Thursday, August 30, 2012

Strong on Solar: Australia Eyes CSP Leadership

Solar Dawn, as its name suggests, is a CSP project with aspirations as a catalyst. Based near Chinchilla — "Australia's melon capital" — in rural Queensland, at 250 MW, if completed its impact would be felt worldwide.

"Hugely significant for the industry" is how Dr. Keith Lovegrove of IT Power Australia describes the A$1.2 billion (US$1.2 billion) initiative. The scheme is backed by Australia's federal Solar Flagships Programme and the consortium behind Solar Dawn has dubbed it "the largest solar project in the Southern Hemisphere".

But, while Solar Dawn could bring up the sun for Australian CSP with a jolt, its chances of seeing daylight are fading. On 1 July 2012, the scheme missed an extended deadline for funding. The state of Queensland promptly withdrew its support, leaving a A$75 million (US$79 million) hole. "None of us knows what's happening," says Lovegrove.

But he would deny that Australian CSP's prospects are also dimming. Spectacular daybreak may look off the cards, but several glimmers of light are showing.

For a start, less ambitious CSP projects remain on track. Just down the road from the proposed site for Solar Dawn, the 44 MW Kogan Creek Solar Boost is now under construction. On completion, the hybrid plant will feed additional solar generated steam to the existing 750 MW coal-fired Kogan Creek Power Station.

In strategic terms, CSP's fit for Australia's meteorology, economy and climate objectives is also arguably as snug as a lifeguard's Speedos. In the recent report Realising the Potential of Solar Power in Australia, a team led by Lovegrove floats the idea of CSP providing up to 15 GW in "the near-to-mid-term".

Without a radical overhaul of its grid, Australia could have 2 GW in CSP by 2020 and 10 GW by 2030, according to the report's roadmap. In the longer term, the technology could meet half of the country's energy needs by 2050.

Letting the sunshine in

Blistering sunshine obviously figures in Australia's appeal for CSP. As a technology, concentrating solar thermal requires "excellent direct normal insolation from the sun, mostly met in the 15° to 35° latitude bands," in the words of the International Energy Agency.

But top solar locations are, almost by definition, a poor match with existing distribution and transmission infrastructure. Australian networks have developed to transmit electricity from large central generators near coal, gas or hydro resources. Electricity from CSP would need to flow over long distances in different directions.

To see precisely how well CSP could map onto solar resources and existing systems, Lovegrove's team examined the potential of various types of CSP, both off-grid and grid connected. The study concluded that 15 GW of CSP capacity could be achieved with "only modest grid extensions". Initial installations could cover hybrid systems at existing fossil-fuel plants and smaller off-grid plants for mines and towns. Further down the line, "nation-building" grid extensions could unlock more substantial solar resources.

Of this 15 GW potential, 8 GW would be high-capacity standalone plants with enough thermal storage to justify fairly modest grid extensions. Another 2 GW would be hybrid plants delivering steam to established coal-fired plants, while 3-4 GW would be standalone plants with capacities of 50-150 MW linked to existing grids. Medium-scale grid-connected and off-grid plants are also seen as likely to take off, although totalling less 1 GW of capacity.

Cleaning the energy mix

In any case, the hurdles to adding CSP capacity to Australia's grids could be overshadowed by the risks of sticking with fossil fuel. By coincidence, Solar Dawn's recent thunderclap broke amid a political storm over an attempted overhaul of the energy mix.

Also on 1 July, 2012, Prime Minister Julia Gillard's flagship Carbon Price came into force. From now on, the country's 294 top polluters must pay A$23 (US$24) for each tonne of carbon emitted, although the price is expected to ease from 2015. A glance at Australia's current energy mix reveals why the law's proposers were willing to brave fierce public opposition. Australia's 50 GW of installed capacity is among the world's dirtiest, with coal providing three quarters of electricity. In per-capita carbon emissions, Australia is the developed world's number one.

The new law - labelled the Carbon Tax by its many opponents - is aimed at cutting carbon emissions from 2000 levels by 5 per cent by 2020 and by 80 per cent by 2050. While renewables take on a larger slice of energy mix, a closure program for heavily polluting coal fired plants should help speed Australia down the league of top polluters.

