The End of the Solar Bonus Scheme
At the end of this year the Solar Bonus Scheme (SBS) will come to an end, which means the regulated feed-in tariff (FiT) of 60 cents per kWh will be replaced by voluntary tariffs that may or may not be offered to you by your energy retailer.
Currently, there is no regulated FiT in NSW; remuneration is 'market regulated' and typically ranges between 0 and 6 cents per exported kWh. This is, of course, a sharp drop from the previous reward system but there are things you can do, even now, to improve your solar yields:
While you have no influence over any offered FiT you can vote with your feet, even while you are still receiving the 60 cents. Rainbow Power Company recommends Enova Energy, Australia's first community owned energy retailer. [Edit 2022: Sadly, turbulences on the Australian energy market forced Enova into "voluntary" administration.]
Shift your energy consumption towards the middle of the day. Some appliances can run at any time during the day, e.g. washing machines, dish washers, pool pumps, etc. (some even have inbuilt timers) so you may as well run them during sunshine hours. You could also use slow cookers to prepare your evening meal. However, changing one's habits is easier said than done, so it's probably best to start now.
Decide what kind of electricity meter you want to have. Most SBS customers will have a gross meter installed, meaning all of your solar electricity is exported. You do not have to change your meter but in most scenarios it makes sense to switch over to net-metering, which will allow you to consume your own solar power first instead of buying it for ~28 cents from your retailer. This will reduce your exports but will still increase your savings. You need to book an appointment with an ASP Level 2 electrician or with your current energy retailer for the meter switch. The downside: electricity meters are no longer provided free of charge.
[Edit: 2018] If you are changing your electricity meter, your new meter will be a Smart Meter - see Power of Choice.
Rainbow Power Company are receiving a lot of enquires about 'battery upgrades' thanks to Tesla's successful marketing campaign. Our advice without going into detail: hold your horses for a bit longer. Optimise your solar system now (add more panels, maybe even east and/or west facing ones) and be ready when batteries become cost effective. Unless your consumption is minuscule we suggest a minimum size of 2.5kW of solar to make the most out of any future battery. PV systems have never been cheaper and are unlikely to drop any further (but batteries are).
Alternatively, and possibly the best investment you can make at this point, is an evacuated tube hot water system. These systems are very efficient in hot and cold climates, and the savings over the lifespan of the system are much greater than the running cost of an electric or gas powered hot water systems.
If you are lucky enough to own a swimming pool you can also save lots by installing an off-grid pool pump. Talk to us to discuss options.
[Edit: 2019] You can let go of your horses now!