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Australia makes major contribution to global big PV uptake

Australia makes major contribution to global big PV uptake

Written by Marija Maisch / PV Magazine / 14 March 2019

The latest statistics highlights Australia’s contribution to the global utility-scale solar PV installation figures.

Utility-scale solar generating capacity grew by almost 40 GW in 2018, reaching a total of 180 GW by year end, according to figures released today by Wiki-Solar, a U.K.-based compiler of utility-scale solar deployment data. While growth slowed down in the leading markets, the shortfall was made up by accelerating deployment in nations lower down the table, with Australia to the fore.

With central subsidies cut back in China under the government’s 5/31 New Policy announcement leading to an 18% fall in new PV capacity last year, the Trump Administration’s Section 201 tariffs taking a bite out of the U.S. market, and India affected by delayed and cancelled tenders, the utility-scale solar market was in for a slowdown. However, according to Wiki-Solar, the 2018 installation figures managed to match the record set in the previous year.

This was achieved thanks to the contribution of the rising utility-scale solar PV markets, led by Australia, Mexico and Brazil. The role of Australia is particularly highlighted as the only newcomer to the the top 10 nations. “Australia roughly quadrupled its installed capacity in 2018. Just four years ago, the country barely scraped into the top 30,” Wiki-Solar says.

The global utility-scale installation figures may vary, depending on the source. For instance, Wiki-Solar finds China added over 11 GW in 2018, while the data from the China Photovoltaic Industry Association (CPIA) indicate there was still 20 GW of large-scale, ground-mounted PV installed after the policy u-turn, after only 3.6 GW had been installed in the opening five months of the western calendar year.

But, the 2018 utility-scale solar boom in Australia is beyond any doubt. According to the figures released by Australia’s leading number crunchers Green Energy Markets, utility scale solar increased 300% – passing the 1,000 GWh milestone for the first time. A dataset compiled by Green Energy Trading showed there was 2,083 MW of big PV added last year, around half of it in Queensland, up from a meager 119 MW in 2017. 

Energy Stuff specialises in Residential Solar with emphasis on Repairs, Replacements and upgrades. We also provide new systems, battery storage, Off-Grid systems and smart monitoring systems so call us if we can be of support 1300 656 205 or go to our website at http://www.energystuff.com.au

Regulator sets higher rooftop solar target, no changes to price

Giles Parkinson / RenewEconomy / 12 March 2019

The Clean Energy Regulator has set a significantly higher target for certificates created by the small-scale renewable technology scheme, following the largely unexpected boom in rooftop solar in 2018.

The CER on Tuesday said the new target for 2019 would be 37 million certificates (STCs), which act as an up-front rebate on the cost of rooftop solar installations up to 100kW (and other small-scale renewable energy technologies too).

It is the highest target set since the start of the scheme in 2011, when a high “multiplier” resulted in an initial target of 28 million. The increase from 22 million in 2018 was widely expected after big growth in rooftop solar installations in 2018, when a record amount of 1.6GW was added to the grid.

“The calculated increase for 2019 is due to significantly more STCs being created in 2018 than projected and expected growth in STC creations in 2019, mainly from rooftop photovoltaic systems,” the regulator said.

But despite calls for the scheme to be scrapped, and fears in some quarters that the “clearing house” price of $40/MWh could be wound back, it appears to have been largely untouched.

Analysts say that the STC market had been operating under a cloud of uncertainty about whether government might reduce the clearing house price, particularly as it came under fire from trumped up claims in the Murdoch press – parroted widely by other media – about the cost of the system.

The Murdoch media claimed that the STC costs each household $200 a year. In fact, according to the Australian Energy Market Commission, it costs $32 a year. And while the increased target for 2019 may result in an rise in that cost, it would only be a few dollars.

And that does not include the benefits of rooftop solar, and its role in reducing the size of system peaks, pushing those peaks further into the evening, and lowering wholesale electricity prices.

Rooftop solar is also expected to form the basis of a major shift to a “decentralised” energy system, where around half of capacity and demand will be met by “distributed” resources such as solar, battery storage, electric vehicles and demand management.

Analysts said that the announcement from the CER should be seen as good news for the SRES, even though the target is front loaded and could cause “tightness” in the market in the first quarter.

The rebate is being progressively rolled back each year, and will be eliminated by 2030.

Some, however, such as the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission, supported by big utilities like Origin Energy and EnergyAustralia, have argued that it should be scrapped, saying that the cost of solar has come down enough.