In any cleaner generation future, solar power offers two advantages over other renewables. An analysis of electricity prices within a recent report for ASI by ROAM Consulting, Solar Generation Australian Market Monitoring, found that solar should prosper because its hours of peak generation coincide with peak demand. But CSP holds another ace in its ability to meet peak and baseload demand through storage.

Storing up baseload capacity

For now, in fact, concentrating photovoltaic (CPV) technology is making similar headway to CSP in Australia. Construction is underway on Solar Systems' 2 MW Mildura Solar pilot plant, where a 100 MW facility will be built if the demonstration project prospers. Yet basic economics could still favour solar thermal technology. "CSP without storage is twice as expensive as large-scale PV," says Lovegrove. "Why bother? The real reason is storage."

CSP technologies can feature thermal storage units. As heat can be stored far more efficiently than electricity, these plants open up a rare opportunity for renewables to provide baseload and peaking power. The value of CSP's capacity to meet demand could also rise over time. A future energy mix with more intermittent renewables such as wind would put a high premium on energy storage.

What's more, the ability to effectively time shift solar generation would also protect CSP revenues once more solar power comes on line, with additional PV capacity creating a bulge in daytime generation that would be expected to curb prices, cutting its premium. "Anything fixed in time of dispatch can cause a fall in pricing," says Lovegrove. "Storage means you can adapt to the new peak."

The "strategic" case for CSP

In addition, the ASI sees a strategic case for investing in CSP. "It suits Australia because we're sunny and have experience in power stations," says Lovegrove.

Solar Dawn would provide a showcase for home-grown compact linear Fresnel collector (CLFC) technology already in place at the coal-fired Liddell Power station and being installed at the Kogan Solar Boost. Areva Solar, which is driving both the Solar Dawn and Solar Boost projects, was formed by the purchase of Ausra Solar, a firm that originated in Sydney in 2002.

A lull in global CSP activity could also let Australia make its mark. "Nothing that Australia can do will affect the photovoltaic industry - which is now taken up by China - but one of our conclusions is that CSP offers an opportunity in a technology area that suits Australia," says Lovegrove.

In fact, rather than a crowded field, Australian CSP could emerge into a void. After driving the industry for many years, Spain's commitment to CSP could waver amid its on-going financial crisis. In the US, federal backing for CSP now looks uncertain. Increasingly, the industry is looking to India, where the Jawaharlal Nehru National Solar Mission aims for 20 GW of CSP and PV by 2022, as well as Middle East and North African states.

The prospects for Australian CSP technology in new markets such as India are buoyed by Areva's recent contract to set up two 125 MW CSP plants in Rajasthan. Areva will provide construction management services for the project, scheduled for commercial operation by May 2013.

CSP still too pricey

But one drawback outweighs the host of benefits that CSP could bring. ASI's report pegs the levelised cost of energy (LCOE) for utility-scale solar thermal at about A$250 (US$261)/MWh. Meanwhile, the maximum revenue in main grid-connected markets currently totals about A$120 (US$125)/MWh, including renewable certificates.

In fairness, the gap between CSP and fossil fuel is not as unbridgeable as these figures suggest. A complex study of potential revenue suggests CSP's ability to meet baseload and peak demand through being dispatchable doubles the value of its production. This "time value" means CST would have earned A$87 (US$91)/MWh over 2005-2010 while wholesale prices averaged only A$42 (US$44)/MWh.
But ASI Executive Director Mark Twidell identifies the gap between revenues on the market and the cost of technology as it moves from demonstration to commercialisation as "the critical issue facing CSP technologies".

"There is a range of market and policy drivers that will impact on the widespread, large-scale deployment of CSP but ultimately it is about bringing down cost and closing the cost-revenue gap, which is the responsibility of industry, government and the research sector," he says. An added challenge for CSP is the impact of Australia's commodity boom, which has pushed up the price of construction in the areas where new plants would go up.

Getting to the right price

The study projects that CSP will be competitive with Australia's grid at some point between 2018 and 2030. "There is a 90 per cent probability it will fall within that range," says Lovegrove. Rising demand and falling CSP capital costs would both drive this transformation. While real energy values are forecast to rise by between 1 per cent and 3 per cent per year, capital costs are predicted to drop by between 20 per cent and 50 per cent by 2020.

