Master Electricians Australia  (MEA) is backing calls for gradual reform of domestic solar power subsidies towards greater sustainability.

MEA’s stand supports the Queensland Competition Authority’s view that individual panels are driving up network costs for other users.

MEA Chief Executive Malcolm Richards criticised the Clean Energy Council over its refusal to acknowledge the true cost of solar panels on all power users. He explains that it is important for both businesses and consumers to work towards a solar energy industry that is viable well into the future in terms of providing high-level energy conservation advice and installing a full range of products.

Mr Richards notes that clarity is required on the quantity of energy needed, when it is needed and how much it truly costs to meet peak demand levels.

He agrees that Master Electricians have benefited from the boom in solar panel installations, while also acknowledging that there has been a cost to all power users, which needs to be addressed honestly to secure the future of the industry.

Mr Richards said governments had a responsibility to provide a network capable of supplying power at peak demand times, often in the lead-up to dinner when solar panels do not work. This cost can only be passed on to consumers through higher tariffs, which will disproportionately affect people without the capacity to generate their own power at home. 

He points out home owners without solar power are carrying a greater share of the cost of providing the network demanded by all users when the sun is not shining.

Mr Richards said Master Electricians Australia was not advocating sudden changes to subsidy arrangements, particularly where people have made individual investment decisions based on existing policies and rules. However, a frank public debate about the costs and subsidies is needed so policy settings could be modified in the long term. It must be acknowledged that the current arrangement is not sustainable over the long term.

MEA will continue to encourage the Queensland Competition Authority and the State Government to freeze tariffs for off-peak power, and pass on all the extra network costs through the peak tariff, ensuring additional costs associated with peak demand are applied to those consumers who use that power.