Defenders of the rebate say that it means solar can now be sourced more easily by those on low to medium incomes, who already account for the lion’s share of the uptake of rooftop solar. And it makes it easier to design schemes that allow access to renters and apartment dwellers.

Energy Stuff specialises in Residential Solar with emphasis on Repairs, Replacements and upgrades. We also provide new systems, battery storage, Off-Grid systems and smart monitoring systems so call us if we can be of support 1300 656 205 or go to our website at http://www.energystuff.com.au

A Quick Guide To Selecting The Perfect Solar Inverter For Your Home

Written by PowerArk Solar

Solar inverters are an essential part of any solar system; they are the brains of the network. Aside from the solar inverter’s primary role to convert DC power created by the sun into usable AC power (what we plug into our walls), its job is ever expanding. Inverters empower installers and proprietors to monitor how a system is performing.  This solar component have developed from single function of converting energy to various capabilities and functions. Each inverter ought to give options for additional uses and capabilities such as administrations, data monitoring, utility controls and applications— all to guarantee the inverter can work at the maximum level. Besides, while inverters comprise a little percentage of the system’s cost, keeping them running as productively and dependably as possible is crucial. Optimized inverter performance prompts more output production, yielding better returns for homeowners.

According to Clean Energy, here are some of the criteria to be considered:

Quality & Reliability

The only way to know if a brand or specific model has a proven track record of highest quality and reliability is to ask help from the experts.  The first thing to look for in a solar inverter is to see if it follows with the relevant Australian Standard (AS4777). It can easily be checked by visiting Clean Energy Council’s approved products list on their website. If the brand or model you are eyeing falls on the list then it must be a good inverter to use in your solar PV system.

Service, Support and Warranty

Typically, inverters like grid connected inverters have a life span extending from 10 to 20 years. You ought to anticipate that most will last 10 years minimum. Clearly, the longer the warranty, the more insurance you have for your inverter. But don’t forget to balance it against the inverter’s features.

Features

Weather-proof, expandable and high-efficiency are just some of the best features of an inverter. These inverters are made to be weather-proof, so they can be in areas that may have some exposure to different elements. Non-weather-proof inverters may require some cages that will have an extra cost.

If you are intending to expand your solar power system in the future, you should consider buying multiple MPPT (Maximum Power Point Tracking) inverter. These solar inverters have multiple MPPT trackers allowing you to add additional solar PV arrays later or install solar PV arrays at different orientations. Some solar panels have a small MPPT inverter attached to the rear of the module, usually called micro inverters.

An Inverter’s efficiency is as important of the features mentioned above. In inverter, efficiency is a measure of how well an inverter converts electricity it receives from energy sources into power that will be available in a home. Efficiency would only be a factor if two similar solar inverters had significantly different efficiency.

Monitoring

As mentioned earlier, inverters were not only made to simply convert DC power into useful energy in homes but can also be used to monitor the performance of a solar PV system. Some of the important information can be displayed are:

  1. Amount of energy (kilowatt hours) you have produced daily,
  2. the consumption of electricity (kilowatt hours) you have produced since the unit was installed
  3. the amount of power (kilowatts) the unit is currently producing
  4. the number of hours the unit has been producing power

Price

Inverters usually cost 20% of the whole solar system. Always remember not to buy the cheapest ones because there’s no chance of them lasting for 15 years plus. It better to buy reputable brands given that they are the most complex item on any solar PV system. In the event that you buy the inverter as a part of solar PV system, you can have a portion of the cost discounted as Small-scale Technology Certificates. You should bear the whole cost in case you’ll be needing to replace the inverter in any case, so it’s important to look for an inverter that will last.

Brands

Some of the best residential solar inverters in 2018 according to Clean Energy are:

  1. Fronius – Primo and Galvo
  2. SolarEdge – SE and HD wave
  3. SMA – Sunny boy
  4. Sungrow – SG-KLT

Aside from the mentioned solar inverters above, one of the brands that can check all the criteria enumerated is the recently launched Kehua (pronounced ‘kee-wah’) in the Australian market. The brand has a vision to provide reliable power solutions in various sectors from public power networks to residential power systems. Kehua integrating their passions and core values (RenewableReliable and Responsible) into their products making them an industrial-recognised Uninterruptible Power Supply and Critical Power Supply manufacturer.

In fact, their state of the art products are physical examples of high value/lower cost products with safe and reliable performance. This high-efficiency inverter is designed to reach up to 98.2% efficiency and it is the first cold-resistant inverter with superior operating temperature from -40C to 60C. Aside from that, this brand has an intelligent management system which save you from any hassle and update information about your system full record of Performance, Voltage Parameter, Temperature and so on in the form of graphs that can be export to Excel for a deeper analysis.

