Businesses told they could connect to solar power in the East Kimberley have had their plans put on hold by Horizon Power.
Solar brokerage firm Solar Choice has received applications to install solar systems at 34 premises at Kununurra and Wyndham Managing director Angus Gemmell said a number of local businesses had applied earlier this year after checking details on Horizon Power’s website.
Mr Gemmell said Horizon Power recently “changed its position” and would no longer allow the businesses to install solar
“From what I understand, an agreement has been made with Pacific Hydro some time ago that they would be the only provider of clean energy on the grid,” he said.
“We are not running up a white flag on this issue, and are trying all we can to obtain joint consent from Pacific Hydro and Horizon Power for exception to be made given the misleading representations from Horizon Power.”
Business owner Paul Mock started investigating solar power last year. He was told he could install solar panels before Horizon Power changed their stance.
“Part of the issue is that we are on hydro power and there is an agreement, there is something there that is causing an issue,” he said.
“I get a $4000 power bill every two months and I’d like to try to reduce that.”
Mr Mock said Horizon Power had told him he might be allowed to install solar energy at his business later this year.
But he fears it will be too late to claim a Government rebate which expires in July.
“It will cost about $6000 to install with the rebate,” he said. “It’s nearly $16,000 without the subsidy.”
Pacific Hydro has supplied electricity to Kununurra, Wyndham and the Argyle Diamond Mine since it built the plant at Lake Argyle in the mid-1990s.
Australian general manager Lane Crockett said Pacific Hydro has priority access to the electricity network.
“For Pacific Hydro to invest in that asset we needed to know that we had priority of supply and that was the basis for the investment that was made back then,” Mr Crockett said.
“At that time it was never really contemplated about the advent of solar power so we find ourselves in a situation where the contracts don’t really contemplate this situation.”
Mr Crockett said his company had requested more information from Horizon Power about what was planned for the supply of solar power to the East Kimberley.
It was possible an agreement would not be made before the solar power rebate expired, he said.
A Horizon Power spokesperson said the company had been given legal advice not to comment on contractual obligations with Pacific Hydro.
Horizon Power sales, marketing and product development manager Scott Davis said the company was investigating ways “in which it may allow customers to connect small renewable energy systems to the Kununurra network in the future”.
CAPTION: Paul Mock cannot install solar power at his local business.