Here a couple of weeks ago, the AEMC (or the Australian Energy Market Commission) released a paper proposing putting a cost on people with roof top solar systems that export power back to the grid. Since then, we have had a few phone calls from concerned solar system owners from all over the state.
Okay, so who are the AEMC? While sounding impressive, it is essentially 3 people, one is the full time chairman and two part time commissioners, no doubt with a few staff thrown into the mix. These are Federal and State government appointments and generally if you are an agitator or someone who pushes to disturb the status quo, you won’t land one of these plumb gigs. Along with AEMO (Australian Energy Market Operator) these are (mainly on paper) independent agencies, but typically push the government-of-the-days’ agenda. The idea here is to maintain a mechanism for governments to be seen to be independently advised so as not to be looking as pushing an agenda all whilst the independent advice will quite often mirror the governments’ agenda. It’s how governments seem to work these days.
Is there a problem with solar systems feeding back into the grid?
Why, yes there is. It’s been a growing problem for over a decade and all stake holders knew it was coming and all stake holders knew that something had to be done. So, yes there is real problem and yes it needs addressing.
This idea however, is better than the last idea (where they tried to push something like this tax and was about this time last year), as all they wanted then was a flat out solar tax to go back to networks which hopefully they would spend to improve the grid. Unfortunately, as we know from history, energy networks don’t like spending money unless there is hefty profit for them, and they also don’t like change. (I also must mention TasNetworks, our network provider, is probably the best ran networks in Australia so when we talk about networks doing nefarious things I am mainly talking about mainland networks. But as Tasmania is part of the National Energy Market, mainland shenanigans do directly affect us down here despite our best efforts to run our own show. Tasnetworks is government owned so we the people actually own it. Unlike on the mainland where many energy utility public assets were privatised so now no one wants to spend any money in case they upset the shareholders dividend returns.
That’s the playing field explained.
What do the AEMC want to do? They want solar system owners to pay a small fee to be able to access the network to sell their power to. They have also said it would be years away as they would need work out a system with all stake holders and work out a system to implement the changes, fee structures etc.
So it’s not too much to worry about yet and I feel they are trying to test the waters to see how much push back they get. The problem is, this might be the thin edge of the wedge. Small fees can turn into large fees. And which networks might just chuck into their profits and which may not spend a cent on making the grid more accessible for solar owners? We know from history they won’t spend a dollar unless they are forced to and the best way of determine someone’s future behaviour is examining their past behaviour.
This brings me onto my next point.
Thinking up weird solar taxes or fees or schemes to incentivise networks to make the grid more accessible isn’t as effective as what the energy industry has been missing for the best part of a decade and that’s policy and regulations. We haven’t had one single energy policy since 2013. Brain farts like this AEMC tax is what happens when we have an absence of policy and direction. We are meant to have a government that can regulate a direction of action to take us to a planned outcome and we have had none of that for so long. Trying to create an effective future-proof energy policy has killed off the career of more than one prime minister.
So in the absence of government policy and regulation we have ideas like this to try and fill the void. We know adding fees won’t reach the wider goal of a more accessible grid and we know it’s going to turn into a cash grab from the networks. Everybody knew for over 10 years that something had to be done, but lack of policy and direction means nothing has been done and this is where we have arrived. Change takes leadership but an energy policy is the poison chalice no political leader wants to drink from.
Solar Citizens are holding a petition which is a mechanism to show that a solar tax is not going to wash with Tasmanian’s and because this is still just a discussion paper, a good push back now might encourage them to pull their heads in a bit. Hopefully we get a government that can show some vision and bring an energy policy to the table that can guide the Australian energy market for the next decade.
So at this stage be alert but not alarmed.
This week’s interesting energy fact comes off the back of a question we had a few weeks ago.
How much energy does a Google search use?
So about 10 Google searches uses enough energy to power a 60 watt globe.
Google completes 63,000 searches per second so that is 63,000 x 60 watt globes or 3,780kW or 3.78 MW of electrical load. Or around 1/3 of what a typical Tasmanian household uses in a year, every single second of the day.
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