'Sun tax' would put off solar customers

·3-min read

Two thirds of households would be less likely to buy rooftop solar under a plan that could see panel owners charged for exporting energy.

That's according to a survey of more than 1000 NSW residents commissioned by the group Solar Citizens, which has opposed the plan and labelled it a "sun tax".

The proposed changes to energy market rules could see network operators levy rooftop solar owners for exporting energy to the grid at peak times, such as in the middle of sunny days.

"We fear once these charges are in place they will derail Australia's uptake of clean solar energy," Ellen Roberts from Solar Citizens told AAP.

About 2.6 million Australian homes and businesses have rooftop solar installed but that number is expected to double within 10 years.

The survey found almost 60 per cent opposition to the plan and even from respondents without panels installed themselves.

The Australian Energy Market Commission (AEMC), which makes the rules for the national electricity market, estimates households without solar could save on average $15 a year under the plan, while those with larger solar installations could lose about $150 a year.

It says if the market rules are not updated, solar households will likely face growing limitations on the amount of energy they can export as the local network reaches capacity for extra flows.

Meanwhile, the companies operating the electricity network say the rule change is needed to prevent voltage spikes and outages.

"The idea that anyone wants to throw out this rule change out strikes me as a bit silly," Energy Networks Australia chief executive Andrew Dillon told AAP.

He said it was no surprise it appeared unpopular with solar panel owners, if presented as a proposal which would cost them money.

But Mr Dillon said the rule change would merely recognise that the electricity grid is changing to a "two-way" grid, where energy flows to and from households.

He said providing the ability to export to the grid is actually a service network companies provide, which is not recognised by the rules governing the current market.

"The charging arrangements for exports would be balanced by payments for exports at other times," he said.

But the proposal has faced some opposition from state governments.

Queensland Energy Minister Mick de Brenni suggested the measures were an unfair disincentive for Queenslanders wanting to install solar.

"These draft rules were proposed by a privatised network in South Australia to clean up a mess that was created by mismanaged private networks," he said in a statement.

The new rules "could see a charge slapped on any household who wants to export their solar power into the grid".

The NSW government said it's talking to the AEMC.

"I don't want to see NSW households who have installed rooftop solar in good faith unfairly penalised," Energy Minister Matt Kean told AAP.

The Solar Citizens survey also revealed that of those who have solar installed in their home or business, 63 per cent voted Labor, while 39 per cent voted Liberal.

Almost half of the respondents said they would be more likely to vote for a party opposed to the rule change, while a third said their vote would note change.

Of those surveyed, 46 per cent already had solar installed, and of those who did not, almost half were already considering buying panels.

Submissions on the proposal closed in May and a decision is expected later in June.