On 15 February, the Electricity and Other Legislation (Batteries and Premium Feed-in Tariff) Amendment Bill 2018 was introduced to the Queensland Parliament by the Minister for Natural Resources, Mines and Energy. The Bill seeks to make three key changes to the regulation of the sale of electricity in Queensland.
By Alex Silcock, Compliance Quarter.
Removal of the Non-reversion Policy for Small Customers:
Over 10 years ago, in an effort to increase competition, the Queensland Government introduced legislation specific to the government-owned retailer Ergon Retail. The effect of that law was to prevent customers in areas of regional Queensland who had switched retailers, from switching back to Ergon. The proposed amendments to the National Energy Retail Law Queensland Application Act will remove some of these restrictions and allow Ergon to offer to supply energy to all small customers. However, the non-reversion policy as it relates to large customers has been hailed as successful by the current government and will remain in force to encourage retail competition in regional Queensland.
Amendments to the Solar Bonus Scheme (SBS):
The Bill (Electricity and Other Legislation (Batteries and Premium Feed-in Tariff) Amendment Bill 2018) inserts subsection 44A(1A) into the Electricity Act 1994 (Qld). The addition of the subsection is an attempt to curb battery owners from feeding excess power into the grid at night, in order to benefit from the 44c/kWh tariff. The effect of the proposed provision will strip customers of their premium tariff status in the following circumstances:
- When an additional generation or electricity storage device is installed which supplies energy to the premises while the SBS generator is still operating;
- When a generation or storage system is installed that enables the exportation of electricity to the network; and
- When a generator is added that generates power above the approved total rated inverter capacity.
It must be noted that these changes only apply to those customers who installed solar panels before 10 July 2012 and were eligible for the 44c/kWh tariff. However, the changes introduced in the amendment bill will take effect retrospectively from 15 February 2018. The SBS amendments may unfairly detriment customers who upgrade their existing solar systems because of extreme weather damage or replace them under warranty. Such upgrades are often outside of customers’ control, but would appear to nevertheless result in the loss of the premium tariff.
Embedded Network Consistency in Queensland
We have written extensively about the national changes to embedded network regulation that came into effect in December 2017 as part of the power of choice reforms. However, in Queensland, the new rules appear to be in conflict with the current 23(2) of the Electricity Act. Section 23(2) says that:
“[A] receiver [of electricity] is only a customer if the receiver’s premises has an electrical installation that, to the reasonable satisfaction of the distribution entity whose distribution area includes the premises, is capable of receiving supply directly from a distribution entity’s supply network”.
The accepted view is that the effect of this provision prevents residents in embedded networks from fitting the definition of ‘customer’. Therefore, the current law leaves it unclear as to whether embedded network customers in Queensland have the power to change to a retailer of their choice under the National Electricity Law. The amendment bill proposes the removal of s 23(2) from the Act, leaving no room for argument that Queensland embedded network residents are not ‘customers’ for the purposes of the National Law. Provided that the bill is passed, this will remove any doubt about the ability of embedded network customers in Queensland to switch to their desired retailer.
The Bill is currently being considered by the State Development, Natural Resources and Agricultural Industry Development Committee. If you have any questions about The Electricity and Other Legislation (Batteries and Premium Feed-in Tariff) Amendment Bill 2018, the prospective amendments and how they will affect you, please contact the team at Compliance Quarter.