NSW solar customers prepare for tariff changes

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New South Wales solar customers signed up to the Solar Bonus Scheme will no longer benefit from 20c or 60c subsidised feed-in tariffs from January 2017. This article explains what this means for you and how you can find the best deal on solar after the scheme ends.

What is a feed-in tariff?

A feed-in tariff (FiT) is a small payment from your retailer for your exported solar energy. Customers who signed up to the Solar Bonus Scheme receive a government subsidised feed-in tariff of 20c/kWh or 60c/kWh. New solar customers, however, instead receive FiTs usually below 10c/kWh.

Customers can choose to have either a gross or net solar metering arrangement:

  • Gross Metering: You source 100% of your household electricity from the grid, and export everything your solar panels produce.
  • Net metering: Your household uses the electricity generated by your solar panels and export any excess.

Gross metering arrangements were popular with customers signed up to 60c/kWh feed-in tariffs under the Solar Bonus Scheme. This arrangement will likely end up costing households more after the scheme ends, however, so it is strongly recommended customers switch to a net metering arrangement.

What is the Solar Bonus Scheme?

The Solar Bonus Scheme launched in 2010 and was designed to encourage solar uptake in New South Wales through large, government subsidised feed-in tariffs. Customers who signed up between January and October 2010 received a 60c/kWh feed-in tariff. Customers signed up after this date, but before the schemes closed in April 2011, instead received a 20c/kWh feed-in tariff.

A total of 146,000 NSW households signed up before the scheme closed. It was legislated to continue until December 31, 2016 – a date that’s now just around the corner.

From 2017, Solar Bonus Scheme customers will be switched to their retailer’s voluntary feed-in tariff. There are no laws regulating feed-in tariff rates, nor are retailers required to even offer it. That said, most retailers choose to comply with the 5.5c/kWh to 7.2c/kWh FiT rate recommended by the Independent Pricing and Regulation Tribunal (IPART).

What should I do before the scheme ends?

The end of the Solar Bonus Scheme has quickly crept up, and being unprepared could cost you.

  • Contact your electricity retailer and ask what metering arrangement you have: Gross metering arrangements are unlikely to be beneficial after December 31st, so make sure you’ve switched to a net metering arrangement before the end of the year. Setting up a net metering arrangement may require a meter upgrade, however many retailers offer this for free (or heavily discounted) to customers when they sign up.
  • Compare electricity products: Solar bonus scheme customers should prepare for their electricity bills to rise. That said, don’t get stuck paying more than you have to. Compare electricity providers to ensure you’re getting the best deal.
  • Maximise the solar you use at home: Once you have switched to a net metering arrangement, try to maximise the amount of your solar electricity you use. The feed-in tariff you receive will probably be much lower than the rate you pay on electricity, so it is more beneficial to use the solar rather than export it. Also consider if a household storage system might be beneficial.

NSW solar companies and feed-in tariffs

Feed-in tariff rates in New South Wales are generally around 6-7c/kWh, though some retailers offer eligible customers considerably higher rates. In the below table, we have listed the feed-in tariffs offered by most New South Wales residential electricity retailers.

When comparing retailers, it’s important to realise that a higher feed-in tariff won’t necessarily equal larger savings. It is often the case that generous FiTs are accompanied with higher rates or lower discounts. Be sure to read the energy price fact sheet before making your decision. If your retailer is not listed in the below table, it either doesn’t offer a feed-in tariff or it has not disclosed FiT deals online.

List of NSW feed-in tariff rates

          EnergyAustralia*
Basic Booster 6.1c/kWh
1 year lock-in 8c/kWh
2 year-lock in 10c/kWh
3-year lock in 12.2c/kWh
      AGL
All plans 6.1c/kWh
      Origin
Maximiser, Saver, Everyday. Connect, Rate freeze, Supply, Standing 6c/kWh
Solar Boost 10c/kWh
       Red Energy
All plans 6c/kWh
       Mojo Power
Energypass 7.2c/kWh
      Click Energy
Shine 10c/kWh
Shine Saver, EV 6c/kWh
       Alinta Energy
Standard offer 6.1c/kWh
      Diamond Energy
All plans 8c/kWh
       Dodo Power & Gas
All plans 6.5c/kWh
      Enova Energy
Economy, RDI 6c/kWh
Solar Plus 10c/kWh
    Momentum Energy
Smilepower, Smile power Plus 7c/kWh
       Powerdirect
All plans 6.1c/kWh
      Powershop
Standard Saver 7.2c/kWh
       Simply energy
All plans 6.5c/kWh
      Urth Energy
Standard offer 5c/kWh
FiT 6.5c/kWh
FiT10 10c/kWh
FiT20 10c – 20c/kWh
Trader Variable

* Additional monthly fees for EnergyAustralia’s lock-in boosted feed-in tariff rates.

If you’re a solar customer coming off the solar bonus scheme, it’s important you prepare for the possibility that your next energy bill will be much higher than you’re used to. Make sure you’re getting the best deal on electricity and start comparing at Canstar Blue.

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