27 November 2013 — The Independent Pricing and Regulatory Tribunal (IPART) is seeking community input into its annual review of solar feed-in-tariffs.

Releasing an Issues Paper for public comment today, IPART chairman Dr Peter Boxall said the review will determine the subsidy-free value of electricity exported from solar PV units.

“We will determine a benchmark range for solar feed-in-tariffs, which is designed to help customers choose the best combination of electricity prices and feed-in tariffs on offer to meet their specific needs,” Dr Boxall said.

Retailers are not required to offer a feed-in tariff to customers outside of the Solar Bonus Scheme, which closed in 2011, but many do so voluntarily to attract solar customers.

There has been debate as to what a fair price for excess solar exported to the grid should be. In its last review, IPART found that a fair and reasonable feed-in tariff for customers not eligible for the Solar Bonus Scheme was in the range of 7.7 to 12.9 cents per kilowatt hour for electricity exported to the grid in 2012/13.

“This review requires that the value of solar PV exports that we estimate be subsidy-free, including free from cross-subsidies from other customers. This rules out a 1-for-1 feed-in tariff because retailers would make a loss on solar customers and might avoid serving them,” Dr Boxall said.

“However, it is important to recognise that the benefits of solar come not only from feed-in tariffs, but more substantially from avoiding the need to purchase as much energy from retailers.”

Many argue that the rise of solar energy use and the concomitant decrease in overall demand and the lessened need to invest in capacity upgrades should be reflected in a solar feed-in tariff.

Dr Boxall said IPART was seeking input into the ways the value of solar PV exports is estimated, before preparing a draft report for further comment in April 2014 and a final report and determination in June 2014.

The Issues Paper is available on IPART’s website. Submissions are due by 31 January 2014.