House and Garden

3 July 2012
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Gas, Electricity and Solar Power

Practically all homes in Australia are connected to mains electricity, whereas only about half are on mains gas (liquefied natural gas or LNG)1. About 10% of homes have installed solar PV panels2, generating their own electricity from the sun.

Much of Australia operates a deregulated gas and electricity market, with many licenced energy retailers, all overseen by the Australian Energy Regulator.

For a list of energy retailers in NSW, VIC, QLD, SA and ACT, go to www.switchwise.com.au

The remaining states are not yet fully deregulated, so only have one or two retailers;

The Cost of Electricity

There are many suppliers and various pricing plans, but here we give you an indication of electricity prices.

At present in Perth, the standard supply charge of electricity to residential customers is 41.5¢ per day and the usage cost is 24.8¢ per unit (kilowatt-hour or kWh).

According to www.energymadeeasy.gov.au, the average energy consumption for a family of 4 in Perth is 20kWh per day, or 7289kWh per year. That would cost a total of $1960 per year, or $5.37 per day.

If you get a SmartPower meter installed, you can get off-peak electricity for as little as 14¢ per unit, although peak electricity is more expensive, so it's not for everyone.

Clean Energy Charge

The Australian government has recently introduced a 'Clean Energy Charge' also commonly called a 'carbon tax', which is a charge applied to businesses that create greenhouse gases.

The majority of Australia's electricity is produced from burning coal and therefore, the electricity industry will incur significant clean energy charges, resulting in electricity price increases. The government estimates that the carbon price increase on electricity will be $3.30 per week on average. (www.cleanenergyfuture.gov.au)

The Cost of Gas

At present in Perth, the standard supply charge for gas to residential customers is 18.5¢ per day and the usage cost is about 12¢ per unit (1 unit = 1 kWh = 3.6 MJ).

Our family of four spends about $750 per year, or $2.05 per day on gas, that's for cooking and hot water.

Solar Power

Australia is one of the sunniest places on earth, so using this energy makes good sense. At present only about 10% of homes have installed solar PV (photo-voltaic) panels2, but the government has made a commitment that 20% of electricity production will come from renewable sources by 20203 and residential solar power is part of that plan.

Both the federal and state governments have introduced a number of incentives to encourage the installation of solar panels in homes. It's quite a complicated arrangement, summarised as follows:

  • Small-scale Technology Certificates (STCs) are federal government-endorsed credits which are issued when you install a new solar PV system. These are valuable to businesses that create pollution and need to 'green up' in order to comply with the government's emmissions target. In practice, most people sell these credits to the company that is supplying their solar, in order to get a discount.
  • Feed-In Tariffs are set by each state government, so all slightly different. They set a price at which solar PV owners can sell any excess electricity back to the grid. In some cases, owners are able to make money by generating electricity.
  • Renewable Energy Buyback Scheme (REBS). In Western Australia, feed-in tariffs have been suspended. In it's place, the REBS system provides the framework for the electricity retailer (Synergy) to buy excess power that home owners generate. It is nowhere near as generous as the feed-in tariff system, so does not provide as much incentive for people to take up solar PV.

Data Sources

1ABS: 4602.0.55.001 - Environmental Issues: Water use and Conservation, Mar 2011
2Sustainable Energy Association of Australia
3Dept of Climate Change & Energy Efficiency
4www.cleanenergyfuture.gov.au
5Clean Energy Regulator - Renewable Energy Target
6Green Power - Accredited Renewable Energy