REBELLION: Rick Tramacchi says rising power prices would be a significant concern, if he did not generate his own solar electricity.
REBELLION: Rick Tramacchi says rising power prices would be a significant concern, if he did not generate his own solar electricity. Renee Albrecht

Solar lightens load as power prices spark rebellion

RETICULATED electricity mostly comes from coal mines and furnaces where the sun never shines.

And as soaring retail prices spark a consumer rebellion, monopoly power marketing authorities are increasingly being told they can take their overpriced product and put it back where it came from.

Power prices across Queensland are now expected to rise 7.1% for households and 8.2% for businesses, well in excess of inflation or wage and pension growth,

The Queensland Competition Authority has decided what the consumer will pay and its chair, Prof Roy Green, says affordability is of only limited importance in its deliberations.

Regulated national electricity costs from another monopoly, the Australian Energy Regulator, are part of the background to retail power price decisions, he says, along with "the latest information from competitive wholesale and retail electricity markets."

But it seems only the consumers are competing.

The suppliers are closely regulated monopolies, Prof Green makes clear in his price announcement.

The higher prices result from competition from other consumers, resulting in "substantial increases in wholesale energy costs."

These increases have been "driven by a projected tightening in the demand-supply balance within the National Electricity Market," he said.

But Gympie manufacturer David Agnew and Pie Creek farmer Rick Tramacchi are leading the way in a quiet consumer revolution that is rapidly leaving the big monopolies behind.

And so are a lot of households, where rooftop solar panels help them sell back electricity to the grid.

Mr Agnew said changing rules and complex paperwork had caused problems for the economics of his solar panel array, on the roof of the Drummond and Kindred clothing factory in Derilin Dve. But he says it is still saving the company money.

Mr Tramacchi says he solar panel arrays, on the roof of his house and next to his strawberry patch, make him money, easily covering the cost of the power he uses to pump irrigation water to his crops from Eel Creek.

"I'm not a big consumer of electricity, but the prices would worry me if I didn't generate my own," he said.


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