One of the best parts of having solar on your roof over the past few years has been the generous feed-in tariffs that households receive for feeding excess power back to the grid.
But alas, those days are soon to be over as state governments in NSW, VIC and SA roll back some of these premium offers between September 2016 and January 2017.
These bonus deals were originally introduced for a set period, as an incentive for Aussies to take up solar energy at home, without having to drill a hole in their wallet. But with tariffs due to drop drastically, some households could be up for serious bill shock. If you live in a solar home, here’s what you need to know...
New South Wales: Most affected
The Solar Bonus Scheme in NSW comes to an end on 31 December 2016 affecting more than 146,000 households and small businesses. The feed-in tariff will fall from 60 cents per kilowatt hour for all solar generation to just 5.5-7.2 cents per kilowatt hour.
What does that mean? Households that signed up for the scheme could now lose an annual income of around $1,000 to $4,000 depending on the size of their solar PVs, making the impact on NSW the worst of all the other states.
Victoria: Somewhat affected
Victoria’s Transitional Feed-in Tariff (TFIT) scheme ends on 31 December 2016. So residents who were paid 25 cents per kilowatt hour for excess solar fed into the grid will see their tariffs reduced to just 5 cents.
Victorians who are on the Premium Feed-in Tariff scheme (which pays 60c/kWh) however, needn’t worry yet, because the scheme remains in place till 2024.
South Australia: Least affected
With the 16-cent tariff dropping to 6.8 cents on 30 September 2016, the change in South Australia won’t be as significant as in NSW and VIC. The other scheme in SA, offering 44 cents per kilowatt hour (for people who applied by 30 September 2011), is applicable till 2028.
It might be a bit of a let down to see your feed-in tariff scale down but thankfully, there are still ways to keep a check on your energy bill...
1. Use more solar energy at home.
Wondering how you can possibly use more solar power at home when most of your electricity consumption happens at night? Good question! Try and use timers for appliances like the washing machine and dishwasher so they can work during the day. You can also try this with the heating and cooling gadgets as long as your home is well insulated and will maintain the temperature for a few hours.
2. Consider home battery storage.
Alternatively, you can use solar energy at night by purchasing a battery storage unit. Home batteries store excess power generated by your panels so you can consume energy whenever you need to. And with major companies like Tesla and BMW entering the battery market, the technology is likely to become a popular energy storage solution for solar homes. But remember that different batteries have different capacities - so compare your options carefully and make sure you’re picking one that’s most cost effective for your home.
3. Switch from gas to electric appliances.
With all that clean electricity on your rooftop why would you want to spend extra on gas? If you’re using gas for things like heating water, think of switching over to an electric system so you can make use of all the solar power you generate. The initial cost may seem like a downer, but it’ll save you heaps in the long run.
4. Live in NSW? Switch to a net tariff.
If you live in NSW, you probably have what’s called a gross meter. This means you were selling all the solar power you were generating back to the grid because you were getting significant coin for it. But with the feed-in tariffs falling, you won’t earn much for doing so anymore. And that’s why, it’s a wise idea to switch to a net tariff plan, where you only sell what you don’t use.
Many energy providers are offering to change your existing meter to a smart meter at a low or even no cost if you switch to their electricity plan. A smart meter is useful because it gives you access to real time usage information, opens up options like time-of-use tariffs and lets you automatically switch your billing from gross to net after the scheme comes to an end.
As energy retailers start announcing special tariffs for solar households wanting to switch to cheaper plans, don’t fall for the first ad or incentive that comes your way. Instead, compare all electricity plans in your area, think about your usage patterns and then make the final decision!