Solar panels can now earn you money.
Solar panels can now earn you money.

Demand peaks for home solar

A BURNING desire for solar power has heated the local market to boiling point.

Country Energy is receiving more than 100 applications a day from people wanting to hook up home solar systems to the mains electricity grid, a result described by regional general manager Brian McLean as ‘an overwhelming response’.

As a result, the energy retailer has been forced to ration gross meters which has caused a backlog in completing the process.

The gross meters record the amount of power collected by small-scale photovoltaic collectors and wind turbines that feed into the electricity grid.

There has been a run on the gadgets ever since NSW announced its solar bonus scheme last November which required a change from the previous use of net meters to gross meters.

Despite the supplier doubling its production shifts, supplies have been limited

The NSW Bonus Solar Scheme, which began on January 1 this year, pays a gross feed-in tariff of 60c per kilowatt hour for all energy generated and fed back into the grid.

Coffs Harbour solar power specialist Dave Skelton from North Coast Power Systems has been installing solar power systems for 10 years and said yesterday there had been ‘an astronomical increase’ in the level of interest during the past 12 months; most of it since the solar feed-in tariff was introduced.

This week has seen vociferous complaints from some North Coast residents who have installed solar power systems but say they are experiencing delays from Country Energy, with too few inspectors available.

Mr McLean said they had begun receiving an increased supply of gross meters this month and would review their allocation to make sure meters were distributed to authorised service providers as quickly as possible.

He said Country Energy had also increased employee numbers working on the application processing and to inspect system installations.

“Currently there are 13 employees inspecting solar installations across the Mid North Coast and we continue to monitor time frames for inspection to ensure we continue to meet demand,” Mr McLean said.

“The majority of inspections are occurring in around a week of all documentation regarding the solar installation being received and approved by Country Energy.

“Customers who have concerns regarding their solar installation should contact Country Energy on 1800 ENERGY (1800 363 749).”

Authorised service providers paid by customers are responsible for installing the meters, which are provided free by Country Energy.

Customers cannot submit their documentation or get a rebate for the electricity they feed into the grid until the gross meter is installed, their documentation is submitted and Country Energy arranges an inspection.

Energy price increases will be lower than expected following the announcement that the Federal Government’s Carbon Pollution Reduction Scheme will be delayed. Country Energy and EnergyAustralia customers will see their increases reduced by more than one third.

EnergyAustralia increases will now be 36 per cent and Country Energy’s 42 per cent over three years without the CPRS component, rather than 60 and 64 per cent as previously determined by the Independent Pricing and Regulatory Tribunal.

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