Solar customers have no power
A PROMINENT Northern Rivers solar company has called on the State Government to offer protections to the industry and its customers after an independent review recommending the price of solar be halved and made voluntary.
In a draft report released last week, pricing regulator IPART recommended a tariff of 8-10c per kilowatt hour be paid to households who sell electricity into the network from their solar panels.
Householders who installed solar panels under the State Government's recently closed Solar Bonus Scheme (SBS) received 60 cents per kilowatt.
Paul O'Reilly from the Nimbin-based Rainbow Power Company said IPART's tariff recommendation would only be voluntary for energy retailers.
"We are at the mercy of the retailers," Mr O'Reilly said.
"They can negotiate whatever they want and change it whenever they want.
"For a mum-and-dad household wanting to install a solar system, how do they get any power to negotiate with the energy providers?"
Mr O'Reilly said the price should be fixed and regulated to protect the industry.
"At the moment, IPART recommends that it's a voluntary contribution," he said.
"It leaves us at the mercy of retailers and we have no security for new technology to get off the ground."
If the IPART recommendations are implemented, existing SBS customers would be exposed to the changes when the scheme ends in 2016, Mr O'Reilly said.
The NSW Minister for Resources and Energy Chris Hartcher said there were 20,000 customers who applied to connect solar panels to the grid after the SBS was shut down in April.
"That's a terrific result that shows customers are taking into account the long-term benefits, including savings on electricity bills with net metering, when they are deciding whether or not to invest in solar panels," he said.
"The steady stream of applications has also provided ongoing income and certainty for the industry, along with the 40,000 additional applicants the NSW Government allowed entry under the Solar Bonus Scheme."
The final IPART review is due for release in April 2012.