A feed-in tariff is a premium rate paid to householders for electricity produced by a renewable source such as grid connected rooftop solar power systems or wind turbines. The electricity generated from these systems is fed back into the mains grid for distribution throughout the network.
Australia has more than enough roof space currently to provide the nation's electricity needs - if those rooftops had solar panels - so why do we continue to support filthy, polluting coal as a long term solution?
Low emissions coal is not no-emissions coal; in fact it requires more coal to provide the energy to lower emissions from this fossil fuel. Coal fired power generation should be phased out and it's now possible to do so with proven zero emissions technologies such as solar and wind power.
Ensure a national feed in tariff happens soon, sign the petition today!
This petition is an Energy Matters community initiative
Why do we need a feed in tariff?
Solar and wind power systems provide environmental benefits by reducing greenhouse gas emissions and social benefits through industry development and job creation. However, the investment involved is substantial, so there must be sufficient incentive to stimulate uptake of these clean and green energy systems. The demand must be created and the technology accessible to as many people as possible. Gross feed in tariff programs have been demonstrated to achieve this.
When Germany introduced a gross feed-in tariff program in 2000, it very rapidly more than doubled the amount of electricity created from renewable energy sources. The gross feed-in tariff created nearly a quarter of a million new jobs in the German renewable energy industry and is now creating triple the number of jobs per installed megawatt as the coal fired electricity industry.
As a result of this success, Germany recently increased its renewable energy target to 27% of all electricity generation by 2020 - and it's well on its way to achieving that goal. Australia however still lags behind in switching on to solar power and lowering our greenhouse gas emissions. In fact, our emissions are increasing.
Germany's results were achieved in a country receiving half the sunshine of Australia and Germany has now the largest solar power capacity in the world. A similar program in a sun-drenched county such as Australia would be incredibly successful!
Get the government moving on feed in tariffs, sign the petition today!
Other benefits of solar power
When electricity is transmitted over a distance, some is lost through what's called line loss. The further the distance between source and consumption, the more is lost, the more coal needs to be burned to make up that shortfall. Where does the electricity supplying your home come from? Likely it's quite a long way to your local power station. By installing rooftop solar arrays on houses, the electricity can supply not only the house on which it's installed, but the surplus can feed other houses close by.
Additionally, central power generation facilities provide a very attractive target for hostile parties and can be destroyed in natural disasters such as cyclones or fires. Take out a few power plants and you instantly have chaos. A decentralised network or grid connected systems allows for better energy security as it's much cheaper and faster to repair a sub-station than it is to replace an entire plant. It's in the interests of our national security to decentralise power generation.
Current Australian feed in tariff status
While several states have feed in tariff programs in place, they all differ, can be confusing, aren't well publicised and most are based on a net model, a poor cousin to the gross feed in tariff concept.
Gross vs. net tariffs
There is a huge difference between gross and net feed in tariff models and it is crucial Australia rolls out a gross program.
A net feed in tariff only pays the wind turbine/solar power system owner for surplus energy they produce; that is, over and above what the house or business consumes.
Under a net model, this means in a household where someone is at home most of the day, any electricity produced by the system is likely being consumed by appliances in the household, so there is no financial gain and therefore little incentive to install a system.
A gross feed in tariff pays a premium on all electricity produced by a grid connected system and should be provided to both commercial and residential grid connected system owners.
Support a gross feed in tariff, sign the petition today!
Why 80c per kilowatt hour?
The 80c per kilowatt rate is fair compensation given the means by which the electricity has been produced and the investment home owners and businesses make in the initial outlay. A rate also needs to be high enough to attract parties whom may not have considered this type of investment previously.
Essentially, home owners and businesses are paying for the infrastructure that would usually be paid for by the government (but ultimately we, the taxpayers) and electricity companies (but ultimately, we the consumers). As electricity will be generated close to the source where it is used, there is also less line loss, which is energy waste resulting from the transmission of electrical energy across distances. Electricity generated in populated areas means is cleaner, greener and provides better value for money than that created by a power station that may be many kilometres away.
Ensure a fair payment, sign the petition today!
Is 80c realistic?
The coal industry is supported by generous government subsidies, tax breaks and incentives already, with more to come. So in effect, the price we all pay for electricity from this fossil fuel source is higher than what is on our electricity bills - the rest is hidden in our taxes.
When you add to that the cost of creating so called "clean" coal, i.e. low emissions coal, is going to demand that consumers pay a lot more for their electricity anyway, it becomes clearer that a change of focus by lessening our reliance on coal, which solar power can certainly do, the tariff is very viable.
According to the ACA (Australian Coal Association) NewGenCoal site, the expectation is that the cost increase for clean coal technology will be in the order of 50 to 75% of current power generation costs - perhaps even more.
Another point to consider - electricity needs infrastructure such as
expensive power plants. Homeowners and businesses with grid connected systems
are paying for that infrastructure that may have otherwise been represented by
the building of more
coal fired plants. The 80 cents per kilowatt hour payment can also be viewed as a return on
their investment of infrastructure that benefits all Australians..
Phenomenon such as
drought and floods cost Australia billions of dollars and high greenhouse gas
levels contribute to the increasing frequency and severity of these deadly
events. The recent Australian heatwave cost lives and in economic terms, cost
the state of Victoria around 100 million dollars. As a result of the heatwave,
the Energy Networks Association says $50 billion worth of investment is needed
to avoid further widespread blackouts. That's a considerable investment, some of
which could go towards incorporating more grid connect solar power to take some of the load off the mains grid!
According to research from the Australian PV Association, even though Germany's feed in tariff rate is so high, the program costs German households an average of €6.3 per year, which is the equivalent of AUD 25 cents per week at current exchange rates.
A long term commitment
At the recent Council Of Australian Governments (COAG) meeting, a set of national principles to apply to new feed-in tariff schemes and to inform the reviews of existing schemes were agreed upon. However, these principles are severely flawed as they will not offer the required incentive.
Not only is there a possibility that a feed in tariff may only be
pegged at the market value of electricity under the principles, but
any payments above market rate would:
Without a long term commitment of at least 15 years to a gross feed in tariff program and a payable rate of at least 80c per kilowatt hour, an Australian program would pale beside programs such as those in Germany and amount to little more than a token gesture.
There should also be a 6 month cross over period where both $8,000 residential rebate and/or the upcoming solar credits scheme plus gross feed in tariff should apply to not only help stimulate the Australian economy in these troubled times, but to allow industry to adjust, negating the risk of a boom then bust scenario.
Make the government get a feed in tariff right, sign the petition today!
Access Economics - The Economics of Feed-in Tariffs for solar PV in Australia - Download PDF
Clean Energy Council - Inquiry into Renewable Energy (Electricity) Amendment (Feed In Tariff) 2008 - Download PDF
Energy Matters - Solar Feed-in Tariff in Australia - 10 Reasons Why - Download PDF
This petition is an Energy Matters community initiative