Stop the unfair solar charges

We’ve had some pretty decent solar spills lately and, unlike the Rena spill, the impacts are simply a lovely day and clean energy. Greenpeace has a good write-up on Stuff Nation on why solar is a great technology for New Zealand.

In New Zealand, like many other countries, we’ve seen stunning growth in solar panel installations, led by families and businesses. But unlike most other countries, we also now see the industry responding by dropping buy-back rates, bring in new charges, and publishing anti-solar reports. What we have is a situation where the electricity system is facing competition from new technology and rather than competing on price, the industry’s big players are using their market power to discourage it.

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I absolutely agree with solar advocate Kate Simcock when she says:

In the future, we think electricity distribution will become a transactive grid. People will buy and sell electricity to each other in their neighbourhood or even further. The distribution grid will merge with the national grid into one large electricity market that operates through signals and transactions involving millions of devices, such as electric vehicles, batteries, and hot water systems that vary their electricity use.

This power system will be much cleaner, smarter and way more efficient; and solar and batteries will be a pivotal part of that.

Cleaner, cheaper, and smarter is my vision for electricity for New Zealand. However, what we see is fewer renewables in our system than 1980, an attack on distributed generation and new fossil fuel power station applications.

Green energy spokesperson Gareth Hughes visits a home powered by solar panels
Green energy spokesperson Gareth Hughes visits a home powered by solar panels

Greenpeace is running a petition with more than 50,000 signatures calling for the Hawke’s Bay lines company Unison Energy’s to repeal its new solar charge. I hope Unison can listen to the people of New Zealand and ditch this dangerous and backwards-facing precedent.

The solar charge is a blunt tool that is unfair, arbitrary, and discriminatory. It targets one particular technology and ignores the actual demand/supply issues which, with smart meters, can be managed much more appropriately. Unison itself says the charge doesn’t cover their costs. So Unison has basically just thrown a dart at the wall and picked an arbitrary price. You can read more of my arguments against the charge in this opinion piece I wrote for Hawkes Bay Today.

The electricity system is in a time of considerable change and the decisions made now will dictate whether we have cleaner generation, cheaper bills, and smarter technology in the decades to come. As American clean energy expert Amory Lovins told me recently, ‘it’s better to be midwifes to the new than morticians to the old.’

Roly Runcinan, recently retired, installed a 3KW solar PV system for $10,000. His monthly bill is down to almost zero (except fixed lines charges).
Roly Runcinan, recently retired, installed a 3KW solar PV system for $10,000. His monthly bill is down to almost zero (except fixed lines charges).