"CSP is right at the top of the cost curve," says Lovegrove. His optimism rests on the likely trajectory of global deployment as well as a SunShot Vision Study in the U.S., which found "heaps of opportunity to reduce the costs of various elements". In his view, the industry can reasonably expect costs to fall in line with those in the wind industry, giving a progress ratio (PR) of 0.8 or 0.9 with each doubling of installed capacity.

That said, the ASI hardly expects CSP to take off in Australia entirely on its own merits. The purpose of Realising the Potential of Solar Power in Australia is rather to alert authorities to the wider benefits of CSP so these can be rewarded.

A call for new policies

For now, wholesale electricity markets largely determine CSP plants' revenues, with renewable energy certificates adding about A$30-40 (US$31-41)/MWh. But Lovegrove argues plants' income should also reflect their specific advantages for networks.

As CSP plants are likely to be in rural or relatively remote locations, they could reduce high line losses. Installations could also earn additional revenues through reducing network costs by providing reliable generation at the end of near-capacity lines. Capacity value - the extent to which CSP can cut investment in other dispatchable systems - provides a further case for enhanced revenues. In addition, rising capacity of fluctuating renewables such as wind and solar PV could raise the value of ancillary services for balancing the grid, which CSP with storage is equipped to provide.
The ASI report advocates such technology-neutral incentives as one element in a four-pronged approach. Second, Lovegrove and his team suggest the sector aim to better communicate its value proposition to key organizations, retailers and financiers. They also call for "CSP-solar precincts" in areas of high solar resource, where connections for CSP would be provided to cut development costs. Finally, the report recommends a push in R&D to reduce costs and build confidence. Key areas where Australia could focus include deployments of less than 50 MW, fossil-fuelled hybridisation and advanced cooling technologies suited to water supply constraints.

Getting the message across

But will Australia's authorities heed the ASI's call? That may hinge on the next federal election, due by the end of 2013. The opposition led by the Liberal Party's Tony Abbott looks set to romp home. Which could be ominous for all renewables. Abbott has made a "pledge in blood" to repeal the Carbon Price. But Mark Twidell prefers to stress elements of consensus. "The independent Australian Renewable Energy Agency (ARENA), which has bipartisan support and funding legislated through to 2020, will make investments to develop renewable energy technologies and to help lower their costs, including meritorious CSP projects."

In his view, there is even hope for Solar Dawn. "The Australian government remains committed to the deployment of large-scale solar," he says.

Lovegrove seems more willing to acknowledges headwinds. "It's such an uncertain environment. If you ask most the key stakeholders, what they'd really like is some certainty, so that they can start planning. It's incredibly tricky to see what will happen." While "very, very optimistic" about the sector's global outlook, he is less sanguine about its future in his homeland.

"Whether Australia manages to shoot itself in the foot or not remains to be seen,' he says. On the upside, he sees potential for Australia to 'relatively easily" take a leadership role to become "a major, major player". But he admits that CSP's advocates have a complex message to get across."Everybody loves renewables in a motherhood sort of way, but very few people have cottoned onto the importance of matching demand throughout the day," he says.

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Carbon Shift to Ease Scrapping of Tax: Coalition

THE Coalition says the linking of Australia's carbon price to Europe's will make it easier for Tony Abbott to axe the scheme, by giving firms a market to resell unnecessary forward-dated permits. 
The opposition's acting climate change spokesman Simon Birmingham said Australian firms buying emissions permits in the European carbon market would not be left holding worthless paper when the Coalition abolished the Australian scheme.

“They will have a safe and clear way to offload those permits back into the European scheme,” Mr Birmingham said.

“We've always made it clear that it was possible to abolish the carbon tax and this further demonstrates there is absolutely no impediment to doing so.”

Labor yesterday moved assuage business fears about the impact of the carbon tax by dumping the scheme's controversial $15 a tonne floor price, a change that could slash hundreds of millions of dollars from annual company costs.

The scheme will be linked to the European carbon price from July 1, 2015, allowing Australian firms to buy and sell permits on the world's biggest carbon market.

