News Articles

 Solar hits 'parity'

THE cost of solar power in parts of NSW has for the first time crept below that of coal-fired electricity - seen as a key tipping point for the expansion of renewable energy.

New data shows solar power is edging towards "grid parity", after which it becomes cheaper than fossil fuel-generated energy such as coal and gas, even taking into account the upfront cost of buying rooftop solar panels.

But it was one of the few bright spots for an industry suffering from a 93 per cent drop in rooftop panel installations since the boom late last year at the peak of the NSW bonus scheme.

Workers at Australia's only commercial solar cell maker, the Silex plant at Homebush in Sydney, were told yesterday that cell production would be outsourced to China.

Nevertheless, the flow-on effects of the subsidies have helped achieve grid parity across wide areas of rural NSW. For the first time, the amount paid to households feeding power to the electricity grid passed 28c a kilowatt hour, which is the equivalent of buying coal-fired power from a utilities company.

Andrew Blakers, the director of the centre for sustainable energy systems at the Australian National University, said: "If you look at the prices being paid today, we have already reached grid parity in a lot of places except Melbourne and Hobart."

In Sydney, the price paid for solar power fed back to the grid depends on the agreement between the household and the provider, and whether a household agreed to the state

Solar Cells

government's feed-in tariff in time to take advantage of high rates of payback.

The Australian Photovoltaic Association said that while some areas had reached grid parity, it could be several years before solar electricity was worth more than coal-fired electricity in most of NSW, and that depended on state and federal policy.

This year, the government was forced to abandon moves to cut retrospectively the tariff applied under the bonus scheme, to limit profiteering.

As a result, the state government is seeking the tribunal's assistance in setting tariffs for household systems.

Yesterday the solar industry called on the government to introduce interim measures to pay households at market rates for the power they produced until the tribunal's review of subsidies is completed next year.

Read more

 Home Energy Rating scheme to be introduced

Excerpt from the Department of Climate Change and Energy Efficiency

The Council of Australian Governments committed (subject to the results of regulatory analysis) to phase in the mandatory disclosure of residential building energy, greenhouse and water performance as part of the National Strategy on Energy Efficiency. This proposed measure would require the owners of houses, flats or apartments to provide energy, water and greenhouse performance information about the home at the time it is offered for sale or lease.

The key objective of the proposed measure is to ensure that credible and meaningful environmental performance information is publicly and readily available to housing market participants to assist them in making purchase and/or lease decisions. Access to this environmental performance information will allow buyers and renters to better compare different properties. The proposed measure could also allow and encourage environmental performance to be factored into property promotion and provide an additional stimulus for smarter design, construction and renovation.

The Department of Climate Change and Energy Efficiency has been working with all states and territories on the development of a regulatory impact assessment. Subject to the outcomes of

Energy rating scheme

the regulatory impact assessment process, the measure will be implemented through legislation.

For further details, go to


The Australian Government has now passed the eRET (Enhanced Renewable Energy Target) legislation. The Solar Credits Scheme, whereby multiple REC’s are awarded for Grid systems up to 1.5k/Watts, is now split to include qualifying Off-Grid Solar Power Systems.

To qualify, households/businesses must be more than one kilometer from the main grid, or be able to provide proof that it would cost over $30,000 to connect to the grid. If so, the Solar Credits multiplier will apply for the first 20kW of Solar System installed. Capping will apply, and the incentive will only be available to the first 250,000 REC’s applied for in each financial year for the first 2 years, and as usual, will be reduced thereafter.

ORER will update the tally of off-grid systems regularly, visit

Based on our simple calculations an off grid system with a 5kW array in zone 3 would receive approx 518 REC’s or $18,130 (at a dollar value of $35).


Soalr Panels

This is great news for the Industry, as the Off-Grid rebates, (previously known as the RRPGP scheme) was closed off in June 2009 for most States.

It would be advisable to view the Government’s Department of Climate Change and Energy Efficiency website, , and the CEC website, for future news and information releases on this subject.


The NSW Government’s grid feed-in tariff was introduced back in January 2010 as a major incentive to encourage people to install solar energy. The energy produced by the system would be credited to the home owner at a rate of 60 cents per kWH. Many home owners, including pensioners installed solar energy systems as the grid feed-in tariff could ‘pay off’ a 1.5kW system in less than three years.

Toward the beginning of this month (April 2010) news reports were released stating that credits received for solar energy would be assessed against pensioner’s incomes. It started a panic amongst pensioners that had installed solar energy systems, and those that were considering installing solar energy systems to their homes. However, on 14 May 2010, the commonwealth government issued a media release to clarify the way feed-in tariffs would be assessed for the purpose of the pension income test, revealing that in most cases there would be no affect on pensions. The media release stated the following:

  • Feed-in tariffs that are paid to pensioners as a credit on an electricity bill will not be assessed as income under the pension income test.
  • Power sold back to the grid in return for cash, cheque or a direct deposit is counted as income for social security purposes.

House with Solar

As long as the tariffs are credited against electricity usage, pensions are not affected. This remains true as long as the credit is less than the bill. If a solar system is installed and it produces more income than the electricity expense, then there may be an assessment issue, however, it would have to be quite a substantial amount to have an effect.

For further information on how pensions or other payments may be affected by the Scheme, customers should contact Centrelink to discuss their individual circumstances.