Solar Power vs. Electricity in Australia
Australia has one of the highest penetration of residential solar systems in the world, thanks to generous subsides given by the state and the federal Governments. Unlike other parts of the world where solar installations have started with large solar farms; residential rooftop installations have powered Solar Energy in Australia. Australia too has a large number of sunny hours which makes it ideal to install solar panels. State Governments in Australia have been at the forefront of giving rebates and subsidies to promote solar energy in the country. Though recently a number of provinces like New South Vales and Victoria have stopped the solar rebates, the falling cost of solar panels in Australia has still made it attractive enough for people to put up solar panels.
The country has literally seen a doubling of solar panels systems for homes from 400,000 households to 800,000 households. This has become a huge headache for solar utilities who have seen their revenues fall precipitously as customers start to use much less electricity from the power grid. A number of homes are also selling their excess power into the grid which makes the utilities lose even more money. The boom has been particularly intense in the state of Queensland where an expiry of a solar feed in tariff led to a huge pull in demand. Over 100,000 applications were filled and it is estimated that around 15% of the population now has a solar rooftop installation in place. Solar Power poses a huge headache to power utilities which have always had fixed amount of demand and revenues. This can now be seen in reality in Queensland where Stanwell Corporation, is believed to be seeking up to 100 redundancies. This is being done as the market has become oversupplied with power in a short time, with a big jump in distributed solar power generation by homes. This has led to a sharp reduction in demand of power being supplied by Stanwell and other utilities in the state. I have predicted that Indian power utilities too should be ready for such a situation in the future as high electricity tariffs are forcing customers to turn towards in-house solar power generation.
Australian electricity distributors are now lobbying to get a utility fee imposed on solar powered homes in order to increase their revenues. The rationale is that even though solar panel owners are not using net electricity form the grid, they are using it as energy storage and reducing the peak demand rates for the utilities. In a way they are getting undue benefits from non solar powered homes. It remains to be seen whether the electricity regulator goes along with this argument. However one thing is for sure Solar Energy remains the biggest challenge for the utility industry through the world as more and more homes start using solar panels.
As households try to offset skyrocketing bills, an explosion of solar photovoltaic panel installations has seen an extra 400,000 homes go green in the past year.
But the Energy Networks Association, which represents distributors, says this has done little to reduce power use at peak times, such as in the evenings.The ENA says companies still have to replace and upgrade poles and wires – the main driver of high electricity bills – and non-solar homes foot the majority of costs.But an energy expert said networks made their money off peak demand.ENA chief executive Malcolm Roberts said more flexible tariffs such as time-of-use pricing were needed, and a new connection charge for solar-powered homes.”Like a telephone bill, customers should be paying a reasonable charge for the infrastructure connection as well as a volume-based charge for the energy they use via that connection,” he said.
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