The days of generous feed-in tariff rates for homes and businesses with solar power are long gone, but the battle to ensure solar users get a fair rate for their renewable energy rages on.
While recent analysis has been more interested in solar’s costs than its benefits, a draft report from Victoria’s Essential Services Commission contains – for the first time – an important acknowledgement that solar power has positive influences that go beyond helping individuals reduce the cost of their power. And it says these benefits should be recognised and rewarded.
Clean Energy Council Network Specialist Tom Butler said the recognition that solar power provides triple-bottom-line social, environmental and economic benefits is a significant progressive step. Solar can reduce carbon emissions and cut peak power demand from the grid which is particularly valuable, he said.
“There are many examples where solar power has been able to cut the strain on the grid on hot days when everyone has been at home with their air-conditioners switched on. When this happens, the cost of electricity is at its highest, and the power saved by solar energy equates to millions of dollars across the power grid,” Mr Butler said.
“A better way of acknowledging and rewarding the benefits solar users deliver across the electricity system, as proposed in the draft report, would be extremely welcome.
“This is something the Clean Energy Council has been working towards for a long time. Our Future Proofing in the Electricity Distribution Industry (FPDI) project contained a lot of work and analysis designed to highlight these benefits for just this reason.
As it currently stands, the driver for policy in electricity – the National Electricity Objective –contains no basis to address the environmental impact of electricity. Government leadership like this is needed to manage the environmental impact of electricity production.
“Despite the market objective being inadequate, solar continues to deliver a clear public benefit by producing large amounts of clean energy, and reducing the amount we get from coal or gas and the pollution that comes with that. It is a remarkable technology, which we will only see more of in the future.”
The draft report will go out for consultation, with a discussion paper to be released in June and the final report delivered early in 2017.
A report by EY for the Clean Energy Council on properly valuing the contribution of small-scale renewable energy generation is available on the FPDI project website.