Whilst all of these inverters are an excellent choice for your solar power system, it is important to seek professional advice to determine which type or mode of inverter is the best for your system and energy needs.

Energy Stuff provides a full range of new solar systems which can include battery ready inverters or systems with integrated battery storage. We also provide smart energy management systems which will continue to deliver energy saving benefits into the future. We only use CEC accredited installers and we fully comply with the Victorian Govt. Solar Rebate Program. For further information call 1300 656 205 or go to our website at https://ongrid.energystuff.com.au/new-solar-system/

Victorian Registered Electrical Contractor Licence # 27787

Why Shell bought Sonnen: Value is in behind-the-meter potential

Written by Andy Colthorpe / Energy Storage / 7 March 2019

The sonnen smart energy storage system enables the Clinica Comunitaria de Utuado to provide urgent healthcare services to a remote community in Puerto Rico. (PRNewsfoto/sonnen)

SonnenBatterie system installed at a clinic in Puerto Rico. Image: Sonnen.

So, at the beginning of this year, the editorial team at Solar Media (which in addition to Energy-Storage.news also includes PV Tech, Solar Power Portal and Current) sat down to figure out what the big topics would be, and the general outlook for 2019.

While many in the industry have been enthusiastic about the potential of residential and other forms of behind-the-meter energy storage for some time, and the technology is ready to go, it’s been difficult to really demonstrate the total value that home storage systems could provide. This year we’re seeing evidence that that has changed.

It allows individual users to become more independent of big utilities and to maximise their use of solar energy, but it can also help the grid, by connecting together – or aggregating – dozens, hundreds or even thousands of units at once and providing a sort of combined and controllable single asset to the grid operator or utility.

There’ve been indications from all over the world that that potential is starting to be tapped, with so-called virtual power plant (VPP) projects springing up from Canada to Australia. This week analysis firm Wood Mackenzie Power & Renewables reported that in the US, the market for behind-the-meter storage for the residential space has now gone well beyond the eco-conscious early adopters.

New utility programmes, a report from the company stated, now see energy storage as an enabler of effective time-of-use-rates and tariffs for electricity purchase, which can be a powerful tool in managing peak demand, or in providing grid services.

And perhaps the biggest indicator of the recognition of BTM storage so far in the first few months of this year has been the acquisition of Germany-headquartered battery storage and energy services provider Sonnen by oil major Shell. Royal Dutch Shell, to give the company its full name, has agreed to buy Sonnen through Shell New Energy, having already led an investment round in the storage company worth €60 million (US$70.23 million) in May last year. The overall acquisition cost of Sonnen is thought to be in the hundreds of millions.

Sonnen CEO Christoph Ostermann says that quite simply: “Residential storage is just shortly before the inflection point of becoming a mass [market] end product. More and more large corporations are recognising that.”

Corporate owners, independent customers?

In the past week, Siemens launched Junelight, its own brand storage systems for the German market, where Sonnen currently holds a leading market share, according to various sources. Ostermann says that since Sonnen launched its SonnenBatterie systems in 2010 until around the time of Tesla’s Powerwall launch in 2015, the majority of competition was nationally based. Today, he says, competitors are increasingly international and “big corporations” are the simple way he describes how he sees the future profile of competitor.

“You sometimes see large corporations, playing on an international level, come and go. We saw that with Mercedes. They joined the market and technically they were operating in all geographies: the US, Australia and Europe, but after a year they left the market. Same thing with Samsung SDI, they showed up with a full-integrated storage solution available internationally but also decided to leave the market again. The competition today is really much more global and the competitors who are really relevant for us in this game become much more and more large corporations.”

Joining a large corporation such as Shell hopefully won’t dilute the pro-renewables, energy independence and eco-friendly message that Sonnen has always carried with its brand, but Ostermann says that synergies with other Shell Group companies – with the oil major on a wave of smart energy acquisitions at the moment – will provider a deeper foothold for Sonnen in the market and add even more value for the parent company.

UK-based First Utility is now Shell-owned, as is UK aggregator Limejump and EV company New Motion. Ostermann says Sonnen “could develop solutions” with New Motion, or Sonnen storage units and services subscriptions could be bundled with First Utility offerings, even in Germany where First Utility is now also setting up. Limejump’s chief Erik Nygard told Solar Media’s UK editor Liam Stoker last week that similarly, the opportunity to connect and combine with Shell’s newly acquired smart energy business is “definitely an interesting prospect”.

