QCA may hog-tie solar homes

SOLAR energy households could be forced to sell their self-generated electricity into the grid before buying it back at a higher retail price under reforms considered by the Queensland Competition Authority.

Under instruction from the State Government, QCA currently is reviewing the solar feed-in tariff for Queensland solar panel homes.

As it stands, the current feed-in tariff scheme allows households to generate electricity from their solar panels and feed any extra electricity back into the grid at a rate of 8 cents per kWh.

The Clean Energy Council claims the QCA is considering a scheme that would force households to sell all their solar power into the grid before buying back all the power they used at the increased retail rate of between 17-25 cents per kWh.

"What the Queensland Competition Authority has proposed is the equivalent of telling people they can't just use the lemons growing on the lemon tree in their backyard - they have to sell the produce to a wholesaler for next to nothing, and then buy the lemons back at a premium from the supermarket," Clean Energy Council policy director Russell Marsh said.

"Installing rooftop solar panels is one of the best ways households can save money on their electricity bills because it can significantly reduce the amount of electricity they need to buy from the grid."

Mr Marsh said a gross tariff feed-in scheme would discourage homeowners from investing in energy efficiency.

The potential change to the energy tariff is another blow to the already struggling solar industry, which saw its feed-in tariffs reduced from 44 cents per kWh to 8 cents per kWh in July.

Last month, the QCA released an issues paper inviting submissions from various stakeholders.

QCA stated in the issues paper, the current net-metering arrangement sometimes resulted in consumers not paying the true cost of their supply from their energy network.

In the future, the underpayments could lead to electricity distributors adjusting tariffs for all customers to recover its costs, resulting in higher electricity prices, QCA stated.

The QCA's draft report is due on 30 November 2012.

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