Tango Energy offers 20c/kWh solar FiT in Victoria – with a catch

Pacific Hydro-owned retailer Tango Energy has made a new pitch for rooftop solar customers in Victoria, with the offer of a  20c/kWh feed-in tariff – the equal-highest in the state and almost twice the 10.2c/kWh minimum mandated rate.

But the offer comes with a couple of key catches.

The offer, called SolarPLUS, promises a 20c FiT for only the first 3.5 kilowatt hours of solar exported back to the grid per day. After that, the rate drops back to 10.2c/kWh – but only for customers who buy a 6.6kW solar system through Tango’s preferred third-party retailer, which is B Solar.

The rooftop solar systems on offer through Tango/B Solar use 300W Eging panels and a 5kW SolarX inverter, and provide a 15 year manufacturer’s warranty and a 25 year performance guarantee on panels.

This puts Tango on par with Origin Energy in Victoria for highest premium solar tariff on offer; and Origin, like Tango, only offers its Solar Boost Plus deal to customers who install solar through Origin, and also has an unspecified export cap, after which point the tariff reverts to a lower rate.

For Tango customers with solar system’s already installed, the state’s minimum mandated solar tariff of 10.2c/kWh applies.

Origin, on the other hand, offers a plain vanilla Solar Boost tariff of 14c/kWh for existing solar customers, on the condition the PV system doesn’t exceed 10kW of inverter capacity or is limited to 10kW export.

The move by Tango highlights the increased interest retailers are showing in rooftop solar, having finally realised it is not going away, but rather is rapidly becoming one of the key assets in Australia’s future grid.

The increased focus on solar customers by retailers could also be a symptom of the current power struggle between networks and traditional “gen-tailer” utilities over the business model of the future, as Giles Parkinson explains here.

On a more basic level, retail electricity packages designed around rooftop solar are increasingly seen as a way to appeal to customer loyalty, or to reduce customer “churn,” which just two years ago saw Origin lose 47,000 retail customers over a period of just six months, presumably in search of better deals.

A major frustration for electricity customers around Australia has been the high degree of difficulty in navigating the notoriously tortuous lists of Ts & Cs that come with almost every retail offer. Deals that bring in solar can be even more complicated, once retailers factor in each network’s export limits and each state’s feed-in tariff settings.

Most National Electricity Market states only set a recommended range for solar FiTs, leaving retailers to decide what to offer to remain competitive.

Victoria, alone, has a government-mandated minimum price for solar exports, and also offers the option of a time-varying FiT, which is meant to encourage the export of solar at times of peak demand. South Australian Power Networks is also proposing to offer a time varying solar tariff, or a solar “sponge” as it describes it.

Consumer comparison site Canstar Blue recently published this handy list of each state’s most competitive-looking solar FiT deals, but it’s always worth looking beyond the numbers and into the fine print of the overall deal.

It’s also important to weigh up your individual household’s system size and energy consumption patterns. If you have a relatively small system and self consume a lot of your own solar, then the size of the FiT might not be so important.

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