Taxpayer Subsidies For Rooftop Solar Designed to Allow The Rich to Rob The Poor

Renewable energy rent-seekers come in all shapes and sizes, from mega windfarm outfits to well-to-do middle-class households.

And in either instance, it pays never to stand between them and a bucket of someone else’s money. Any threat to the subsidy stream is met with howls about their ‘right’ to benefit from other people’s labours.

You don’t have to be a dotcom billionaire to have a house covered in shiny panels, but the bigger the pad, the bigger the burden on the taxpayers who foot the bill.

At the other end of the income spectrum, the poor rarely own their own homes and rent, meaning that they never get the benefit of solar subsidies; and, likewise, the low-income earners that do own their own modest homes, can never afford the panels that plaster the grand piles of the mega-rich.

There’s an obsequious form of smugness that comes with plastering the family home with solar panels, that their owners will soon let you know are there only to “save the planet”.

These days, though, their sense of moral superiority is being rattled by the fact that their panels were made in Chinese factories using slave labour; chewing up the increasingly expensive rare earth minerals; and that, ultimately, the whole toxic mess will end up dumped in landfills in a few years’ time.

In South Australia, Australia’s renewable energy capital, however, it’s the threat to their ability to get their hands on other people’s pockets that has them up in arms.

SA solar power users ‘slapped in face’ with huge price hikes, slashed rebates
The Advertiser
Gabriel Polychronis
21 June 2022

Rooftop solar owners are being “slapped in the face” with bills rising by up to nearly $1000 a year, as some energy companies hike charges and slash rebates for putting solar back into the grid.

Critics say the companies are hitting customers with a “double whammy” shock amid the current power crisis.

One of the biggest providers, Simply Energy, is telling SA households their bills will rise by an average of 19.6 per cent from July 1.

Customers are now being advised to run their energy-hungry appliances such as dishwashers during the day when demand is low to save costs.

Many providers pay households and businesses a “feed-in tariff” – a type of rebate – for pumping spare solar electricity back into the grid during the day.

Simply Energy explains the rising popularity of solar panels in SA is leading to less demand, and therefore lower feed-in tariffs.

One Simply Energy customer in Aberfoyle Park was told last Friday their bill would skyrocket by $964 per year, partly due to their feed-in tariff being cut from 10 cents/kWh to 6 cents on July 1.

Their peak usage charge will increase from 36 cents/kWh to 45 cents. A bill for another customer showed their peak charge would rise from 47 cents/kWh to 83 cents.

Brian Nankivell, of Flagstaff Hill, said Simply Energy was cutting his feed-in tariff from 15 cents/kWh to 6 cents and he expected it to add about $300 to his yearly bill.

“We basically have been persuaded to put in the power-generating plant for these big supply companies, and now we get slapped in the face with an extra charge for them to be processing it,” Mr Nankivell said.

Origin Energy is also cutting their feed-in tariffs from between 6-20 cents/kWh, to 5-10 cents, depending on the plan, from July 1.

NRG Solar director Eddy May said people felt it was “very unfair and very un-Australian to sell their energy for six cents and buy it three hours later for 40 cents”.

“There’s all this media about a lack of power in the grid, yet it doesn’t look like the retailers want to pay the fair price now,” Mr May said.

“Battery storage is going to become more and more critical for those who can afford it and unfortunately for those who can’t, it seems to be a double whammy.”

Simply Energy spokesman Ryan Auger said the value of solar exports had plummeted due to the high take-up of solar, and the prices were set separately from the wider electricity wholesale market that is under strain.

“Rooftop solar has been an extraordinary success in SA, and like all markets, is subject to supply and demand forces,” Mr Auger said.

“During the day when the sun is shining, SA’s significant rooftop solar fleet enters the market, which lowers the wholesale price of energy at this time of day.”

Energy Minister Tom Koutsantonis said it was “disappointing” that energy companies were cutting their rebates, but explained: “We’re producing more solar energy than we need, so the retailers aren’t paying (customers) for solar energy as much”.

