Flare Up: The real threat from solar users


The Government has flagged solar users and the current setup of electricity pricing as a threat to the continuation of the service, but that is not the real threat.

It believes those who have been able to afford PVs and are either environmentally or financially concerned enough to install them, are not paying their fair share for access to “The Grid”.

I believe that’s a simplistic argument from people not savvy enough to think of a modern-day solution to an increasingly modernising problem.

However, that’s not the real threat. The real threat comes from the government’s intended next steps.

Those steps include raising the costs of being connected to The Grid, to counterbalance the apparent freeloading solar users.

For argument’s sake, I’m going to use my household as a working example.

We – two adults and one child – have a tiny 1.5kw system on our roof, along with solar hot water.

Our last bill for the 61 days across 12 September to 11 November 2015 included the following:
– A credit of $32.75 derived from 459 units pumped back into the grid at 7.135c/unit.
– A charge of $84.59 derived from 362 units received from the grid at 23.3663c/unit.
– A charge of $26.17 derived from a Supply Charge of 42.894c/day.
– A GST charge of $11.20.
– Giving us a total bill of $90.40.

That was a very low bill and came across the nice months, where it’s not cold enough to use the heater and not hot enough to use the aircon. We don’t have a pool or anything that drains a great deal of electricity.

The bill before it was $246.60.

This all brings us to the real threat of solar users to the supply of electricity to Western Australia.

The Government has threatened to increase the fee to connect to the grid in the first place – presumably that Supply Charge listed on my bill – as it argues, as outlined in The West Australian, that households such as mine (two adults, one child, with a PV system, but no battery) are paying an average of $820 a year, with the Government subsiding us to the tune of $1097 to be connected to the grid.

Ok, for starters, let’s point out the bleeding obvious on my bill: I’m providing this beloved grid more units of electricity than I’m actually using (459 compared to 362), yet I receive just $32.75 for what I supply, compared to being whacked for $84.59 for what I use.

That’s not a charge to connect to the grid, that’s just a charge for the units received from the grid!

Secondly, let’s reiterate what I have: a tiny 1.5kw system.

Here’s the threat: if the government wants to proceed with this simplistic model and approach, what is it going to do when the solar users throw up their hands and walk away? When they disconnect from the grid?

Tesla’s Powerwall – a 7kw battery storage unit – is due to arrive in Australia within two months. It’s expected to cost about $10,000 to connect to a minimum 5kw system.

I’m already producing more electricity than I use with a 1.5kw system, yet upgrading my current system to include a Tesla Powerwall would cost less than $15,000 and that cost is only going to get cheaper as competition enters the market.

The battery would easily account for my miniscule average of six units of electricity used a day across the year and it would easily account for many households currently on solar. For those who needed a bit more, the Powerwall is capable of connecting with additional Powerwalls to increase storage.

At the moment, the Government argues I’m paying an average of $820 a year (which is rubbish: it’s more than $1000 easily) and they’re subsidising me more than $1000 to maintain its network of poles and powerlines and all that stuff, in order to provide me access to The Grid.

So its solution is to slug me more for a service I’m using less and less, yet supporting via the return of units more and more.

What happens when I walk away? When I buy and install a Tesla Powerwall and disconnect from The Grid because I’ve had enough of the simplistic approach that is unfairly slugging me for trying to save my family money?

Synergy loses my apparent average of $820 a year, yet still has to maintain its network of fossil-fuel powerstations, lines and poles.

And what if thousands of people do the same thing?

Synergy’s simplistic approach takes it from slugging solar users in order to break even, to having it swimming in red ink with no hope of breaking even and potentially resulting in those still connected to The Grid having their charges tripled.

And that’s the real threat.



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