The ATA worked with an external energy market consultant to research and analyse the retail electricity offers for solar customers in the National Electricity Market. The project, and the subsequent report, is entitled ‘Retail Offers & Market Transparency for New Solar Customers’.
The purpose of the project was to analyse all aspects of the various retail offers available to new solar customers, both for feed-in and for electricity consumption, in order to assess the impact that various aspects of the retail offers have on annual bills. The analysis covers the jurisdictions of South Australia, New South Wales, Victoria and Queensland.
The project also assessed the adequacy of consumer information available to households searching for solar offers and the transparency around those aspects of the solar retail offers that can have material impact on households’ electricity bills.
The data draws on a comprehensive data management tool developed by St Vincent de Paul that tracks all available tariffs in the National Energy Market, and which is updated bi-annually.
Key findings of the research include:
- There are significant differences (in $ terms) between the best and the worst solar offers in the market on an annualised basis.
- Only a small financial difference exists between the annual bills of the best retail market offer for non-solar customers, and the worst retail market offer for solar customers. This suggests that new solar customers must take seriously the issue of finding the best retail deal possible in order to be better off financially from their investment in solar.
- To date the solar market has been treated as an ‘add-on’ to the broader residential electricity retail market – with comparisons and information sources being the same as that for the non-solar market with minor information added about feed-in tariffs (FITs).
- The focus on FIT rates, when retailers can determine all other aspects of a retail offer, maybe counterproductive both for the solar customer and for market development.
- New, and potential, solar customers need access to more transparent information regarding retail offers for solar customers beyond simply the FIT rate.
- A growing and deregulated solar market will require more specific tools and information sources for customers than currently provided – the risk being that deregulation continues without appropriate levels of transparency and information, which may result in less competition and sub-optimal outcomes for the growing number of solar customers.