Solar Feed-in payments NSW

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.


In Queensland, information about installing solar PV systems can be found on the Government Website here. Information for NSW can be found here.

In Queensland, ‘check with your installer or electricity distributor about connecting to the network before agreeing to buy or install a solar system. You’ll need your distributor’s approval if you wish to connect your solar to the electricity grid.’. The distributed may refuse solar PV grid connection if the additional generation caused by the proposed PV system results in instability in the local distribution network. Such has occurred in areas where there has been a very high uptake of PV systems.

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.

This will if you haven’t received approval for the connection as well as ensuring that your meter is suitable. In such case, technically the system should not be feeding into the grid and the PV owner shouldn’t be receiving any credits.

I’m pretty sure that has been the case since the GFiT scheme ended a few years ago and everyone was put onto a net FiT.
It is a good reason to install a battery to minimise your energy imports and exports. It is also a good reason to mount your PV array such that you avoid a massive power output peak in the middle of the day, such as I wrote about here:

Very interesting post, and the numbers do seem to stack up. These are the sort of things that would help people when installing solar if they were common knowledge. I’d encourage anyone contemplating installing solar to read that post.

I’m not sure about the Queensland situation as I stated in my original post, but according to the letter of the law in NSW whether or not you have approval for the connection all the power remains with the retailer not the consumer/generator. If the retailer decides not to pay you for the generated power you have no recourse unless you are signed up to a contract stating a price for your power generation to the grid. You can have approval to connect to the grid and a compatible meter, but the retailer is under no legal obligation to pay you anything for said power supplied unless there is a contract in place. If said retailer decides not to pay you for that power once the contract is past it’s stated date, they don’t have to and there is nothing you can do about it except disconnect your solar output from the grid.

I would suggest, households in NSW who have PV organise themselves in such a way that if the retailers stop paying for the PV, we can all shut down our PV suddenly i.e. go on strike… The amount of PV power generated now is such that the whole grid would shudder if the PV was turned off in an organised manner. However, a better strategy will be batteries and then give them the finger!