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How to beat the Energex “solar stitch-up”: Take part of your home off grid | Solar Heroes - Battery Hybrid, Off Grid & Grid Connect Solar System Specialists

How to beat the Energex “solar stitch-up”: Take part of your home off grid

4th Marth 2020

Energex’ recent submission to the Queensland Productivity Commission electricity pricing inquiry left a lot of solar system owners concerned about their systems and their plans to add batteries at a later stage.

Energex recently increased their supply charge from 91c/day to $1.28/day. The Off Peak Tariff and Night rate tariff are also to go up. The latest addition to this is a proposal to remove the 44ct feed-in tariff 265,000 solar system owners in Queensland have been enjoying if they add batteries to their existing system.

This proposal in particular has upset many system owners because it appears it directly targets those who try to make the most of their renewable energy without causing further harm to Energex’ network (or the planet). Energex’ concern is twofold:

  • Consumers could potentially storage energy in batteries at off peak rates and sell it back to the grid at 44ct/kwh.
  • If consumers store their solar energy in batteries they would then use this during later that day/evening. This is the exact time frame Energex has earmarked for newly planned demand-based tariffs. I.e. between 7am and 4pm you may pay 20ct/kwh, but during 4pm to 8pm you pay 40ct/kwh.

We are not the only ones who are concerned. Solar Citizens, a consumer advocated group has the same understanding of Energex’ proposal.

Whilst we don’t support the idea of charging the batteries at an offpeak rate and then selling it back at 44ct (it is against current regulations) we do obviously support storing solar energy in batteries for use at a later time.

We believe that proposals like these are more likely to come up over the next few months and years as utilities across the country come to terms with storage systems on their networks. Most experts now agree that the networks have been “overbuilt” and this is a key reason why we’re seeing such drastic proposals from utilities as they’re seeing their income stream disappear.

Given the state of flux the utilities are in currently and most likely will be for several years, purchasing a storage system comes with some risks. We advise our customers to consider reducing that risk by taking part of their home offgrid while leaving some of it connected. This means you can keep your 44ct feed in tariff, install batteries (completely separately from the existing system) and by taking part of your home offgrid you’re taking the first steps towards true independence.

Over the past 2 weeks we’ve received a number of questions from consumers relating to this.

I’d like to share those and our answers:

Energex argues the increased ability to keep large amounts of power for release back into the network would give those solar householders on the top rate an unfair advantage which was never intended by the bonus scheme?

  • GiantPower:  Any of the generated power directly from the solar panels or stored in the battery bank will never be exported to the grid. Our system simply does not have that capability.

Ergon does not call for eligibility to be removed in its submission, but argues that generous government rebates and feed-in tariffs have shifted the mindset of many customers from an environmental motivation to seeking a financial return. Am I not allowed to make the most of my feed-in tariff?

  • Giant Power: Whilst improved financial returns are a part of the outcome (and demand charges only make this better) there are 4 other reasons why you’d want to look at battery storage.
    1. Lock in your energy price against future price increases: By becoming your own power provider and spreading the initial system cost over time, you effectively lock in power for items on your off grid circuits at a far cheaper rate than is currently available.
    2. Store your solar power and use it at night: By being able to rely on the stored solar power in your system during evening and night, you can keep your peak power use low and avoid any future price markup / time of use tariff.
    3. Protect your essentials against blackouts and power outages: With automatic switching to stored power without interrupting supply, you might not even notice the grid is out.
    4. Improve your solar profits by exporting more power from existing solar system: By taking off the load from your essentials, your existing solar system can increase the amount of power that is exported to the grid. However, it can’t and won’t exceed the maximum approved capacity as no change is made to your existing system. This increase in exporting more energy into the grid is no different from you taking a 3 months holiday and reduce or eliminate any power usage in the house while you are away.

Tom Kuiper is wholesaling manager for Giant Power.