Public back smart energy reform to support future solar growth fairly

New research finds strong public backing for proposed energy rule change that will require smart investment in electricity networks to support the growth of rooftop solar, continue to reward solar customers and will reduce bills for people on low incomes, renters and those in apartments.

The research released by Energy Consumers Australia today, sought to understand the attitudes of the public to electricity reforms proposed by the Australian Energy Market Commission (AEMC), that require network operators to invest in the grid to support more energy exports like solar and enable some costs of the investment to be recovered through export tariffs rather than just consumption tariffs.

When presented with information about what is in the AEMC energy reforms, 69% of those surveyed felt positive about the reform including 68% of solar owners.
Those feeling positive about the reform spoke mostly of the environmental benefits of supporting the growth of solar, and a fair approach to supporting people already benefiting from solar power and those customers still facing barriers to accessing renewable energy.

ACOSS CEO Dr Cassandra Goldie, said “The research shows that when informed, people strongly support the reforms and the importance of supporting the growth of solar power without negatively affecting people still locked out of renewable energy generation.

“Everyone deserves affordable power and the proposed changes ensure that the critical transition to solar will not disadvantage people who can’t install solar at their homes.

“People experiencing financial disadvantage, especially those who rent, pay disproportionately more of their income on essentials like energy and are contributing disproportionately more to some of the costs of the energy transition.

“The smart energy reform would support the growth of solar whilst reducing electricity bills for the millions of people who rent, live in apartments or are financially disadvantaged and therefore can’t access solar.
“The reforms ensure the electricity grid of the future that tackles the climate crisis in a just and fair way.”
The research also revealed strong support for additional reforms put forward jointly by the Total Environment Centre and ACOSS* to provide greater certainty for households exporting energy. They include a requirement to guarantee a basic level of free export (67% support) and ensuring customers have the option to not pay an export charge, but may be subject to export limits (57% support).

The Total Environment Centre’s Energy Advocate, Mark Byrne, said “It is pleasing to see the high level of public support for the changes TEC and ACOSS proposed to the draft rule that would provide greater certainty for households exporting energy.

“The draft reform package relied too heavily on network operators and the Australian Energy Regulator (AER) to make the final decision on price options and export limits,” said Dr Byrne. “We urge the AEMC to guarantee more benefits and choice through the rules.”

“If our proposed changes are implemented, every solar household will be guaranteed to be able to export some energy to the grid, unlike the situation now; and they will be given a choice as to whether they pay to export to the grid.”

Quotes from the survey:
“I think these proposals are reasonable and don’t put pressure on households with or without solar. It still encourages solar uptake and encourages battery use, which can be used to store excess energy until needed. Much better to do this than invest in more dirty power generation.”
“I think that these reforms would make it better for people to obtain solar power and would make it more appealing.”
“I am pleased that non-solar power users will not be made to pay for solar upgrades that they will never use.”
“I think everyone would benefit in the long run as it’ll be much better for the environment.”
“Because it will benefit everyone in the long run, and it will reduce or stop solar overload. The people on solar will not lose that much in saving and people that have batteries can still use their own power and export their power when it is needed back into the network.”

Sample size = 2,012 participants including a representative national sample of 1,202 respondents and an additional boost of 810 solar customers.

*TEC and ACOSS were one of three rule change proponents to the AEMC that led to the rule change proposal.