Sun rises in the East

Ellenbrook, Aveley, The Vines, Upper Swan and Brigadoon have the second-best uptake of photovoltaic solar panels anywhere in WA, with almost one in four homes in the 6069 postcode region having a solar system installed on its rooftop.

That trails only the Pinjarra, Oakley, Blythewood, Ravenswood postcode region of 6208 in WA.

The statistics also show more than 18.5 per cent of homes in the foothills seat of Hasluck now have domestic solar power systems.

The report comes at a time when the State Government is reconsidering its options on renewable energy.

WA Energy Minister Mike Nahan said the rapid uptake in the number of households installing rooftop solar panels had contributed to a drop in energy consumption and a revenue shortfall for state-owned power companies.

The Government is considering changing the way homeowners are charged for energy use, to protect the long-term viability of the power grid.

Currently, the fee consumers pay for power usage also covers the cost of maintaining Western Power’s infrastructure.

The Government is considering splitting the fee to create one charge for power consumed and a separate fixed charge to pay for infrastructure maintenance.

About 112,000 homes, or one in 10 in WA, now have solar panels installed ” up from just 8000 five years ago.

And the growth continues unabated.

Dr Nahan said about 2000 households were applying each week to install PV solar panels and the price paid to households who generated their own energy from solar panels might have to change.

The main driver behind the continued interest in solar panels has been rising electricity prices.

The cost of WA power has rocketed 69 per cent since 2009.

Since WA’s 40c per kilowatt-hour and 20c/kWh solar panel feed-in tariff rates were closed to new applicants, Synergy has been offering a rate of 7c/kWh to customers who install solar systems and feed the electricity generated back into the grid.

As this rate is significantly lower than the cost of electricity purchased from utilities, it makes sense for homeowners to consume as much of their solar power as possible as it is being generated.

WA Greens Senator Scott Ludlam criticised the Government over its proposal for a fixed charge for infrastructure.

‘West Australians have rightly been encouraged to take up solar panels,’ he said.

‘Now the State Government complains that as a result they’re not able to squeeze as much money out of people as they’d prefer ” so they’ll increase the fixed cost for electricity supply.

‘It’s beyond belief.’

In October last year, Allan Dawson, CEO in this State for Independent Market Operator, told a federal government inquiry into electricity prices that WA had 77 megawatts of peak PV solar installed and that this capacity ‘saved Western Australian taxpayers $7.7 million per year’.

‘The people installing PV solar panels on their roofs are doing a great public service, yet the Barnett government is penalising them,’ Senator Ludlam said.