The Smart Energy Council has condemned the ACCC’s call to scrap the SRES

Dark skies loom for small-scale solar PV

Uncertainty over the future of the Small-scale Renewable Energy Scheme (SRES) spells disaster for households wanting to slash power bills, and could put the brakes on an otherwise turbo-charged industry for installers, suppliers and manufacturers. 

The doubt stems from the recommendation by the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission to ditch the SRES by 2021, almost a decade earlier than planned. 

The suggestion has drawn widespread condemnation from the renewables industry, and the Smart Energy Council has voiced serious concern, saying the early retraction would cause unnecessary panic and confusion for consumers and the industry. 

“The one thing householders can do to slash their power bills is to install solar,” John Grimes stated, “The federal government needs to immediately rule out abolishing the SRES.”

As it stands the SRES – which pays up to $40 for every ton of carbon abated by the installation of small scale solar PV and solar hot water systems - will be phased out by 2030, with the amount of ‘deeming’ reduced every year from now until 2030.

But the ACCC says it has to go by 2021, if not immediately, as it will save money for non-solar householders.

How much?

A maximum $30.

A year.

Maybe as little as $15.

Smart Energy Council Government Relations Manager Wayne Smith says the train wreck of policy in the energy sector caused by the NEG has now been “extended by an attack on small scale solar that makes little sense”.

Other dangers lurk - the commonwealth capacity for safety and integrity would be diminished with solar installation inspection services abolished. 

“Axing the SRES creates the greatest uncertainty and would devastate the solar industry. The fact the Prime Minister hasn’t rejected this proposal means it is fully within the Government’s plans,” Wayne said.

Ironically it was just two years ago that the federal government agreed the SRES would continue to 2030.

Wayne Smith explained that if the SRES was ditched it would add around 30 per cent to the cost of a 5 kW system, which in turn would slow demand.

Many of the 6300 jobs in the rooftop PV industry would therefore be under threat, yet it is unlikely the ACCC has factored in the subsequent unemployment levels to the “benefits” of the industry overhaul.

“The recommendations cause investment uncertainly and sovereign risk. 

 “This is abrupt, it’s diabolical, we cannot let it happen.”

Another key ACCC recommendation includes an option to reduce the clearing house price and a change in the number of certificates, which will have substantial impact on small scale solar uptake and businesses that support it. 

The ACCC also proposed that individual states, rather than power prices, should fund the feed-in tariffs, however this administrative change is less concerning. 

But a recommendation to tighten eligibility for feed-in tariffs would make it harder for people wanting to adapt solar schemes by adding storage, a move that would adversely affect the industry.

One in five homes: Last month the Clean Energy Regulator reported that Australian homes and small businesses had now installed more than three million small-scale renewable energy systems since the Small-scale Renewable Energy Scheme was introduced in 2001.

Importantly, they collectively generate or displace around 12.9 million megawatt hours of electricity annually and significantly reduce carbon emissions.

“This is another milestone demonstrating Australians are making the most of the Small-scale Renewable Energy Scheme to access clean, renewable energy systems. This helps them to have better control over their energy costs,” said Clean Energy Regulator Executive General Manager Mark Williamson.

The majority of installations were rooftop solar panel systems, providing around 63 per cent of the three million total, with solar water heaters (29 per cent) and air source heat pumps (8 per cent) making up the majority of the remaining installations.

Queensland continues to live up to its reputation as the sunshine state, installing a record 839,461 small-scale renewable energy systems compared to New South Wales in second place with 694,154 systems.

Victoria had the third highest number of installations with 636,157, followed by Western Australia with 436,611.

The June 2018 milestone capped off a record year of more than one gigawatt of solar capacity installed in 2017.

Clearly solar power is more popular than ever, and Solar Citizens points out “The SRES has done a great job at kick-starting Australia’s rooftop solar revolution [by] decreasing the upfront cost of solar by thousands of dollars to make it easier to install solar, reduce power bills and help the environment.”

Solar Citizens has joined the chorus saying the ACCC’s suggestion to abolish the small-scale scheme nine years earlier than planned makes zero sense and is bad news for Australia’s rooftop revolution.

In a statement they said rooftop solar energy is the best way to guarantee energy bill savings and that the governments should be helping more people take the power back from the big power companies by installing cost-cutting solar, not making it harder, and that abolishing the SRES is “absolutely the wrong way to go to save households money on their electricity bills”.

In recent days the Smart Energy Council has featured extensively on TV channels and in print media, with John Grimes spreading the message about the need for Australia to develop strong renewable energy and climate change targets and to continue to support household solar.