On 1 January 2017, many of the Solar Bonus Schemes that previously tempted Aussies to install solar panels changed, leading to dramatically lower feed-in tariffs for households across the country.
Aside from clean and sustainable energy use, part of the appeal of having solar panels in Australia has always been the rebates offered to households who sell unused power back to the grid.
“With many of these feed-in tariff offers ending along with 2016, households are left earning less dollars per kWh, potentially leading to a case of serious bill shock,” said Mozo Data Manager Peter Marshall.
If you’re wondering what the changes mean for your electricity bill, here’s what you need to know:
New South Wales: most affected
31 December 2016 saw the complete removal of subsidised Premium (paying 60c/kWh) and Transitional (paying 20c/kWh) feed-in tariffs for NSW residents. That means, from 1 January 2017, feed-in tariffs in NSW will be completely up to the discretion of the energy provider, who may choose not to give any at all.
As Mozo reported in August last year, this could mean NSW households are losing out on up to $4,000 of annual income, depending on their solar production.
Victoria: 5 cent minimum
Victoria’s Transitional (paying 25c/kWh) feed-in tariff ended on 31 December 2016. Solar users won’t be left entirely in the lurch, as retailers will need to offer a minimum payment of 5 cents per kWh from 1 January 2017. But cut to one fifth of the original offer, this may seem a poor consolation prize.
Households who applied for the Premium feed-in tariff scheme before 29 December 2011 will still receive 60 cents per kWh until 1 November 2024.
South Australia: No set minimum
South Australian households already saw the minimum feed-in tariff drop to 6.8 cents in September 2016, but now even that low figure is a thing of the past. In 2017, retailers will still need to offer a feed-in tariff to households affected by this change, but there’s no set minimum to meet.
Other South Australians needn’t worry - customer Group 1 (approved by 31 August 2010) will continue to receive 44 cents per kWh until June 30 2028, as will Customer Groups 2 & 3 (approved by 30 September 2011), but only on the first 45 kWh exported each day.
Queensland: Not affected
Queenslanders got off lightly this time around. As Energy Minister Mark Bailey promised last year, Queensland’s solar feed-in tariffs haven’t been affected by the recent changes.
Households who signed up to the Sunshine State’s Solar Bonus Scheme will continue to earn 44c per kWh on their solar energy until 1 July 2028.
How to make the most from your solar
Despite cuts to solar rebates, there are still ways for savvy Aussie households to make the most of their solar power, said Marshall. Here are a few ways to combat bill shock in the wake of dropping feed-in tariffs.
- Use your solar power. Rather than sell your solar power back to the grid for a small return, try to use it for your day-to-day energy needs instead. How? “If you can, set timers to use large appliances like dishwashers or washing machines during the day when solar energy is readily available,” said Marshall. “That way you’ll cut down your energy bill anyway, and the feed-in tariff won’t be so important for your budget.”
- Install a home battery. Companies like Tesla and BMW are entering the solar market with home battery systems that allow Aussie households to store solar power and use it around the clock, cutting down on energy bills. If you think your solar energy could cover most of your energy use, this solution may be worth looking into. “Although the initial cost of the battery system may seem steep, it’s worth weighing that upfront cost against the potential ongoing savings,” Marshall said.
- Review your energy plan. It’s a good idea to regularly review your energy plan and make sure you’re still getting the best deal. For households with solar panels, this might mean comparing your current plan to the leading solar energy retailers in your state. You can also compare the whole energy market with Mozo’s energy comparison tool - just remember to specify that you have solar panels and enter your average daily solar feed-in to get an accurate result.