The New South Wales Solar Bonus Scheme is a solar feed in tariff program paying homeowners either 20 or 60 cents per kilowatt hour for the power generated by their solar energy system.
The scheme, which was designed to encourage solar power installation, closed to new participants in 2011 and applies to over 140,000 residents in NSW.
Set to finish by the end of 2016, the Solar Bonus Scheme has provided its lucky recipients with fantastic financial benefits – but with its demise, these same homeowners may soon experience a shock.
When the Solar Bonus Scheme ends, electricity bills will likely skyrocket for those affected.
If you’re a homeowner who has benefitted from the NSW Solar Bonus Scheme, use this guide to better understand the situation and how you can avoid a dramatic increase in bill costs.
Why Will My Bills Go Up?
The Solar Scheme is based on a gross system, that is, pay-back benefits are based on all of the power being generated by your solar power system (not just surplus energy). That’s great when you’re receiving up to 60 cents per kilowatt hour – but not ideal once that figure plummets to as little as 4.7 cents next year.
Since most homes under the scheme have been fitted with a ‘gross meter’ – a meter which measures all solar power production, these homeowners will be exporting their unused solar power into the grid for next to nothing, and then buying it back in the evenings for a huge premium.
Some reports suggest that a home in Sydney with a 5kW system will pay over $4,000 a year in extra electricity bill costs if they make no changes.
What Can I Do To Reduce My Bills?
Fortunately, there are a number of preparations current homeowners under the NSW Solar Bonus Scheme can make to help neutralise their imminent power bill increase. With more than 140,000 homes affected, it’s wise to act sooner than later in order to avoid time delays.
1.Change Your Meter
As mentioned, basically all homes under the Scheme will be fitted with a gross meter which measures all solar power output.
This will need to be changed to a net meter which only records surplus energy and enables solar electricity to offset expensive grid power consumption. For homeowners no longer receiving the Solar Bonus Scheme rate, you’ll be able to access far better value from the solar electricity you generate.
Even better than a net meter, you also have the option to install a smart meter.
These offer high-tech features and can record your consumption and production of electricity at regular intervals (e.g. 30 minutes), communicating that information back to the electricity retailer for monitoring and billing purposes.
These meters can usually be configured to work in either net or gross metering modes.
As part of the NSW smart meter roll-out, under the Electricity Supply Amendment (Advanced Meters) Act March 2016, most energy retailers will be offering to change old meters. However, this is likely to be on an ‘opt-out’ basis, meaning you could lose your current feed-in tariff bonus rate early – it will pay to ask before signing up.
If your energy retailer is not going to change your meter (or you’re going to upgrade your system capacity) Solargain can help fit a new meter to your home.
2. Upgrade Your System
The price of solar power has dropped considerably over the past eight years.
It was common for homeowners prior to 2011 to install smaller-scale systems in order to keep costs down. Expanding your 1.5kW, 2kW or even 3kW system can make a significant difference to your savings. For example, whilst a 1.5kW system can typically save you up to $590 a year (depending on your location and the installation), a 3kW system has the potential to save you up to $1180 every year and a 5kW system as much as $1990.
Most existing solar power systems are easily upgraded and as previously mentioned, for a fraction of the cost compared to installing solar power over five years ago. Other factors, such as your available roof space and current electricity usage, also come into play.
Talk to Solargain for more information about upgrading your existing system to reap greater electricity savings.
3. Consider Storage
Solar battery storage is now a viable option for many homeowners. The next generation of solar battery storage units are lighter, smarter are more affordable than ever. Battery storage units work by collecting and storing excess energy created by your solar panels through the day, for use at night time. They can help reduce your dependence on the grid, in turn reducing the cost of your power bills. Learn more about battery storage.
4. Consider Solar Hot Water
Heating water remains one of the most energy-intensive processes in homes today. Like solar panels, installing solar hot water is more affordable today than ever and will help slash your water-heating costs as much as 80%. Solar hot water is safe, reliable and a sure-fire way to reduce your energy bills.
5. Find The Best Utility
Not all energy retailers are equal. If you have a solar power system, it definitely pays to shop around to find a retailer with the greatest benefits for solar supporters. These may come in the form of special incentives, discounts as well as competitive feed-in-tariff rates.
If you’re having trouble comparing energy retailers, get in touch with us and we’ll help you identify the top contenders.
6. Act Early!
Whatever you do to help neutralise the price hike, we recommend you start sooner than later. With over 140,000 other homeowners going through the same situation, the solar power industry is gearing up for a lot of demand in a short amount of time. To avoid delays, start a conversation with us today to assess your options.