraging every citizen to get on board with solar power, you are in effect penalising those who have taken the initiative.

Please don’t reply with a counter argument that the company has expenses for infrastructure, upkeep, repairs etc.  I would reply that they are already charging us a fixed rate for that at $14.81 a month.

Please don’t reply with the argument that the system cannot handle so much electricity and becomes unstable. Engineers have been fixing these kinds of problems ever since Edison (DC) and Westinghouse (AC) at the beginning of the 20th Century. Regulating electricity is not rocket science.

Please don’t reply that capitalism requires vast profits to invest in the future, we have taxes for that… and indeed the private energy sector is already ahead of most governments in at least seeing the end of coal, even if methane is beyond their steak lunches.

The myopic thinking of most governments in Australia have us lagging behind the rest of the industrialised world – we are currently the worst emitter of green house gasses per capita. Instead a place with as much sunshine as the NT should by now be selling a surplus of energy to SE Asia instead of penalising its citizens for trying to do the right thing.

Yours respectfully,

Jon Rose

Alice Springs

 

Photo at top: Domestic solar installation, sourced from Facebook.

12 COMMENTS

  1. Well, it is my belief that Solar is a bit of a government con.
    In SA we receive a feed in tariff of 14 cents. Others who signed up early are still getting 50 cents.
    One (possibly) unknown drawback of solar, is that just because you have panels, doesn’t mean you will have power in the event of a grid failure or maintenance during the day.
    The power companies cite that it’s a safety feature so that when the grid is off (maintenance) you are not feeding power to make the grid live which is dangerous and that makes perfect sense.
    BUT there is a special switch (additional cost $600) that will disconnect you from the grid, but you are not allowed to have one.
    So when the grid is off for whatever reason, you won’t have power. I am unsure if this is the case if you have batteries, though I imagine it is and that would annoy me even more.
    If you are thinking about going off grid altogether, apparently you need batteries and a generator to be allowed to do it.
    Getting to Jon’s comment, I can’t see how you can set a feed in tariff and then just change it.
    It should be illegal! In the early days, many borrowed to install solar and they planned to use the feed in tariff to help offset the repayments on the loan.
    We were told we can make a bit of money with a “small” investment, but when the government changes the rules so you buy something for 28 cents and sell it for 0.83 cents (-70.36% Loss) you are never going to make money, let alone pay for your system.
    But alas, the government does what ever it wants and that’s the crime. The NTG is full of BS when it comes to solar and clean energy.
    It is my belief that the solar scheme is about controlling the energy supply and not in a good way. Try going off grid and see what red tape you encounter and then try to have the daily fixed charge removed off your account!

  2. Agreed. I’m currently building a new home and solar now seems financially unviable. Out of curiosity, isn’t there a saving made with power consumed during daylight hours which would be the full $0.2423/kwh?
    E.g. If you consume 500kwh / month and approx. 250kwh are offset from solar during daylight consumption then you’d save an additional $60/month…
    For climate conscious customers who would like to adopt solar, it would be good to know the economics around this.

  3. @ Mick: Mick, in theory and assuming you have a system large enough and full sun, you use your generated power and then any excess is fed to the grid. There must be some very cute switching that goes on in the inverter because your use is not a constant.
    In my case I have a 16KW (40 Panel) system. So again in theory, full sun I will be outputting to the grid constantly.

  4. Hi All, some questions, please: Do you have a contract with the NT Government for the purchase by them of your excess electricity?
    How much do they pay you?
    What is the duration of the contract?
    How much do you pay them when you buy electricity from them?
    Do you have a contract and if so, what is its duration?
    Thank you.
    Erwin Chlanda, Editor.

  5. @ Surprised: So solar power systems that cover household use and feed into the grid are disincentivised.
    Why buy a large expensive system?
    This means that more fossil fuel has to be used to power the grid.
    Not exactly a green initiative, is it!

  6. Are you aware of the Irony that you purchased a house with out knowing if it had solar, then installed panels that are shaded, so further upgraded, and only then realised the feed in tariff was not what you wanted? And it is somehow the government’s fault?
    And putting your decimal points in the right place is important! .083 cents?
    And many people (read everyone else) factor the energy produced in the payback equation, not the money generated.

  7. Fact Check:
    1. Note the generation of 1034 kWh against $16.54 calculates to 1.6 cents per kWh while you note yourself your tariff is 8.3 cents. This indicates the majority of the power being generated is being consumed onsite (not exported) in which case it is worth 24.23 cents i.e. the value of the electricity you would otherwise be importing. Many get confused about this point since PV systems years ago were installed on their own channel in the meter and so exported all their generation.
    2. To calculate payback on your investment you will need to determine how much energy is valued at 24.23 cents (used) and how much is valued at 8.3 cents (exported) – see point 1. It will be much better than you expect, since the numbers indicating you are self-consuming around 80% of what you generate. With you being home during the day and likely using a lot of cooling loads, your issue will be quantity of power usage not the value of the FiT which is only minutely impacting your ROI. The $192 is thus a false calculation as you haven’t allowed for the savings associated with displaced energy imports at the full rate.
    3. Finally on the notion of capitalism, the 8.3 cents you are being paid corresponds to $83/MWh. This is about double the rate Jacana could purchase the energy from a utility scale solar farm and it is also unexceptional compared to other FiT around the country. The unfortunate thing here is that Jacana and your solar installer were unable to explain this to you, but keep in mind your electricity revenue meter can only track what you import/export not what you generate and self-consume. This is what your solar inverter should tell you and likely has already given the generation figure you’ve quoted. Your PV system thus should have a good ROI as the FiT is not playing much of a role.

  8. The contract is not with the NT government, it is with Jacana, but they are saying the the NT Government determines the tariff, not them (Jacana).
    If we were to buy electricity from Jacana it would cost us 26.65 cents a KWH or a daily rate of 52.54 cents KWH, as it is we get 0.085 cents when we sell them 1 KWH.
    It is really disgusting and a disincentive for anyone trying to do the right thing.
    Jon.

  9. As it was explained to me (in SEQ), it only makes sense to install Solar by putting up enough panels to cover the usage of your property.
    As hot water is the largest demand don’t include this in the calculations but install a separate system such as Solar HW or a heat pump, 300 ltr capacity (runs for 1 hr every second day in my case) so very cheap option for me. Heat pump (reverse of A/C ) takes heat from the air to heat the water – up to 60 Deg C and is programmable to operate at the hottest time of the day for cheapest cost.
    Have not paid anything for Electricity for the past 7 yrs.

  10. @Jon: Jon, I am not sure what you mean. A larger system will not only supply my needs, but I will benefit from the FIT. To my way of thinking, the only way to benefit from the FIT is to be able to generate significantly more than it costs to buy back. Sell at 14 cents and buy at 34 cents.
    How does that contribute to more fossil fuel being used?

  11. Surely your installer told you about shading from the tree and the FiT before you bought the panels? Receiving 1:1 was to assist in solar uptake but it was never going to last. All about battery uptake now.

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