Wednesday, 28 October 2009

Make hay while the sun shines

Courier Mail
Monday 26/10/2009 Page: 7

THE $8000 solar energy rebate may have gone but with solar panel prices nosediving, it is cheaper to buy a 1.5kW system under the new, less-generous solar credit scheme than it was with the rebate. And with such a system sitting on your roof depending on usage patterns and location - you could almost halve your energy bills. Under the Government's new solar credits scheme, people who purchase a solar energy system up to 1.5kW in size receive bonus tradeable renewable energy certificates (RECS) - currently worth between $35 and $40 each.

Solar Shop Australia managing director Adrian Ferraretto says consumers could pay from about $6000 to $8000 for a 1.5kW system, depending on their location and the value of the RECS on the day of purchase. For many Australians, such a system would pay for itself in about eight years and provide you with at least another 17 years of cut-price power. But Ferraretto says the price of solar energy systems probably has even further to fall - perhaps another 10% in the next six months. "By 2014 I could see them being half the price they are today," he says.

The savings that can be made with solar energy depend on a household's usage patterns - how much power they need to draw from the grid when the sun's not shining - and the credit they receive back for the power they generate but do not use themselves. The credit, or feed-in tariff, is calculated differently in each state. Energy Matters marketing manager Max Sylvester says they are pushing for a national feed-in tariff system, with almost 20,000 signatories so far supporting an online petition. "If people know how much they're going to get from it before they put it in, it becomes an economic as well as an environmental move," he says.

Currently, a system large enough to supply the average household's total power needs is so expensive that it provides little or no economic advantage and is only generally done for environmental reasons, he says. Sylvester's tips for avoiding traps and scams include: Beware of fast-talking sales people and video presentations that are 99% hype and 1% information. The offer of a free system should be treated with much suspicion - the catch usually is the supplier will only install the system - not connect it. When offered a package, consumers should ask for the brand name for each component and research the brand history on the internet.