Queensland’s energy market appears to be catching up with the state’s residential solar boom, with the number of retailers competing to buy rooftop solar exports nearly doubling since 2015, while the amount being offered for that solar power has jumped by around 50 per cent in just 12 months.
The 2018 figures were revealed in a Queensland Competition Authority report published on Monday, the second such annual report to the state government on the progress of solar feed-in tariffs on the Energex network in the state’s south-east.
“The number of retailers offering residential customers solar feed-in tariffs increased over the three reporting years, from nine in 2015–16 to sixteen in 2017–18,” the QCA report said.
“The range of feed-in tariffs offered to residential solar customers expanded from 6 – 15 cents per kilowatt-hour in the first half of the year to 6 – 20 cents per kilowatt-hour in the second half of the year.”
This compares to 2016/17, when the retail solar FiT for households ranged from 4-11c/kWh, with the average peaking at 6.8c/kWh during this time.
The changes are notable, because in that part of the state, feed-in tariffs – and whether retailers offer them at all – are voluntary, with the QCA setting only a guideline of 6c-8c/kWh. On Ergon’s regional Queensland network, however, the QCA-set FiT range is mandatory.
But as Queenslanders install a new home solar system somewhere in the state every 15 minutes – according to government – the number of offers to customers has ballooned, taking the average FiT price along with it.
Even more notable is the fact that this rise in FiT pricing has occurred at the same time as home power costs have fallen in the state.
According to the QCA report, electricity prices offered by retailers to residential customers fell during the second half of the reporting period, with typical bills for residential solar customers varying between $1,244 (AGL) and $1,932 (Mojo Power), for customers on flat rate tariffs, to $1,365 (AGL) and $2,085 (Mojo Power) for customers on flat rate with super economy controlled load tariffs.
For customers on flat rate with economy controlled load tariff, bills ranged from $1,429 (AGL) to $2,119 (Mojo Power).
The QCA says the rise in the FiT prince ranges being offered has largely been due to AGL Energy and Mojo Power increasing their highest feed-in tariffs to 20c/kWh.
Indeed, the only retailer to lower its solar FiT over the course of the year was Click Energy, taking its lowest offer from 10c/kWh in the first half of the year, to 8c/kWh in the second half.
The QCA says the 50 per cent increase in the average FiT being offered to residential customers was likewise driven mainly by increases in AGL’s and Mojo Power’s highest rate, and EnergyAustralia increasing its highest FiT from 11 to 16.1c/kWh
Commenting on the QCA report, Queensland energy minister Anthony Lynham said the findings were good and bad news for solar households: good, because the market appeared to be valuing solar PV; bad because customers who didn’t do their research risked missing out on the benefits.
“QCA’s 2018 solar FiT report for south east Queensland showed retailers were offering households and small business average FiTs over 50 per cent higher than the previous year,” he said.
“The growth in the solar market is now stimulating a wide range of FiTs from retailers, giving consumers the power to choose the FiT that best meets their needs.
“However, I strongly encourage consumers and small business to do the research and shop around to find the best offer for their overall needs.”
Dr Lynham said that this was part of the purpose of the QCA report, which modeled different levels of use and solar FiTs to see how they might impact different types of customers.”
As you can see in the table above, the QCA report shows that 16 retailers were offering average FiTs of 11 cents per kilowatt hour to households.