Solar power is great – and that’s not changing

We love that so many people are opting to have their own solar systems at home. More solar entering the energy grid is great news for the planet. And with renewables on the rise, fossil fuels can take a back seat.

Here’s what is changing

The value of the solar energy you generate is changing. That’s because the price of energy is based on balancing supply and demand. And with more rooftop solar being generated, there’s less demand for electricity from the grid, and more unused solar entering the grid. This typically means that while the sun is shining prices decrease, contributing to lower Feed-in Tariffs (FiT).

You might think “Hey, I’ll just feed all my solar into the grid while I’m at work” but your neighbour Jerry and his mum down the street are now doing the same thing. And when everybody’s doin’ it, more solar supply means lower export value.

Solar generation in Australia chart

Fig 1. The proportion of solar in the grid has increased exponentially over the last ten years, and hopefully will continue to grow. Source: AEMO

How you can make hay (and save money) while the sun shines

While your FiT may be slowly reducing, the best way to get maximum value from your solar is to use what you’re generating. The money you save on your bills by actually using the solar is generally going to be greater than what you’d make from your FiT.

Meet Ben and Jane

Let's look at two imaginary energy users with solar installed - Jane and Ben. Both customers have the same FiT, generate the same amount of solar and use the same amount of power over the course of a day.

Not-so solar savvy
Solar savvy

Shifting when you use energy

Ben is an average energy user. He uses a lot during the morning and the evenings but not much during the day. Jane schedules her major appliances to run during the middle of the day. As a result, Jane uses less power in the evening peak.

Fig 2: Shifting more of your usage to daylight hours like Jane doesn’t take a huge effort, but it means you’ll draw less from the grid during peak times (helping to save you money).

Difference in yearly costs

While Ben gets more return for exporting his solar than Jane, he uses more power from the grid in the evening. Over the course of year, Jane’s total electricity costs are going to be less than Ben’s.

Fig 3: Based on this scenario, the difference in yearly cost when Jane is maximising her solar usage during the day.

How we ran the numbers openclose

In this example, Ben and Jane both live in the Powercor distribution area and use 10MW of energy per year. They both have a 6KW solar system that generates an average of 3.6 KWh/KW a day (7.9 MWh per year). They pay 0.3291992c Flat Tariff Usage Rate for their electricity, and a daily supply charge of $1.3002. Their solar FiT is 3.3c KWh.

Using these figures with the usage pattern shown above, Ben would pay $2,362 a year for his energy, and Jane would pay $2,066, meaning Jane saves $296 (13%) a year in electricity costs.


Maximise your solar savings

Give your appliances a day job

Appliances account for a decent percentage of your energy usage. And if you’re only running them at night, you’re likely paying for power from the grid rather than using your solar for free - missing out on a great chunk of savings. Most appliances have a delay setting so you can set them up to run during peak solar-generating times (instead of the evening peak energy-consuming hours).

  • Your feed-in tariffHot water - Water heating can account for up to a third of your energy use. If you have electric hot water, make sure the timer is set to heat during the day.
  • The size of your solar systemCleaning - Set your dishwasher, washing machine or dryer to run a cycle in the middle of the day.
  • Where you live.Heating / cooling - Using a timer or remote app set your split system to heat or cool while the sun is shining. Don’t forget to insulate well to maintain the temperature.
  • How you use your power.Cooking - Try to cook energy-intensive meals during the day. Get the slow-cooker out, or batch cook in the oven on the weekend and freeze.

More on solar energy