“The equipment we provide is a solution for residential customers. A customer can supply themselves with self-generated solar power on the one hand, on the other hand, in the bundle with First Utility, First Utility could provide that customer with the remaining grid power that they still need. The customer could buy this as a package. It’s a very nice opportunity to offer more complete packages to the residential customer,” Ostermann says.

‘We will see a lot more geographies become residential energy storage markets…’

With solar becoming households’ favourite way of powering their daily lives, and batteries a way to enable that, many providers across the residential solar – and now storage – space are targeting becoming a full “one-stop-shop” solution provider for customers, as seen in the US with the likes of Tesla and Vivint, and internationally through SolarEdge’s acquisitions of Italian EV charge company SMRE and lithium battery maker Kokam. In Sonnen’s case, they also now have a tremendously powerful backer.

“I think there are synergies [with other Shell Group companies]. On the other hand, Shell is already present in more than 140 countries around the world and some of them are already interesting as markets for Sonnen as of today, some of them will become interesting in the future”.

Central Europe is still Sonnen’s biggest market, while the company has opened up an assembly plant and made a big push into Australia, in addition to a growing presence in the US – where it also has a factory in Atlanta, Georgia, and the UK. Home energy storage already makes economic sense in some places, could be at its inflection point in several markets soon; and there remain few parts of the world where it is unlikely to ever reach the mainstream, Ostermann says.

“Japan is a market we will look into closely in the near future. We’re also looking at other geographies in Asia, such as the Philippines, which we will look at more intensively in the future. There are a couple of countries in Africa, so, just to give some examples, there’s Nigeria or South Africa, where we have preliminary plans to enter these markets. Then you have new markets in Latin America, where we’re looking at the moment,” Ostermann says.

“At the end of the day, due to the fact that renewable energy generation is already price competitive all over the world, and storage prices come down more and more, I deeply believe that we will see a lot more geographies in the future that turn out to be residential storage markets.”


The company’s units have also been deployed as part of a Centrica-led ‘Local Energy Market’ trial in the UK. Image: Sonnen.

Value of distributed flexibility

Sonnen has been one of the early proponents of using home energy storage as an aggregated asset launching SonnenCommunity in late 2015, the same Year Zero that Powerwall was released. SonnenCommunity added a layer of tradability to energy, allowing community subscribers to ‘share’ their power with each other via the grid and the SonnenCommunity software and hardware platform. So does Sonnen’s Christoph Ostermann think the potential impact and value of digital energy services such as energy trading or the VPP model has been underestimated by the wider energy sector – perhaps until now?

“I think so, but on the other hand, it’s not so easy to do, either. We had a tough time getting pre-qualification for Germany and during the process you have to demonstrate to the grid operators that you are a reliable partner that can deliver what has been processed. This process in Germany is non-standardised and non-defined, so you have simply to get along with the TSOs by yourself, they are not waiting for you and you have to convince them that you can perform,” Ostermann says.

After making an investment in essentially providing grid services for free and proving it works however, it is now a ‘nice and profitable business” for Sonnen, the CEO claims.

“So, I think it’s underestimated on the one hand but on the other hand, especially in the beginning, for distributed storage, especially residential storage, because we talk about a very high number of units with a relatively small amount of power and of storage capacity, it’s really a tricky thing when you start doing that.”

The need for this flexibility provided by storage becomes more critical the higher the penetration of renewables and the fact is that the increasingly distributed nature of energy – adding EVs, PV and batteries at home level, for instance – is rapidly giving distribution grid operators more volatility in demand from residential customers.

“Even in Germany where we have a pretty modern grid infrastructure, this causes more and more problems and issues, and with large grid-scale storage, you can’t do a lot there. When it really comes to the depth of the distribution grids, you are well better off with a certain number of residential storage units. I really think that the trend is our friend here, and that we will see a very nice business for the future.”

Energy Stuff specialises in Residential Solar with emphasis on Repairs, Replacements and upgrades. We also provide new systems, battery storage, Off-Grid systems and smart monitoring systems so call us if we can be of support 1300 656 205 or go to our website at http://www.energystuff.com.au

Take it from Melbourne, the First Renewable-powered City in the Country

Written by PowerArk Solar

Melbourne is breaking barriers and continuously proving that it is not impossible to create a cleaner city by using renewables. Deputy mayor, Arron Wood proudly said, “It’s a pretty nice New Year’s resolution to go to 100% renewable energy,”. It is because in time with the new year, Melbourne has become the first capital city in Australia to have all its council-owned infrastructure powered by renewables. “We are immensely proud to be the first Australian capital city council powered by 100 % renewable energy,” He added “Every light on our streets, every treadmill in our gyms and every barbecue in our parks is now powered by renewable energy,”. This transition to 100% renewable means that council gyms, libraries, childcare centers and establishment are now fully-powered by renewable energy.