But the move exposes the government to a potential multi-billion dollar budget hit, with emissions permits in Europe currently trading at about $8 a tonne - far below the $29 a tonne figure the government is relying on to reap a forecast $9.2 billion in revenue in 2015-16.

Australian Industry Group chief executive Innes Willox said linking the scheme to Europe was a good move.

But he said it was difficult to see the European carbon price getting up to $29.

“It's fanciful,” Mr Willox told Sky News, although he added: “This is a positive move in the long term.”

Mr Willox said there were a “whole lot of balls in the air” with the Coalition's policy.
“Business needs long term certainty ... the certainty of a regulatory framework,” he said.

Climate Change Minister Greg Combet said the EU carbon price had been hit hard by the eurozone financial crisis, but it would recover.

“It is three years away,” Mr Combet said. “The treasury modelling is something we stand by.”

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Credits Trader: Australia, EU ETS to Link in 2015

The Australian government today confirmed it will not enforce its carbon floor price when its emissions trading programme commences in 2015 as it moves to link with the EU Emissions Trading System (ETS).

Emitters in Australia are required to pay for every tonne of carbon dioxide they emit, currently at a fixed price of A$23 (US$23.87). It was originally proposed that from 1 July 2015, that price will be allowed to float within a band.

However, the Australian government and European Commission today announced that, from that date, Australian firms can use EU allowances (EUAs) for compliance and, by 1 July 2018, EU ETS participants will be permitted to use Australian allowances for compliance. To enable this linkage, the planned A$15 floor price will be scrapped.

And while Australian emitters can use international credits, such as EUAs, for 50% of their compliance from 2015, the cap on Kyoto credits – such as certified emission reductions (CERs) from Clean Development Mechanism projects – will be restricted to 12.5% of an emitter’s liability, said the government, from the previous 50%. “Linking the Australian and European Union systems reaffirms that carbon markets are the prime vehicle for tackling climate change and the most efficient means of achieving emissions reductions,” said Australia’s climate minister Greg Combet.

“Starting today, Australian liable entities can purchase [EUAs] for future compliance in Australia,” he added. “These arrangements provide Australian businesses with access to a larger market for cost-effective emission reductions and provide European market participants with enhanced business opportunities.”

“This would be a significant achievement for both Europe and Australia,” said the EU’s climate commissioner, Connie Hedegaard. “It is further evidence of strong international cooperation on climate change and will build further momentum towards establishing a robust international carbon market.”

“This is an impressive development – a first of its kind in having two major economies link their carbon pricing programmes,” said Dirk Forrister, Geneva-based president of lobby group the International Emissions Trading Association (IETA). “IETA members – and economists worldwide – have advocated the potential cost-savings benefits of linking for over a decade, so we are extremely pleased with this news, even as we continue studying the details.”

EUA prices were firmer this morning, up 2% at 8.30 GMT to €8.30 (US$10.42) for the benchmark December 2012 futures contract.

“It is a bit of much-needed positive news,” said one London-based trader.

“There might have been some knee-jerk buying this morning, but it’s too early in the day for the EU-Australia linkage to have a significant price impact,” countered Geoff Sinclair, head of carbon sales and trading at Standard Bank in London.

“If it remains in legislation, this might add around 100 million tonnes of demand to the EU scheme, although the extent to which it does will rely heavily on relative prices and exchange rates, so this doesn’t get the EU off the hook when it comes to the need for a set-aside [of EUAs to address massive oversupply in the EU ETS].

“At the same time, the linkage is likely to make the Australian scheme more palatable in terms of domestic politics, which is likely to boost investor confidence about its longevity,” he added.

“The removal of the floor price, the linking with the EU and the limit on the use of Kyoto units all impact the shape for the forward price curve from 2015 onwards,” said analysts at Westpac in Sydney. “Subject to the release of the actual legislation, the aggregate impact of these changes is that the EUA price will now become the primary influence on the [Australian carbon] price rather than the CER price.

“Further, the removal of the administrative complexity of hedging the price floor’s ‘top-up fee’ will presumably free up Australian liable entities to access cheap, cost-effective options in international markets sooner rather than later.”

The Australian government foresaw some kind of measure to require Australian emitters buying CERs below the floor price to pay a top-up fee – an administratively complex exercise, that is now unnecessary.

