Solar Industry, Solar Consumers and Independent Experts Warn of NEM Fragmentation if Solar Exports Rule Change Goes Ahead

Australia Institute

A proposal to charge solar homes and businesses for exporting their excess energy to the grid has been opposed in a joint submission by key stakeholder groups, including the Smart Energy Council, the Australia Institute and Solar Citizens.

The joint submission to the Australian Energy Market Commission (AEMC) was also signed by Professor Bruce Mountain of the Victorian Energy Policy Centre and innovative solar sector leaders Alex Georgiou, CEO of ShineHub, Dr. Mike Wishart, CEO of EcoJoule Energy and David Hiley, Director of WATTever.

“Allowing network companies to charge solar owners for exporting their clean energy is a big call and we have not been presented with anywhere near enough evidence to show that it’s required,” said Ellen Roberts, National Director at Solar Citizens.

“States like Queensland and Victoria have signalled they don’t support export charging, so if this rule change goes ahead we’re likely to see a piecemeal and messy application across the National Electricity Market.

“There are, however, some really important parts to the AEMC’s proposal. We support it being formally recognised that networks provide an export service, and there absolutely needs to be increased transparency around when static zero export limits are being imposed on solar customers.

“We need to make sure that network companies are embracing solar exports and exploring all options for increasing the grid’s hosting capacity.”

In the submission it’s argued that the proposal by the AEMC might not even reduce the network costs paid by non-solar customers, as is intended. There are no requirements in the rule change proposal for how electricity retailers pass on additional network costs to consumers.

The submission states that in Queensland, Distribution Network Service Providers Energex already charge solar customers extra, but in many cases, this charge is passed on to non-solar customers by retailers.

“The growth of rooftop solar has been the most constant national success story in energy and climate in Australia. This rule change will undermine that progress and put in place a messy regime that might not even be implemented uniformly across states,” said Dan Cass, Energy Regulatory Lead at the Australia Institute.

“There is a huge amount of value in household PV, batteries, electric vehicles, demand response and other distributed energy resources. What is needed now is a clear roadmap from the Energy Security Board for DER integration and economic regulation.”

The submission calls for trials of clean technology to be expedited and used to inform market design work.

“Inverters with dynamic operating envelope capabilities, smart electric vehicle chargers and community batteries are smarter solutions to DER integration than export charges,” it states.

Submissions to the AEMC have now closed. Over 1,300 solar citizens lodged a submission to oppose the introduction of export charging.

The AEMC is expected to make the final determination in July.

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