An attempt by Victorian network operators to engage with customers on the topic of rooftop solar has backfired rather spectacularly, highlighting the gaping disconnect that still remains between the electricity industry and average Australian consumers – particularly around the topic of distributed solar power.
On its Facebook page on Monday, CitiPower and Powercor Australia asked who should be made to pay for the increased uptake of rooftop solar on its networks, to ensure that the overall quality of power supply didn’t decline.
It’s a provocative line of inquiry – particularly coming from CitiPower/Powercor, considering their networks in Melbourne and regional Victoria have among Australia’s lowest penetration of rooftop solar.
According to their website, more than 110,000 customers across CitiPower and Powercor have rooftop solar generating renewable power into the grid – which amounts to about 10 per cent of the two networks’ 1,130,000 combined customers.
But it was probably the next part of the question that customers objected to most.
“Should investment in power quality be paid for by a) All customers or b) Customers with solar panels who export?”
The response to the poll – which has so far racked up 200 votes – will not be revealed until it closes in five days. But the comments posted below the online forum were almost unanimous in their sentiment:
“None of the above!! It’s an investment!! You said it!! Power company invest their own money so you get returns.. Should I buy an investment property for you, so you can rent it out and keep all the rental money!!! Does it sound fair??”
“Any investment should be covered by the power companies as they are getting all this power for virtually free and selling it for 30c kwh. Instead of making customers install load restrictions at the board invest money to provide power as I am paying for it.”
“If all customers pay then it’s removing a potential barrier to someone considering installing solar. More installed systems balance the grid and reduce load on the neutral, the problem the networks have to deal with.
If solar customers are the only ones paying then they have an incentive to install batteries and stop exporting. This also reduces the load on the grid since less energy is being exported.
Either option reduces the impact of PV systems on the grid, thus potentially reducing the need for networks to upgrade… so they win twice!”
“Neither. It isn’t as though the power is delivered to customers for free. We not only pay for the power we use, there is also a hefty service charge, a portion of which is paid back to the distributor. Suggesting that customers should pay for infrastructure is like saying that as well as paying for the fuel I put in my car, I need to pay for upkeep and replacement of the trucks that delivered it. I don’t think so.”
“Are you serious Powercor, we have paid over and over for your infrastructure, it’s part of your expense, it’s the solar panel owners who are supplementing your grid thus avoiding upgrades we are told. Paid a pittance for the power generated compared the gaming that goes on by the big generators.”
“Where do you include the savings caused by solar customers, avoided upgrades of lines or transformers due to distributed generation?”
“I don’t understand the question. Investment in the quality of power private companies generate from solar power farms they export from Australia? Surely no customer should pay it, it should be paid for by the investors in those companies shouldn’t it?”
“Power suppliers or Government Of Course. Not the poor people who have invested in solar, more greed!”
“If you start charging me more, SIMPLE I will just disconnect and install batteries.”
So, what do you think?