The people behind the project

This milestone has been achieved by the help of the Melbourne Renewable Energy Project (MREP) agreement which paved the way for the developments of Pacific Hydro. This partially-completed 80 MW wind farm located at Crowlands has now started supplying clean energy to the city. Pacific Hydro has installed 25 of the 39 turbines and energy has begun flowing into the grid, according to deputy mayor.

The Crowland’s wind farm was funded by a power purchase agreement with the Melbourne City and 13 other councils and institutions composed of Melbourne city, RMIT, Federation Square, City of Port Phillip, Yarra City, Moreland City Council, Bank Australia, Zoos Victoria, Citywide, National Australia Bank, Australia Post, Melbourne Convention and Exhibition Centre and NEXTDC. Melbourne City Council is also the first in the country to introduce a renewable energy power purchasing agreement (PPA). The group have decided to purchase 88 GWh of electricity every year, of which half of the energy will be produced by the 80MW Crowlands wind farm.

The project that creates jobs

Aside from the fact the this is a very helpful move for the city of Melbourne, another benefit of this achievement is the creation of additional jobs. So far, the project has created more than 140 jobs during its construction and could increase until the project is totally completed in May.  There are more than 40 large-scale wind and solar projects either under construction or with pending approval in Victoria while 26 projects are already producing electricity. The sector is expected to create 6,000 annual jobs.

The result

With the implementation of the project, Victoria is still on track to surpass its renewable energy targets of producing 25% of the state’s electricity needs from renewable sources by 2020 and 40% by 2025. Though, it is said to be an ambitious and expensive project, the deputy mayor has something to say – “When people say to me that it costs money to support renewable energy projects, well, we are actually paying for our renewable energy projects through our efficiency projects,” Aaron Wood said. This initiative from Melbourne challenges other states and cities to kick any doubt and hesitation towards renewable energy today and in the future.

Energy Stuff provides a full range of new solar systems which can include battery ready inverters or systems with integrated battery storage. We also provide smart energy management systems which will continue to deliver energy saving benefits into the future. We only use CEC accredited installers and we fully comply with the Victorian Govt. Solar Rebate Program. Finance can be arranged for as little as $2.96 a day. For further information call 1300 656 205 or go to our website at https://ongrid.energystuff.com.au/new-solar-system/

Victorian Registered Electrical Contractor Licence # 27787

Does heat help or hinder solar panels?

By Daniel Keane / ABC News / 4 March 2019

Main image: PHOTO: More than 20 per cent of the nation’s homes have solar installations. (ABC News: Briana Shepherd)

The future of solar energy in Australia has never looked brighter.

Solar firms and farms are springing up across the country, and more than 20 per cent of the nation’s homes have solar installations.

There is also largescale investment by state governments in home battery schemes which capture energy generated by rooftop panels, with the aim of driving down household power bills.

But despite their growing popularity, there are still some lingering misconceptions about how solar cells work, especially in very hot weather.

“A solar panel is a bit like the silicon chip inside your computer, if it gets too hot it doesn’t work quite so well,” University of WA resources scientist Ray Wills said.

Parts of southern Australia, including Adelaide, are currently enduring an unusually hot start to autumn.

Temperatures rising above 40 degrees Celsius are expected across South Australia on Saturday, with temperatures in the high 30s forecast in parts of Victoria.

Will the heat help or hinder solar panels?

In sweltering conditions, many will switch on their air conditioners, driving up demand for electricity.

While it is easy to assume that blazing sunshine would boost the performance of solar panels, generating more power, that is not necessarily the case.

“A really hot day, you’ll actually produce less power because the solar panel gets so hot,” engineer and solar analyst Finn Peacock said.

“The heat from the sun actually degrades the efficiency of the panel.

“So the perfect conditions for solar are strong sun but cold, which is pretty unusual unless you’re in the Arctic.”

What works best?

In order to work at maximum efficiency, the perfect temperature for a solar panel is about 25C.

But that refers to the temperature of the panel itself, not the atmospheric temperature.

“On a 45C day, I would expect the panel to be at least 75C, so the panel is 50C hotter than the optimum,” Mr Peacock said.

For every degree above that optimum, power output will decline by about half a per cent.

“If it’s 10C higher than normal, it’s underperforming by 5 per centwhich is not a lot,” University of NSW solar researcher Renate Egan said.