The Australian and EU authorities hope to agree on how to link their respective emissions registries, which track trades of allowances, by the middle of next year. However, the European Commission still needs to receive a mandate from member states to enter into negotiations for the two-way link.

Government to Scrap Carbon Floor Price

After weeks of secretive talks between the Gillard government and the Greens, Climate Change Minister Greg Combet has announced Labor will scrap the planned $15 floor price on carbon permits in a major overhaul of the carbon pricing scheme.

Following intense lobbying from business and threats by the independent MP Rob Oakeshott to block the floor price, the government will ditch the mechanism and instead restrict the purchase of cheap overseas permits from developing countries.

A limit on the amount of United Nations-backed permits that Australian companies can buy will effectively prop up the price at home.

Climate Change Minister Greg Combet will announce a change in the carbon floor price.Climate Change Minister Greg Combet plans to scrap the $15 carbon floor price. Photo: Alex Ellinghausen

Mr Combet also announced plans to link Australia's scheme to Europe's emissions trading scheme from 2015, which is likely to have the effect of matching the two prices.
The link with Europe means that Australian companies can start buying European permits - which are now trading at $9.80 - right away to meet their future liabilities.

This could make the carbon price cheaper overall for Australian businesses, though the European price is likely to rise by the end of the decade as the European Union moves to make restrictions of its own.

Australian companies will only be able to meet 12.5 per cent of their liability under the Australian carbon scheme with the UN-backed permits.

And from 2018 - or possibly sooner - Australian companies will be able to sell credits in Europe. This could be a boon for farmers, who can generate credits through changes to their land practices, such as tree planting, though Mr Combet said that aspect was still to be negotiated.

The carbon price, which came in on July 1, will initially be fixed at $23 and will rise slightly over the next two years, when it becomes a floating-price emissions trading scheme.

Europe has the largest emissions trading scheme in the world. A linkage means that carbon permits can be traded back and forth between Australia and Europe. The idea is that the free market then finds the cheapest possible way to reduce carbon. From an environmental viewpoint, it does not matter where the carbon cuts are made.

The floor price was intended to create certainty for potential investors in clean energy. But businesses complained it would be an administrative headache.

Without a restriction of the UN-backed international permits, the Australian price could crash to as low as $3 or $4. The Greens have been concerned that a very low carbon price would not be enough to drive investment in cleaner energy such as wind, solar and wave power.

Today's announcement is also likely to have an effect on negotiations between Energy Minister Martin Ferguson and electricity generators who could be paid billions of dollars to phase out their dirtiest power plants.

The likely price of carbon over the next decade is one factor in deciding the value of these power plants. They may argue that scrapping the floor price raises the value of their assets.
The Greens have already backed the changes.

Independent MP Rob Oakeshott said this afternoon he would also support the legislation.
He said the announcement would protect Australia's emissions trading scheme from some ''very difficult decisions into the future''.

Opposition Leader Tony Abbott said the changes showed the government was all at sea on the carbon tax.

''You can't fix it. You've just got to scrap it,'' Mr Abbott told reporters in Rockhampton.

''We haven't had the carbon tax for two months yet and they've admitted there is a fundamental flaw at the heart of the carbon tax.''

Mr Abbott said there would be a ''huge hole'' in the budget as a result of the decision.

''If you can't take the price for granted, you can't take the revenue for granted, and if you can't take the revenue for granted, you can't rely on the compensation,'' he said.

However Mr Combet said the government would not reduce household assistance payments and tax cuts set up to compensate for the price impacts of the carbon tax.

Asked if he was contemplating any further changes Mr Combet said: ‘‘no’’.

''We will not be cutting any household assistance,'' he said.

''We committed to it and you might recall that there are further tax cuts that have been legislated from 2015 as well.''

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Sunday, August 26, 2012

Carbon Tax Not Yet ‘Catastrophic’: Abbott

Opposition Leader Tony Abbott has conceded the introduction of the carbon tax has not immediately been “catastrophic”.

But he is adamant its long-term effects will eventually spell disaster for Australia’s economy.
Speaking at the Tasmanian state council of the Liberal Party, Mr Abbott restated his promise to abolish the controversial tax if he is elected prime minister at the election due next year.

