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Solar installers and households/businesses on Queensland’s legacy 44c solar feed in tariff (Solar Bonus Scheme) should be aware of pending changes to the scheme.

Queenslanders that applied to install rooftop solar power systems before the 10th of July 2012 were eligible for a 44 cent feed-in tariff1. This generous rate is locked in until the 1st of July 2028 – assuming nothing is done to make a system ineligible.

Queensland’s Energex originally sent an explainer to solar installers about the consequence of a Bill concerning the legacy FiT in September last year.

Last week, the Queensland Parliament re-introduced a Bill to change the Electricity Act 1994 (Qld) that Energex says provides clearer rules. If passed in its current form, 15 February 2018 will be the date that the changes came into effect rather than the previously advised date of 15 June 2017.

Summarising the pending 44c feed-in tariff changes:

Solar Array Upgrades And Oversizing

Array upgrades on 44c feed-in tariff-eligible systems must not result in a solar panel array capacity that exceeds the total inverter capacity – so no more oversizing. For those who entered a contract to purchase additional panels that take the total array capacity above inverter capacity before 15 February 2018, eligibility will remain assuming the upgrade occurs within a reasonable timeframe and there is a current financial commitment that can be proven if requested.

Replacing Solar Panels

When replacing failed panels, every effort must be made to match the wattage of the panels being replaced. Where this is not possible, an increase in wattage of up to 5% across the entire array is allowable without impacting 44c feed-in tariff eligibility and without requiring Energex consent.

Above 5% will require consent, a new connection application lodged2 and will jeopardise 44c feed in tariff eligibility. Energex advises that in cases where multiple solar panels need to be replaced, it may be necessary to reduce the number of panels to stay within the 5% limit.

Adding Batteries

While battery storage can be added, the system cannot be configured in a way that could result in the battery discharging while the solar power system is operating or more electricity being exported than would otherwise be possible. A schematic will need to be included with applications demonstrating compliance with the rule.

Adding Another System

Any type of generating system added to the same tariff circuit and operating at the same time as the qualifying PV system (except during blackouts), or one that is able to export to the grid will result in the 44c feed-in tariff being forfeited. This is a clarification rather than a change to current policy.

Assuming the Bill is passed, Energex warns it will be actively monitoring to ensure compliance with the above.

The Electricity and Other Legislation (Batteries and Premium Feed-in Tariff) Amendment Bill 2018 can be viewed here.

Other Premium FiT Conditions

The following actions also make a system ineligible for the 44c feed-in tariff:

  • moving house
  • selling or renting your house where this results in a new electricity account holder for the premises
  • increasing the capacity of your inverter
  • closing your electricity account
  • getting disconnected

More do’s and don’ts regarding maintaining 44c feed-in tariff eligibility can be found here.

Footnotes

  1. Current feed in tariff rates in Queensland range from 10c – 12c 
  2. Energex says a new connection application also needs to be lodged in these cases where a system is not on the 44c FiT