NSW and ACT solar customers to be burnt by ‘Sun Tax’

Rooftop solar panels on homes with tiled roofs (potential)
Image: Shutterstock

Distribution companies in New South Wales and the ACT are moving forward with plans to charge solar customers for feeding electricity into the grid during the middle of the day.

Proposals by Ausgrid, Essential Energy, Endeavour Energy and Evoenergy recently released by the Australian Energy Regulator (AER) show the companies plan to introduce charges ranging from 0.94c/KWh to 3.6c/KWh for solar homes that export above limits set by each network.

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Consumer group Solar Citizens opposes the charges, saying the ‘sun tax’ would likely increase electricity bills for homes and businesses with solar systems larger than 3kW. They estimate the initial charges could amount to bill increases of more than $30 dollars per year for a household with a 5kW solar system.

“Before enforcing any extra charges, the network companies are meant to prove to the Australian Energy Regulator that charging solar customers is necessary to address grid congestion. But in the applications just released, their arguments have more holes than Swiss cheese,” Solar Citizens deputy director Stephanie Gray said.

“Ausgrid’s own data shows that the vast majority of their network can accommodate more rooftop solar, but they want to start slugging people now because by the end of the decade there might be grid issues that arise. That’s not good enough.

“An extra $30 per year might not sound like much, but that’s just the starting point. These charges are likely to go up over time and for many families and businesses struggling with the rising cost of living it’s the last thing they need.”

In 2021, the Australian Energy Market Commission (AEMC) changed the electricity laws so that network companies could charge solar customers for feeding electricity to the grid. Under the new rules, solar owners can face charges if they export more than the limit set by their network. In the new proposals, the distribution network providers are also offering a reward if people can export in the late afternoon.

“The network companies pushed for the ability to charge solar owners in the name of fairness for customers without solar, but Ausgrid’s own documents show that non-solar customers will only be about $1 better off per year after these charges come into effect,” Gray said.

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“The other justification for these charges is to encourage solar owners to use more electricity during the day and export solar in the evening. But how many working families will be able to shift their main electricity use to the middle of the day and afford a battery so they can export at night? 

“The State Government had an opportunity to stop these charges from being implemented and they sat on their hands. Now it falls to the Australian Energy Regulator to clamp down on these unfair charges before they see the light of day.”

Summary of charges by NSW Distributed Network Service Providers

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