It’s all about light, not heat

There are different types of solar energy production: solar photovoltaic (PV) and solar thermal.

As its name suggests, solar thermal harnesses the heat of the sun and operates in a similar way to a coal-fired power station — it boils water and generates steam.

But most rooftop solar panels and solar farm projects in Australia are photovoltaic — they convert light into electricity.

“The way solar PV works is that you have this material, typically silicon, and there’s a certain kind of magic that goes on in silicon,” Associate Professor Egan said.

“It’s known as a semi-conductor, which means it conducts electricity some of the time.

“When you shine a light on [it], it generates free electrons and those electrons can then travel, so it becomes a conductor when it’s exposed to light. That’s how a solar panel works.”

The reason extreme heat hinders that process is because of the basic physical properties of the semi-conductor.

Is this bad for power bills?

Not necessarily.

While electricity output from household solar panels was likely to drop on Saturday, that doesn’t mean homes would stop producing their own power, or even be producing less power than they need.

“It’s not a show stopper. It’s still very useful to have solar during a heatwave. If you’ve got a good system, it should power your house through,” Mr Peacock said.

“You may produce 30 kilowatt hours in the day instead of 40 kilowatt hours in the day, but if you’ve got a reasonably efficient home that would be way more than enough to power your home through the heatwave.”

Energy Stuff specialises in Residential Solar with emphasis on Repairs, Replacements and upgrades. We also provide new systems, battery storage, Off-Grid systems and smart monitoring systems so call us if we can be of support 1300 656 205 or go to our website at http://www.energystuff.com.au

It’s time for Australia’s renewables industry to go all in

Large-scale technology transitions are often a messy affair, especially when there is a powerful, established incumbent being challenged. At some point the incumbent understands the threat and use every tool at their disposal, usually money, political influence and media, to maintain the status quo.

Successful disruptors are prepared for the battle and aggressively make use of their strongest weapons, which are often social license and public desire for the new technology.

A recent example of this was Uber’s approach to disrupting the transport industry. The young startup built a social movement that made it extremely hard for any single city to stand against them, even if they had to use aggressive tactics to get there.

They had huge marketing budgets, lobbied hard and asked for forgiveness not permission.  While Uber has some serious IR issues that should not be condoned, its proactive approach meant that in just a few short years they went from being a disruptive startup to a regulated part of the transport landscape.

The renewables industry is in the process of trying to disrupt our energy system. Following the script, fossil fuel incumbents are fighting hard to see off the threat. They are pouring money into political lobbyists, marketing campaigns and PR strategies that throw doubt on the benefits their renewable competitors are offering.

In response, you would expect the renewables industry to make the most of their sizeable advantages and run an aggressive strategy to quickly rout the incumbent.

On paper, it shouldn’t be much of a competition. Renewables are now at the point where they are superior in almost every aspect – public perception, economics, speed to construct and environmental impact. The technology they are offering is recognised as the key solution to the greatest threat facing human civilisation – climate change.

This has led to every climate scientist in the world advocating for renewables rapid uptake, as well as the UN and most importantly, hundreds of thousands of ordinary Australians. Indeed, there is unlikely another example in the history of technology where there has been an industry whose interests so closely aligned with a social movement.

Yet, incredibly, with everything to gain, the renewables industry seems content to let others fight the battle. When you turn on the TV you will see ads for coalgas and oil, talking up the jobs they provide and how fantastic they are for the environment.

Visit any parliament in Australia and you will bump into numerous fossil-fuel lobbyists on the way to your meeting. Renewables are providing jobs and energy security for Australia, but the media continues to be dominated by stories of the importance of coal and gas to our economy.

Last year the coal lobby spent $5m on political campaigning at a minimum and this doesn’t include the combined $20m+ budget of APPEA and the Minerals Council. The renewables industry? Almost nothing. When was the last time you saw an ad for the renewables industry?

Climate and environment campaigners and organisations have spent hundreds of thousands of hours and millions of charity dollars advocating for the renewables industry – even to the point of developing plans and lobbying government on specific projects like the Solar Thermal tower at Port Augusta and more recently the Star of the South offshore wind farm.

The mining industry have in the past gone to great lengths to emulate social movements, setting up astro-turf (fake grassroots) groups and funding denialist think-tanks.

However, the Australian renewables industry provide basically zero financial support to an authentic climate movement who do so much to promote and advocate for renewables.

