So you’re thinking about installing solar on your roof in NSW or Queensland, huh? The Aussie government promotes ‘green initiatives’ and will help you financially, but they haven’t made it easy for you.
Solar Credits and STCs
First of all, you get ‘Solar credits’ for installing eligible solar systems in Australia. The credits are simply multipliers for renewable-energy incentives called STCs (or Small-scale Technology Certificates). What the heck is that? Well, it’s probably like a coupon or a gift certificate that you can redeem for cash (or tax credits), right? Wrong. They’re more like green energy stocks that are traded among registered agents or on a specific market called the ‘Clearing House’. What the heck is a registered agent? Maybe your installer. But maybe not.
When you install solar, you can apply to create the STCs and then sell them to an agent or sell them on the Clearing House. The standard price is supposed to be $40, but apparently the price fluctuates and is pretty much always less than that. So what are they worth? Basically they’re worth whatever somebody else will pay for them. Well, who’s going to pay for them? Registered agents. Well how do I find an agent to sell STCs to them? Search for a market like this one.
So, what to do about STCs? – Though some people like to keep them and trade them (like stocks?), many people ‘sign them over’ to the installer for a discount on the installation cost. You can’t sign STCs over until the system is complete, so at least wait until the installer has completely installed the system before you sign anything saying that the STCs are theirs. (*Tip: shop around for solar installers to see who will give you the best deal.)
Next, we have feed-in-tariffs (FITs) which are premium rates paid for energy created by grid-connected renewable energy systems like rooftop solar panels and wind turbines. But the FITs vary depending on the State so check your local feed-in-tariff to see how much you can save.
For example a homeowner in Queensland with a rooftop solar pv system will earn 44 cents per kilowatt hour (kWh) for surplus electricity fed into the grid which is almost double the general domestic use rate of 22.76c/kWh as of 1 July 2011. (source)
But a homeowner in Victoria with the same system will only earn 25 cents per kilowatt hour for surplus energy. That’s just slightly more than the regular rate. (source)
Lastly, your energy retailer might offer a different feed-in-tariff rate from the minimum dictated by your state. It might be higher, but it can’t be lower. Shopping around for the best rate from electricity retailers is an option, but compare carefully. A higher FIT might mean you lose something else, so make sure you understand the contract before switching.
Going solar in Australia is a great idea, but the government(s) can do a lot better to simplify the process for the average consumer. Contact your local representative and ask for a simplified solar feed-in-tariff across the country (or sign the petition at FeedInTarrif.com.au). With all the sunshine Australia’s blessed with, the country should be leading in the way in solar!
Click here to have local Aussie installers contact you with free solar quotes.