After receiving our first electricity bill in our newly built house from Origin Energy, we were shocked to find no feed-in tariff listed on the bill for our 10kW system we had installed. On calling Origin they informed me they have no responsibility on making sure the feed-in tariff is correctly implemented as they are a retailer not a wholesaler. They informed me that since Essential Energy is our wholesaler in this area it is their responsibility to ensure the information about our property and meter are correct.
I tried calling Essential regarding this but spending a long time on hold is not an activity I personally enjoy, so decided to jump straight on the phone to the Energy Ombudsman for some info regarding my situation. I’m glad I did as I found some interesting information I was not previously aware of, and that I thought should be more readily advertised so consumers are aware of the situation regarding solar feed-in to the grid.
First off if you are having solar installed you must ensure that the company that installs your solar system fires off the paperwork to your wholesaler asap (until it is on the public record that you have solar, no retailer is aware and will not put solar on your bill). We found out that even though the panels were installed in April before we moved in, our installer did not send off the paperwork to Essential until the 7th July due to an error by their secretary. This of course means that the 450+ kWh of electricity we’ve supplied to Essential since we moved in has been free power for them, effectively meaning that we have given them the power that they sold to Origin, who then sold our own power back to us!
The most interesting information that I received from the Ombudsman however, is that in NSW no power company is under any legal obligation to pay a household for electricity said household supplies to the grid. If power companies decide not to pay you a tariff anymore they are legally entitled to take your power for free! I know large corporations like power companies are fine upstanding members of our community that aren’t interested in gouging consumers for profit, but there seems to be a legal imbalance here. If I take electricity from the grid without paying I would be charged and face court for engaging in a criminal act. Yet a power company can take the power I paid to produce and pay me nothing, with complete coverage to do so legally under the law.
Who is to say with the vast take-up of solar power in Australia, that sometime in the future the power companies won’t decide to all band together and say they are not paying tariffs anymore? They would get all the power feeding into the grid from households completely free and be able to sell back that same power to us - we pay to produce it and give to them, and then pay to get it back off them.
It has not changed my mind regarding having solar but the above information is something I definitely would have loved to know prior to installing my system.