For the fossil fuel incumbents it’s not just about securing their existing market-share, but seizing new opportunities early. For example, APPEA (the voice of Australia’s oil and gas industry) see hydrogen as a strategic opportunity for the gas industry. Using their permanent offices in Darwin and Perth as a base, they are heavily investing resources in lobbying to kick-off hydrogen projects using gas as the feedstock.

With the renewables industry mostly missing in action, local NT and WA politicians are not hearing of the opportunity to make clean hydrogen generated by renewable electricity.

Even when the renewables industry do step into politics, they take a weak and cautious approach.

A case in point are the federal election policy recommendations recently put out by the Clean Energy Council. The top recommendation is a minimum 50 percent renewable target by 2030. Given the build rate in 2018 of 6GW of renewables, this target would actually mean a severe slow down in the industry. This would likely be an existential risk for individual renewable developers as their project pipeline falls off and they are forced to rapidly downsize their ambitions and teams.

Can you imagine the Minerals Council advocating for their industry to slow down?

Given what we know about the rapidly falling cost of renewables the renewables industry should be directing its peak bodies to advocate for Australia to rapidly move to 100% renewables and beyond so we can begin to electrify other sectors of the economy.

A reluctance to play politics is a handicap for the renewables industry. They have opponents that are desperately fighting for survival and will do anything to delay the energy transition. It’s time to make a choice – continue to politely work quietly behind the scenes, or join the army of climate activists, scientists and researchers who are already all-in.

Eytan Lenko is a technology entrepreneur and clean-energy transition advocate.

Nicky Ison is a clean energy commentator, campaigner and social entrepreneur.

Energy Stuff specialises in Residential Solar with emphasis on Repairs, Replacements and upgrades. We also provide new systems, battery storage, Off-Grid systems and smart monitoring systems so call us if we can be of support 1300 656 205 or go to our website at http://www.energystuff.com.au

Simple question that saves you more than $200 off your power bills

Written by Liam Phelan / The Sydney Morning Herald / 23 February 2019

It is the question almost a third of Australians haven’t asked their electricity provider – and the answer could save more than $200 off your annual bill.

Retailers offer two types of contracts: standing offers and market offers.

These standing offers currently vary by hundreds of dollars between retailers and are the automatic default power contract.

Unless you ask, you default to a standing offer. Even customers with a market offer are dumped back to a standing offer at their contract’s end unless they renegotiate.

According to the Australian Energy Regulator (AER), 27 per cent of Australians are on standing offers. In NSW, 40 per cent of the big three retailers’ revenue comes from standing offers.

However, these offers will soon be a regulated capped price, stopping unwary consumers being slogged more and making power bill discounts less confusing.

Energy consultant Martin Gill said ahead of the introduction of a regulated price a better name for standing offers would be “maximum tariff”.

“The idea was competition would lead to cheaper prices, but what has actually happened is it has led to consumer confusion and it is totally impossible to meaningfully compare tariffs,” he said.

Previously, retailers had set enormously high standing offers to provide greater “discounts”, although this will soon be abolished with the new price cap..

Gavin Dufty, from St Vincent de Paul, said power companies had exploited consumers confused about electricity prices.  “Most people on standing offers were being dudded,” he said.

He said consumers researched cheap deals for car registration but not electricity: “If you sit down for an hour, you can save $300. Do it at the same time as your rego. It will pay for the rego.”

It pays to shop around

Ask your power company for their best deal and compare retailers. In NSW, there is a choice of 24 but some are the same company with different names.

Dr Gill said many price comparison sites get kickbacks from retailers so don’t offer the best deal. The federal government has an energy made easy website while Service NSW provides a free consultation.

The regulated price will now cap standing offers and act as a reference price you can use to compare discounts, taking some of the mystery out of what your discount is actually on as there is now a common price benchmark.

Federal Energy Minister Angus Taylor said government pressure on retailers meant power companies reduced or froze standing offer charges in NSW, Victoria, south-east Queensland and South Australia on January 1. But he conceded there was work to be done.

“The Morrison Government has asked the Australian Energy Regulator to develop a reference bill to be implemented by 1 July 2019 in every region not already subject to regulation of standing offers,” he said.

“A reference bill will provide a clear benchmark against which families and businesses can compare their own bills with ease.”

Dr Gill said the government claimed 50 retailers competing must be a good outcome. “It’s not the number of retailers, it’s how well-educated consumers are to choose.”

Many retailers also offer additional benefits, such as movie tickets or frequent flyer points, as incentives to change supplier.

Costs: fixed v usage

Retailers divide bills into two charges: fixed (poles and wires and green taxes) and variable (how much you use and wholesale costs).

