As solar power takes off in Australia, energy utilities fight back

With the price of solar power dropping, in some areas, it is now cheaper for consumers to supply their own energy than to rely on the grid.

In what can be seen both as a sign of progress and an example of the challenge of systemic change, Australia’s major electricity utilities are reportedly attempting to slow or even halt the transition away from dirty energy to clean solar power.

Giles Parkinson or RenewEconomy and CleanTechnica reports:

The push to contain the rush for solar PV – which is occurring even after most subsidies have been removed – comes as major generators, network operators and electricity retailers admit that solar PV is upsetting their decades-old business model – which is based on a high-volume, low margin business that relies on continued growth.
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There is increasing evidence that utilities across Australia are refusing solar connections, or forcing solar users to change tariffs in an attempt to make the uptake of solar less attractive.

Green MP Greg Barber raised the issue in Victorian parliament last week, citing 22 instances in western Victoria where he said the local distributor Powercorp had either rejected outright applications by homes and rural businesses to install solar, or had forced the array to be downsized.

An application for a 30kW system in Warrenheip was approved only for 15 kW, an 8kW proposal in Invermay was refused in total, an 8kW array in Rockbank was downsized to 3kW, and a 6kW proposal in Amphitheatre was downsized to1.5 kW.

Here in the US, recent post on how solar power was cheaper than natural gas, which was leading US utilities to invest in solar, rather than risk losing revenue to consumers providing their own solar power:

As solar gets cheap, more and more customers are looking to go solar to reduce their energy bills (and their reliance on corporate, monopoly utilities). Not only does this mean less revenue for Xcel (although independent studies show a utility’s benefit outweighs this lost revenue), it also means no shareholder return, which Xcel and other monopoly utilities only get when they build new infrastructure. Xcel’s Colorado plans suggest the utility is wising up, and that the era of customer-owned solar only lasts as long as people are willing to raise holy hell or legislatures are willing to tell them to do the right thing.

In terms of climate change, more solar power is a good thing regardless of who is providing it. However, the benefits of a distributed energy grid go beyond simply reducing emissions, so it is important for consumers to retain the right to provide their own power and not be forced to remain dependent on a monopolistic system.

Tags: Australia | Electricity | Solar Energy | Solar Power | Solar Technology

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