THE SOLAR 60c FEED IN TARIFF IS ENDING THIS YEAR, WHAT SHOULD I DO?
You would have no doubt received notice of this change by way of a letter from your energy retailer or the NSW Government, but like many customers, I suspect you may have some questions in relation to what is the best thing to do.
WHAT ARE THE CHANGES?
Firstly it is good to fully understand the changes that are being made. AS of the 1st of January 2017, all customers currently on the 60 FIT will be reduced to a tariff of approximately 6c or even 0 (depending upon your choice of energy retailer) and this change will reflect heavily on your electricity bill.
With this change taking place, it may be worthwhile to make some changes to maximise the financial return on your solar system once this 60c FIT is wound up.
WHAT DO I NEED TO DO?
Change from 'Gross' to 'Net' Metering
Our first recommendation would be to change your meter over from a gross to a net system. By switching to a 'net' meter, this will allow your solar power to be fed directly into the house first. Then if there is any left over power, it will be sent out to the grid ("exported"). This exported power will then be paid by your retailer depending upon which plan you are on. If you stick with your existing 'gross' meter, then all of your solar power will be paid at the reduced rate, even if you are using power at the same time as it is being produced.
Please bear in mind at the end of the year there is likely to be a big rush to get meters changed over so Grant may be booked out weeks in advance or there may be a shortage of net meters. To avoid these possible delays you are able to install a net meter now, however, you will need to make some changes to your pattern of usage. By being on a net meter during the remainder of your 60c FIT, you will need to be vigilant of using minimal power during the day so you can still feed most of your power back to the grid and therefore continue benefiting from your 60c FIT.
Consider & Research Your Metering Options Before Committing To Any Free Deals
Recently a number of customers, including ourselves, have received a letter from our local energy retailer offering to supply and install a 'free digital meter'. This may appear a generous offer but please bear in the mind this new 'digital meter' they are offering is in fact a 'smart' net meter and not a standard net meter. Depending upon your pattern of usage a smart meter may lead to higher electricity costs in the long term or reduce your costs – it really is a choice each customer will need to look at individually. What we do recommend is doing a bit of research and further reading to see which option will be best for your individual household.
For your convenience I have enclosed an information sheet which provides some detailed information on the pros and cons of installing a smart meter. You can also visit the following website for further information:
We would also recommend contacting your current energy retailer and checking what rate they are willing to pay for your excess solar power, or their 'feed in tariff rate' and ask them for a better deal. Some retailers will even offer customers a discount of 10-15% off their usage so it may be worthwhile shopping around as you may find a better deal with another retailer. Swapping retailers is now a relative easy process and can be done with a simple phone call.
Change your pattern of power usage
To get the maximum financial benefit from your solar system on a standard 'net meter' you will need to try and use all or most of your solar power as it is being made during the day. This may require a change of habits in regards to when you use your appliances and power. Examples would be running things such as pool pumps, dishwashers, washing machines etc during the day as your solar system is producing power, thus reducing what you buy from the grid at night. Some appliances may have built in timers or delays which may assist in the timing of your power usage. Simple plug in timers can also be effective and can be purchased at Bunnings and similar outlets.
WHAT ABOUT BATTERY BACK-UP? WHERE TO START?
This is a very exciting time for the solar industry and we have seen a huge number of innovative products entering the Australian market for battery storage. You may be asking yourself which battery system should we go for? How much will a full battery system cost? Is it worthwhile?
Like yourselves, we have been very interested in what is on offer and have been researching the various options available.
If you are interested in adding batteries to your solar system, one option we can strongly recommend is to start with the Enphase Home Energy System and in particular the installation of the Enphase Envoy S-Metered Monitoring Device.
This device is designed to track electricity generation and production in your household and therefore provide essential information needed to size a battery system to suit your individual household.
The best part is - any solar system – whether it's an Enphase Micro-inverter System or a traditional string system – can be fitted with the Envoy-S Metered device and in turn the Enphase AC battery option (which is due to arrive this August.)
The Enphase AC battery is a fantastic option to consider as unlike most other battery systems, it allows you to build up your battery system over time - thus avoiding any large upfront costs. You may want to start with only one or two batteries and then add more as you see fit and as the prices no doubt decrease.
The Envoy S-Metered Devices are currently priced at $695.00 + installation for single phase homes and $820.00 + installation for three phase homes. Please contact our office on 4573 1441 if you would like to secure one for your home.
WHAT ABOUT ADDING TO MY SYSTEM?
Given the changes that are being introduced at the end of the year and the continuation of rising energy costs, many customers are considering adding more panels to their system. The cost of solar modules and inverters has greatly decreased in recent years due to the improvement of solar panel production and the movement of the Australian Dollar.
It is also worth noting that there is still a STC (Small Scale Technology Certificate) rebate available for many systems which can make the price even cheaper. If you would like a quote to upgrade your system please contact our office, you may be surprised how little it will cost to expand your system!