South Australian Government Injects Social Justice with Innovative Solar + Storage and Distribution Plan

The South Australian government has recently announced a trial of a plan, which, if successful, will see people on lower incomes benefit from household solar power generation and energy storage, even though they are renting. It is about time an Australian government seriously the inequity in household energy costs suffered by people who are renting. Such people are unable to benefit from solar subsidies. Neither can they benefit, until now, from roof top solar panels. I have commented previously on this inequity – as time has passed by and as government at all levels have dithered, and as power companies have done nothing much to meet Australia’s growing energy needs, the situation for those who do not own their own home has gotten worse and worse.

I have stated previously that the idea that I should be spared the cost of electricity for the last few years – simply because I could afford to fork out for subsidized solar panels – which means I also receive a feed in tariff from my energy supplier – is unjust to the extreme. It is socially regressive. The poor and the less well off become increasingly vulnerable to totally unsubsidized power costs simply because such people cannot afford to qualify for the benefits.

In the local vernacular this is arse about face. It is inhumane.

Now at last the State Government is making a small and very belated attempt at progressive thinking in order to both generate more clean energy and to store and redistribute it. It is a small start, one which is very much over due. If introduced at the start of the Australian solar panel subsidy system instead of near the end of it, the whole nation would have benefited in a greater manner and in a fairer manner too.

The details of the scheme are explained here:

http://ourenergyplan.sa.gov.au/virtual-power-plant

A brief quote from the site:

World’s largest ‘Virtual Power Plant’ to lower energy bills by 30%

The State Government has unveiled a plan to roll out a network of at least 50,000 home solar and battery systems across South Australia, working together to form the world’s largest Virtual Power Plant.

Beginning with a trial of 1100 Housing Trust properties, a 5kW solar panel system and 13.5kWh Tesla Powerwall 2 battery will be installed at no charge to the household and financed through the sale of electricity.

Following the trial, which has now commenced, systems are set to be installed at a further 24,000 Housing Trust properties, and then a similar deal offered to all South Australian households, with a plan for at least 50,000 households to participate over the next four years.

A registration of interest will be opened today for members of the public who wish to participate in the program.

The Government will release a market notice later this week for a retailer to deliver the program, with a preference of bringing more competition into the market.

Analysis by Frontier Economics shows the 250MW plant is expected to lower energy bills for participating households by 30 per cent.

Additionally, all South Australians will also benefit from the increased generation in the South Australian energy mix, with lower energy prices and increased energy stability.

The State Government is assisting the rollout with a $2million grant and $30million loan from the Renewable Technology Fund.” end quote.

I am heartily sick of the constant harping by conservative forces via the media about the alleged inability of renewable energy to deliver power needed. Over the years since state governments sold off power generation facilities and poles and wires, the energy market in Australia has quite deliberately been kept on an expansion path which clearly has been inadequate. Conservative forces would have it that South Australia continue to burn coal of such low quality that it could be considered to be on par with bitumen. For decades, as a result of this burning, Port Augusta has suffered one of the nation’s highest levels of lung cancer.

Happily, despite the cravings of conservatives for more fuel burning have gone unfulfilled in SA. Port Augusta is to get a solar thermal power plant.

I hope the SA government’s trial of a virtual power generation, storage and distribution will be a success, that it expands, and that indeed it does produce the promised 30% reduction in power costs for participating households.

At long last renters can directly benefit from an equitable solar power, storage and distribution system.

What took government so long to come up with this and to commence putting it in place?

It has always been my view that a percentage of the feed in tariff I receive should have been directed to a community pool of funds which would be used to lower the cost of power to renters and to other who cannot afford to buy subsidized solar panels.

Solar panels should be a compulsory component in any new dwelling and a condition of planning approval. The panels are as necessary for environmental health as toilets are.

There is one thing the fuel industry will hate to see – a clearly progressive, well planned solar program which benefits everyone and which enables an expansion in the rate of growth of energy generation which, to date, private energy suppliers have been totally unable and unwilling to produce.

Government intervention in the SA energy market is clearly over due and this new plan will not only provide relief to renters and those struggling to pay power bills, but the state and nation as a whole.

Paul Langley

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