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Solar boom means rising power costs for some Qlders

The Solar Bonus Scheme now offers 8c per kWh and will end mid-2014.
The Solar Bonus Scheme now offers 8c per kWh and will end mid-2014. Trevor Veale

HOUSEHOLDS generating solar power through bonus schemes since 2008 could force annual electricity bills up $276, about 17%, by 2015-16 as the cost is passed onto other network users.

The Queensland Competition Authority has recommended solar-powered homeowners switch to time-of-use prices to avoid the inequitable cost recovery "from those customers least able to afford them".

The QCA also has recommended a regulated 7.06c to 14.05c tariff per kWh in regional Queensland while encouraging a more competitive household solar power market in South East Queensland.

Energy Minister Mark McArdle asked the QCA to report on a fair and reasonable feed-in tariff for small scale solar generation in Queensland.

The QCA believes the time-of-use tariff for solar households could ameliorate the effect on other customers by making power more expensive at night when there is increased demand.

"It would go some way to reducing the problem of (solar) customers avoiding a portion of the true cost of their network access due to their net consumption profile, which leads to higher average variable network charges," the QCA report read.

The report says the number of small-scale solar photovoltaic installations has "exceeded all expectations" since the Queensland Government introduced the Solar Bonus Scheme in 2008.

The number has increased from less than 6000 in 2008-09 to more than 260,000 at December, 2012.

The QCA report described the initial scheme as "exceptionally generous", offering customers 44c per kWh for their net power entering the network.

An interim scheme, implemented last July after a change of government, now offers 8c per kWh and will end in mid-2014.

While the original scheme has closed, eligible customers will continue to receive the higher 44c rate until 2028.

"Surprising as it may be for some consumers, there is no magic pudding when it comes to electricity prices," the report reads.

"If one group of consumers enjoys a benefit in excess of the true savings they make, or enjoys prices below the cost of their consumption, other electricity customers have to pay the price of those excess benefits or lower prices.

"When those doing the paying are likely those least able to afford it and those enjoying the benefits are those likely to be most able to afford to meet their true costs, then something is truly wrong."

The cost of direct feed-in tariff payments under the 44c and 8c per kWh schemes is expected to total about $3 billion by the end of 2028.

The QCA also recommended electricity retailers should fund future feed-in tariff schemes instead of government-owned entities.

Topics:  electricity, queensland government, solar bonus scheme, solar power


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