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    Solar power not all that hot

    Alternative Technology Association

    The Alternative Technology Association (ATA) has produced a report that found a number of barriers confronting solar power users that could even see some users paying bigger electricity bills to their retailer.

    The report – “Impediments to Grid Connection of Solar Photovoltaic: the consumer experience” – says that some solar system owners actually face bigger electricity bills from their retailer, due to higher tariffs for the minimal electricity purchased.

    The ATA’s energy policy manager Kane Thornton says that despite the efforts of many solar PV system installers, getting connected is still a fraught process. Thornton found that in an effort to counter such administrative difficulties, many installers worked above and beyond their contracted role to simplify grid connection for the system owner.

    Some of the issues that bar the way are:

    * a lack of information that can assist system owners negotiate and undertake what is often an unnecessarily technically and administratively complex process;

    * ?unnecessarily complex technical regulation which discriminates against system owners;

    * an economic regulatory framework which provides ?little incentive for retail or distribution businesses to actively encourage small renewable embedded generation;

    * minimal protection for system owners, about which Thornton says “this includes allowing retailers to remove standing tariff offers and compulsory reassignment of tariffs to grid connected system owners”;

    * minimal consistency in the treatment of system owners negotiating grid connection;

    * unnecessarily high metering charges.

    However, the ATA says that as with most developing technologies, solar systems are rapidly dropping in price, which means some of the barriers are also dropping.

    To further help this move towards alternative fuel sources, Thornton suggests “the adoption of standard grid connection agreements aimed at developing the simplest, easiest and lowest cost process possible for connection of small embedded generators”.

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