NT government set to review solar feed-in tariff, as grid reforms kick off

The Northern Territory government is set to review the pricing of its solar feed-in tariffs, as part of a raft of grid reforms aimed at boosting renewables and lowering consumer power costs.
In a statement on Monday, the NT Labor government said it would begin consultation “shortly,” on supply and FiTs to encourage behind the meter energy storage for the Territory’s existing rooftop solar households and stimulate take-up of energy efficient technologies.
The move was announced as part of a series of electricity market reforms unveiled on Monday “to deliver lower cost and reliable power,” including the establishment of a competitive wholesale electricity market – to be called the Northern Territory Electricity Market (NTEM).
The reforms are in keeping with recommendations made by an independent panel in the Roadmap to Renewables report, released in late 2017 after being commissioned by the government in 2016.
As we have reported here, the government also announced a power purchase agreement to buy the output of the 25MW Katherine Solar farm, which is due to begin construction in coming months, in a joint venture by Epuron and Island Green Power.
On the distributed solar front, the NT – with its three small grids – has lagged behind the rest of Australia in the uptake of rooftop solar, despite its superior resource and comparatively generous solar FiT.
As Vikki McLeod reported here in July, only around 11 per cent of households in the Territory have installed their own PV system, compared to an average of between 20-25 per cent in other states – although uptake in the commercial sector is reportedly stronger.
But then again, the grids are comparatively smaller, too; the largest, the Darwin-Katherine grid has a peak demand of only 300MW and 1600GWh annual demand – so any boost in rooftop solar uptake would need to be accompanied by a push for battery storage.
Currently, the NT has offers a fairly generous tariff for solar fed back to the grid, at 25.95c/kWh, the same as the standard tariff for electricity from the grid. Commercial customers get a buy-back rate of 30.20c/kWh.
The NT Electricity Tariff Review will begin next month, with a six-week submission period, and will help inform a report advising the government on options for “efficient electricity retail tariffs and complementary feed-in tariff”.
A draft tariff policy position paper will be released to the public in 2019, with a further feedback period before anything is finalised.

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