Solar Power Pitfall 2

pylonhead1 (2)Thanks to the timely advice from one of my readers (thanks Kate), I have made some progress regarding my Solar Power Pitfall. Today, I contacted the Energy & Water Ombudsman (Victoria) to help me with my grievance regarding Powercor, and their instance that I pay a Special Project Fee of $299.20 to feed my renewable solar energy into the local power grid for little or no work on their behalf.I stated my case, and the Ombudsman will be mediating between Powercor and myself regarding the matter. My case officer will be asking Powercor to waver the fees on the pretence that I was never initially told by them that there was a fee involved in obtaining a Network Connection Agreement. To make my blood boil further, today I received a copy of the agreement, which was signed by my solar PV installer on my behalf, but without my knowledge, and an invoice from Powercor for the $299.20. I would recommend to anyone thinking of installing grid-connected renewable energy in whatever form, to ensure that you find out what all the fees will be, and not just those of the installers. May you all benefit from my error by learning the pitfalls of this process. Powercor now have 10 days to respond to the Ombudsman, so now I wait for the outcome. Hopefully there will be no round 2!

Also on the renewable energy front, I believe that the Victorian Government will announce their long awaited renewable energy feed-in tariff tomorrow. I am not sure what the rumours are, but some say that they may follow SA and Qld’s lead of net metering, whereby the generator (that’s me) gets paid for the power they export to the grid, and not the total gross energy consumption of the generating system. Now that sounds like a bit of a cop-out, until I read an argument posted a few weeks ago by a fellow blogger in Qld. TB argues in his blog “2050 Vision: Sustainable Civilisation“, that gross metering will lead to energy wastage, and net metering will lead to energy conservation. Have a read, it is a good post.

I tend to agree with him, because I have seen exactly those behaviours in our own household regarding energy usage. We currently do not have a feed-in tariff, so any electricity we save is simply subtracted from the kilowatt hours we consume i.e. the electricity meter spins backwards when we are generating more than we use. So it is in our best interest to conserve energy. That will also be the case with a net metering feed-in tariff. Conservation of resources, in this case electricity, will still line our pockets. However, with a gross metering system, there is no such conservation, because it doesn’t matter how much energy the household consumes because they will get paid for whatever their system generates. There are no checks and balances to ensure conservation, with more money for the generator, but no conservation.

Whatever tariff system the state government decides upon tomorrow, it will be a step in the right direction for combating climate change, as long as they have the forethought of being able to modifying it as necessary to continue to expand the uptake of renewable energy over burning brown coal!


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  1. says

    Gavin, your rational about net versus gross input tariffs is not quite right. Yes, under a gross system you will be paid at the premium rate for everything you generate, but you will also have to pay for the power you use, at the retail rate. There are effectively two transactions occurring. If you were to begin wasting electricity, then this would represent an opportunity cost to you i.e. the net value of those two transactions (which will be in your favour) would be less than it would have been if you had used less electricity.

    The purpose of a feed-in tariff is to encourage people to invest in domestic renewable energy equipment. With the net system, there is much greater uncertainty as to how much you will receive and the net amount they receive will always be lower, which create disincentives. The rational stated further assumes that the same number of people will have renewable energy generation facilities under either system.

    Good work for all you have done. With a good gross system we could get a whole lot more people doing some of the things you’re doing.

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