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Solar and Batteries

The cost of solar panels has come down over 50% in the past 5 years. Federal government renewable energy credits, known as small-scale technology credits (STCs), can further reduce the purchase cost of solar panels.

There are several benefits to installing solar panels at your place:
  • lower power bills: when you use your own solar power instead of buying electricity from your power retailer your energy costs will be lower
  • income: electricity retailers will pay you a feed-in tariff for excess solar power that you add to the grid. Some energy retailers will offer you 'grid credits' for providing power to the grid at peak times
  • environmental: using renewable sources of electricity can cut up to 60% of the average household's carbon footprint
  • local economy: buying from local, reputable companies keeps local people employed and ensures you have local support for future maintenance if required.
If you're keen to make the most of the sun's power for electricity at your place, check out our handy list of questions to ask and online resources to get an effective system that suits you. NSW Fair Trading also has advice about licence and contract rules when having solar panels installed.

Installing batteries to store solar power for use at your own home may be appealing. There are many factors to consider:
  • Hybrid or off-grid: a hybrid system allows ongoing access to the grid, but ongoing network costs will affect the economics of a hybrid system. Off-grid systems need to have enough capacity in solar panels and battery storage to provide power during several days of cloud or rain.
  • Grid connected ‘tariff arbitrage’: storing energy from the grid when it is cheap for use at a later point in time when it is expensive. This can only be done if you are on a ‘time of use’ electricity tariff, and only with solar/battery storage systems that enable you to charge your batteries using the grid.
Battery storage is a rapidly changing area. Seek information from a range of suppliers with appropriate electrical licences and Clean Energy Council accreditations. For more information check out:
Alternatively, switch to Green Power. Contact your electricity supplier and ask them to source your electricity from renewable sources such as solar, wind, biomass and hydro.

End of the Solar Bonus Scheme

Over 5000 Tweed households got involved in the NSW Government’s Solar Bonus Scheme. The scheme required energy retailers to pay participants a ‘feed-in tariff’ of between $0.20 to $0.60 per kilowatt hour of renewable energy provided to the ‘grid’. The scheme ended on 31 December 2016.

The NSW Resources and Industry recommends using the solar power you generate to meet as much of your home’s daytime energy needs.

Action 1: Check what kind of meter you have

Call your electricity retailer to ask what type of meter is installed in your home.

If you currently have a ‘gross metering arrangement’ it sends all of your solar power directly to the grid. A ‘net metering arrangement’ will let you use your solar power in your home before exporting the remainder to the grid.

Electricians with solar expertise may be able to rewire your gross meter to act as a net meter. Alternatively talk to your energy retailer about installing a digital smart meter.

Action 2: Shop around for a new meter and electricity tariff

Shop around and compare what retailers will offer to install a net meter, pay you for excess solar power produced, and the rate you will pay for power from the grid. Many retailers are offering meter upgrades for no upfront costs, and may seek repayment of those costs through other supply charges.

Key questions to ask electricity retailers include:
  • What type of meter(s) do I currently have?
  • What net meter arrangements are you offering?
  • If I choose to get a digital (smart) meter:
    • Are there any upfront or embedded costs associated with either my new meter or the installation? If so, what are they?
    • Are there any exit fees if I move to another electricity retailer?
    • How can I access my usage information? Does this cost extra?
  • What solar feed-in tariff are you offering after 31 December 2016?
  • What pricing bundle or product best suits me?

Energy Saver Ideas

With the cost of energy increasing, it's not just for environmental reasons that it makes sense to improve the efficiency of our energy usage. Energy efficiency simply means using less energy to achieve the same result.

Council suggests a two-pronged approach to reducing your household energy consumption:

  1. Change your behaviour - this costs you nothing, and if practised regularly will deliver immediate and ongoing benefits
  2. Change your fixtures - doing so will often incur an up-front cost and any purchase decisions should be well-informed

Visit the Australian Government ‘Energy Made Easy’ website to compare your home power use and check if you’re paying too much for energy.

Please click on the headings below to expand/collapse the corresponding information.

Appliances
Heating and cooling
Lighting
Refrigeration
Water heating
Last Updated: 20 May 2014