Memo Energex: Battery storage plus 44c FIT is a bonus, not a rip-off

News reports claim that Energex has applied to the Queensland Productivity Commission for new laws allowing distributors to strip customers of the 44 cent feed-in tariff if they put storage on their solar PV systems.
The problem is that the only way storage can be utilized by incumbents is to discharge in the evening peak, which Energex should be championing.
There are already laws in place which prohibit the enlargement of a system above the registered rating of the inverter. These inverters can be loaded with up to 20 per cent input over the registered rating, however the “nominal rating of the inverter” is what Energex and Ergon are focused on.
In order for a customer to create power and abuse the FIT scheme, he or she would have to install an additional array (with no STC support), buy batteries and then consume or feed this stored power into the grid at night via the existing inverter.
Regulations already prohibit this, so essentially Energex want to make sure that people DON’T self-consume the power that they otherwise would generate and export during the day, which seems counter-productive. At the end of the day there is no possibility of a loss, only a gain for Energex.
There is no way that Energex or Ergon can prevent however, a customer stumping up the cost of an off-grid system to run swimming pools and other non-essential loads, thus allowing for maximum exports from the rooftop PV system.
Because these are not grid interactive, they fall out of the distributor’s jurisdiction and any law that prevented a customer from doing this would be fraught with danger as this is tampering with a non-network activity.
Due to the huge timeframe, out to 2028 and the sheer size of this ill-conceived tariff, it is now a genuine option for people to invest the eight or none thousand to install an off-grid system for pools and non-essential loads and see returns of up to 52 cents per KWh sent to the grid, though more likely half that as they would displace imported energy only.
For example: a 3KW off-grid system with 20KWh of storage would power most swimming pools, a heat pump hot water (which would have to have a grid connected supplement heater connected only by the plumbing) for most days of the year, plus air-conditioning in the summer months.
Let’s say we used 10KWh every day on average, this would represent a saving of $2.60 per day or $950 per annum. At a return of 13% is is a viable investment, one that is likely to improve over time, the reality is however, not many people will consider this investment worthwhile.
What continues to annoy the writer is that the government’s 44 cent FIT is being constantly quoted as a distributor cost, when it is in fact a collection of a tax via utility bills to recover the costs of a straight out government subsidy.
The reality is that it could be the old ambulance levy, because it has not one thing to do with electricity production nor distribution. Distributors should be championing storage into non-solar households and be offering true cost reflective time of use pricing.
This will enhance the uptake of solar, benefit non-solar customers and shrink the distributors network by half, sure there is still a profit in that for our desperate governments isn’t there?
Rob Campbell is head of Vulcan Energy. 

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