SolarKing – SA Power Network’s declares war on solar owners

Wow, I haven’t been this angry for ages.

Tonight’s announcement by the ABC that SA Power Networks has applied to the Australian Energy Regulator to discriminate directly and specifically against one segment of the community (solar owners) is outrageous, unjustified and a transparent grubby, money grab.

SA Power Networks spokesperson Paul Roberts said “customers with solar panels put a “comparatively higher demand” on the electricity network because they had a different consumption pattern to other customers”

Yeah, LOWER!

What an absolute crock of shit.

Network demand is made up primarily of load – lights, ovens, phone chargers, factories, air conditioners and so on. By and large as a customer you can go out to Bunnings and buy all manner of loads, plug ’em in and use energy to your hearts content. As long as you don’t exceed your connection limits and you do pay your bill, you can put as much demand on the network as you like. They will love you to bits.

For a long time, utilities and Government told everyone to “slow down a bit, conserve energy, consider solar power because all this consumption is driving network demand through the roof”. Hell, for a while there, they would even subsidise you to do so, such was the need for reducing demand.

And they did, particularly in South Australia, good folks that they are. They invested their own money, some borrowed and paid interest and many got an incentive to help them.

Now we all know that solar doesn’t work 24 hours a day or even seven days a week. But here’s what we do know about the 1.3Million homes fitted with solar.

Around 591MW is installed in South Australia across 28% of homes and will provide around 841,000 MWH each year according to the APVI’s awesome live maps..

  1. When solar systems generate energy they either reduce the load of the building or in some cases and at some times they export energy to the grid. In both cases less demand is present.
  2. Solar homes uses less energy as a rule, because they become energy conscious. Study after study has shown this. So solar owners place less burden on the network by using less energy, even if their solar system isn’t generating.

There is a cost for the solar incentives that society shares.

The 180,000 homes fitted with PV had a cost to the network for meters (no, wait, they charge solar owners for that). The solar homes had a cost to the network for collecting data and analysing demand profiles (no, wait, they charge for that too). The large solar installations had a cost to the networks so they could upgrade transformer capacity to allow solar connections (no, wait, they charge for that too).

The network has to be built large enough to provide full capacity if every single one of the solar systems is producing zero output. True. But that was going to happen without solar anyway, right? Right.

Now let’s consider air conditioners.

ABS data shows that by 2014 6.4Million air-conditioners were installed, with around 620,000 in South Australia. On top of that there are separate categories for electrical heating and then there is businesses which add several million more.

Here’s what we know:

  1. Just the residential air conditioner energy consumption alone adds up to around 400,000 MWH per year.
  2. There are around 640,000 homes in South Australia so around 90% have AC as loads

There is a cost for adding air conditioners to networks which society shares across all users. (about $ 7000 each, according then Minister Martin Ferguson in the Energy White paper). So that means the network (roughly) bore a cost of around $ 4.3Billion dollars which it recovered from every electricity user.

So, on the one hand we have solar owners who reduce demand a lot of the time and paid for their own meters (which the networks no doubt made a pretty several million dollars of margin on) paid for network studies and even for SA Power Networks own hardware to be upgraded in some cases. These solar systems reduced network demand by up to 591MW and avoided the need for 841,000 MWH of energy to be transported each year

Meanwhile 620,000 air conditioners were installed. There were no direct charges for installation, metering or infrastructure requirements and they added up to 620MW of demand to the network and require 400,000 MWH of energy to be transported each year.

SA Power Networks, like all networks is simply saying: “Look, solar owners don’t transport as much energy through the network so we can’t clip the ticket and that’s how we make our money based on the models that have been around since 1950 and we don’t think that’s fair. We could rethink our cost recovery strategies so that they reward reduced demand and penalise increased demand, but that’s tricky. Instead, we’ll just target people who reduce demand because we can and other users who continue to increase demand can keep doing the same thing as they have always done since 1950.”

It is that simple.

SA Power Networks should be utterly ashamed of themselves for such a transparent and lazy attack.



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