“So what you should be doing is trying to set up your house and run your appliances during the day when the solar energy is producing.

“For example, turn your dishwasher on in the morning as you’re leaving, rather than at night.”

Opposition energy spokesman Stephen Patterson hit out at the state government for axing the Switch for Solar program, which could have helped concession holders be $525 better off each year.

“At a time when power bills are rising through the roof and the national electricity market is in crisis, Tom Koutsantonis has cut programs that provided cost of living relief to struggling South Australians,” Mr Patterson said.
The Advertiser

Then, just when they thought things couldn’t get any worse …

South Australians shell out for ‘unfair’ legacy solar rebate scheme
The Advertiser
Gabriel Polychronis
24 June 2022

South Australians are forking out $80m a year for a generous solar rebate scheme run by the state government that even the energy minister agrees is unfair.

New figures show 88,245 early adopters of solar are still signed up to a legacy feed-in tariff scheme that was set up in 2008, and will receive nearly $900 each next financial year.

Under the program, which started winding back new applications in 2011, rooftop solar owners are paid 44c/kWh for spare electricity they feed into the grid.

It’s estimated $79.4m will be credited to customers next financial year – or $900 per member of the scheme.

It comes as many big energy retailers dramatically slash their solar feed-in tariffs rates for those not signed up to the program. This includes Simply Energy, which is cutting its rate from as much as 15c/kWh to just 6c.

Energy Minister Tom Koutsantonis said he was “not fine” with the expensive state government-mandated scheme, which will end in 2028.

“It was a legislative reform made by the Liberal Party and the Greens – they amended the legislation to have it last this long and there are dramatic costs to the South Australian public because of it,” Mr Koutsantonis said.

“People can then (in 2028) use their solar the way it was intended to be, as an offset rather than a revenue stream.”

Mr Koutsantonis explained energy companies, obligated to pay the solar users under the scheme, pass on the cost to other unsuspecting customers.

“People who are on that subsidy are having it paid to them by their neighbours,” he said.

“It’s not fair, but good luck to these people – they got on to this system early.”

Mr Koutsantonis said the early adopters had “very old” systems, and upgrading them significantly would require them to forfeit further subsidies.

The South Australian Council of Social Service has previously raised concerns about the fairness of the system. Chief executive Ross Womersley said the scheme was “funded disproportionately by non-solar households” in 2017. He was on leave and unable to be contacted for comment for this article.

The Advertiser revealed rooftop solar owners not on the government scheme were facing huge bill spikes of up to $1000 a year as energy retailers slashed their feed-in tariffs.

One of the biggest providers, Simply Energy, will cut their rebates tom up to 15c/kWh to just 6c from July 1, while hiking their usage charges.

Simply Energy explained the soaring popularity of solar systems had caused the value of the electricity they produce to plummet.

An Advertiser analysis found some feed-in tariffs went as low as 3c/kWh. Origin Energy is cutting its rebate from between 6-20c/kWh to just 5-10c/kWh from July 1.
The Advertiser

Solar subsidy rort loses its shine.

7 thoughts on “Taxpayer Subsidies For Rooftop Solar Designed to Allow The Rich to Rob The Poor

  1. Wind and sunshine are public resources. Is the most basic human rights. Subsidies are a plunder of all mankind. Why are there so many rich people in China?

  2. Solar panels are electrical equipment! Very easy to produce! Shallow goods!!! China has produced a large number of inferior products!!! Cause a lot of wildfires.

  3. If only I could have afforded a house to put solar panels on but I live in an apartment building.

  4. The social justice issue arises with subsidies for electric vehicles.

    Like the subsidies and the feedback tariff for rooftop solar, public funding of subsidies for the purchase of evs and providing charging infrastructure is a form of redistribution from people who are often less well off than the beneficiaries who can afford to buy evs.

    Road construction and maintenance are funded by the tax on petrol and diesel. EV drivers avoid those taxes and this amounts to a subsidy for the wealthy.

    1. Electricity is a kind of energy! It cannot be stored!! When no one uses the charging pile, the power is still input to be used!!! Huge waste.

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