Mr Dufty said householders need to establish how much power they use. If you consume a lot, you need a deal with higher fixed, but lower variable costs. If you are a low usage household (if you have solar panels) you should opt for lower fixed costs.

“There are big differences between retailers. But people don’t realise how much of an impact the difference between fixed and variable costs can make,” Mr Dufty said.

Energy Stuff provides a full range of new solar systems which can include battery ready inverters or systems with integrated battery storage. We also provide smart energy management systems which will continue to deliver energy saving benefits into the future. We only use CEC accredited installers and we fully comply with the Victorian Govt. Solar Rebate Program. Finance can be arranged for as little as $2.96 a day. For further information call 1300 656 205 or go to our website at https://ongrid.energystuff.com.au/new-solar-system/

Victorian Registered Electrical Contractor Licence # 27787

Poorer households switching to solar faster than the rich

Written by Peter Hannam / The Sydney Morning Herald / 23 February 2019

Main image: Solar panels are not just mainstream, they even turn up more often on lower and middle-income homes that you might expect. CREDIT:NICK MOIR

As urban myths go, the one about solar panels being a luxury enjoyed mostly by the wealthy with poorer households left out has endured well beyond reality.

In a research first, the Victoria Energy Policy Centre analysed electricity bills of 10,051 households provided by CHOICE, a fifth with solar power, in NSW, Queensland, South Australia and Victoria. Researchers then used socio-economic data and house prices from Domain.com.au to profile the owners.

Contrary to public perceptions, solar panel uptake is proportionally more common in roofs of those with lower- to middle socio-economic standing, the study – commissioned by Solar Citizens – found.

“People are reaching for ways to get control over their energy costs and for millions of low- and middle-income households, solar is the best way to do that,” Solar Citizens’s national director, Joseph Scales, said.

In fact, the wealthiest decile had the lowest proportional solar uptake, and the poorest had the highest.

Victoria Energy Policy Centre director Bruce Mountain said a range of reasons may be behind the relative lack of interest in solar among the well-heeled. These include potential for heritage restrictions, heavily treed yards shading panels, and a lower responsiveness to rising prices.

Buying panels is “not at the top of their list”, Professor Mountain said. By contrast, soaring power bills have made solar power increasingly attractive for less wealthy families particularly as solar cell prices plunge.

“For most people if you have a north-facing roof in any of our cities, solar will pay for itself in five years or less,” he said.

The study comes as NSW political parties offer a range of policies to spur solar and batteries before next month’s election, and follows the Andrews Labor government’s promise to help 650,000 households to get solar panels.

Rooftop solar jumped 43 per cent to a record last year,while the leap in new utility-scale solar farms meant the overall capacity tripled to about 3775 megawatts.

Among the other findings of the study was that average households with solar power bought 9 per cent less electricity from the grid, but consumed about a quarter more power than those without panels.

Often that variance was because homes with solar energy – particularly in a belt of about 10 kilometres from the city centres – were also households most likely to draw the biggest benefit from solar.

“In terms of uptake, it’s actually pleasingly rational,” Professor Mountain said. “The people who are economically the people to be getting the greatest benefit from it, appear to be installing it in the greatest numbers.”

Image: Not usually this large: Daniel Epstein installed a 17kW solar system on his house in Warrandyte, on Melbourne’s northern edge.CREDIT: ARSINEH HOUSPIAN

The study also found solar households exporting power back to the grid were in effect subsidising the energy bills of those without panels.

“Around one third of households  in all states sell their electricity to their retailers at a rate that is lower than it would cost their retailers to buy that electricity in the spot markets,” the report found. “Retailers profit from this to the extent that they do not pass this on to other customers in lower prices.”

The benefits of solar, though, were being blunted by high fixed charges, particularly in Victoria,  compared with variable energy charges.

“Governments should clamp down on standing charges,” Professor Mountain said.

The report noted that the fixed component of retail residential offers in Australia “are higher than in any other country as far as we know”.

The Victoria Energy Policy Centre plans to extend the study after being given access to a much larger data set of Victorians’ energy bills by the state government.

Energy Stuff provides a full range of new solar systems which can include battery ready inverters or systems with integrated battery storage. We also provide smart energy management systems which will continue to deliver energy saving benefits into the future. We only use CEC accredited installers and we fully comply with the Victorian Govt. Solar Rebate Program. Finance can be arranged for as little as $2.96 a day. For further information call 1300 656 205 or go to our website at https://ongrid.energystuff.com.au/new-solar-system/

Victorian Registered Electrical Contractor Licence # 27787