“Yes, the initial impact of the carbon tax may not be absolutely catastrophic,” he told the council conference.

“But I ask you Tasmanians to understand the logic - if there is any - in a five-and-a-half per cent increase in your power prices because of the carbon tax, even though some 85 per cent of your electricity is hydro-generated.”

Mr Abbott said government modelling of the tax’s impact painted a dire picture for Australia’s future.

“I’m often accused of running a scare campaign about the carbon tax,” he said.
“I invite people who think I could be exaggerating the impact of the carbon tax to look at the government’s own modelling.”

He said it showed Australians would on average be $5000 worse off by 2050 and the country would miss out on $1 trillion.

“It’s as if our country were to shut down for a whole year because of the carbon tax,” he said.
“This is an unmitigated economic disaster for our country.”

Mr Abbott announced he had formed a working group of Liberal senators to examine how the struggling Tasmanian economy can be grown.

Monday, August 20, 2012

Australians Led The World in Home Solar Installs in 2011

Australian households installed more residential rooftop solar power systems last year than any other nation.

Approximately 392,500 new home solar systems were activated in 2011 according to data from the Clean Energy Regulator and the International Energy Agency.

A fact sheet released by REC Agents Association (RAA) based on data from the Clean Energy Regulator states Australians had installed nearly 1.5 million solar hot water and solar panel systems to the end of June.

As at 30 June, 2012, renewable energy certificates had been created for 753,844 solar panel systems; representing 1,671,489 kW capacity. A further 743,842 heat pump and solar hot water systems had been installed.

Close to 18 per cent of all Australian families now has one or the other or both installed – 9 per cent of households have solar electricity generation systems.

“Recognition must go to the Howard Government for having the vision to establish a world leading Renewable Energy Target, to the Rudd Government for increasing that target four-fold and to the Gillard Government for delivering on the promise of the Renewable Energy Target,” says Ric Brazzale, President of RAA.

“Whilst four million Australians now have solar on their roofs, many more Australians are keen to get on board. The Renewable Energy Target must be maintained, expanded and extended over time to help deliver solar to all Australians.”

Some corners of industry have called for the scrapping of the Renewable Energy Target due to the introduction of a carbon price. However, last month, Australia’s Minister for Climate Change and Energy Efficiency Greg Combet stated this would “fail to deliver the transformation needed in our energy sector and only increase the cost of that transformation in later years.”

REC Agents Association represents businesses creating and trading inRenewable Energy Certificates (RECs); the mechanism behind Australia’s Renewable Energy Target and the basis of the Solar Credits Scheme. Often referred to as a solar rebate, Solar Credits is an initiative that subsidises solar panel systems.

Monday, August 6, 2012

Low Income Earners Burnt As Cost Of Solar Subsidy Spirals

RENTERS, pensioners and other low-income earners are paying for their wealthier neighbours to enjoy cheaper power under the state's skyrocketing solar subsidy system. 
The Queensland Consumers Association says costs to subsidise solar are forecast to triple, as the state's bill to fund the scheme continues to grow.

More than 100,000 applications were received last month from homeowners wanting to profit from the state's generous 44c per kilowatt hour tariff - twice the retail power rate - which will continue for 16 years.

By installing solar systems up to 5kW, the mostly well-heeled applicants stand to earn $200-$300 a quarter from a subsidy that is costing their non-solar neighbours more each year.

One of those who applied was Algester resident Ron Ruys, who feels badly for his neighbours who are indirectly helping to pay for a $10,000 5kW system that will earn him extra income.

"I'm going to do it and I'm going to make money out of it," he said. "But it is unfair to other people because of the subsidy. I don't think people know what the 44c means to their bill."

Energy Minister Mark McArdle has estimated the tariff would cost $1.8 billion by 2028 if the scheme remained unchanged. The July 9 deadline limiting future payments at an 8c cent rate.

The Government projects that the annual cost of the subsidy will rise from $50 to $100 for each household from the surge in applications, and another $50 for upgrades to the power grid.

Whether the increases will become a reality depends on whether the Government is successful in cutting expenses elsewhere in the budgets of power suppliers, including "community services".

Queensland Consumers Association vice-president Ian Jarratt said the threat of a $100 annual hike should be a concern for many people trying to stretch their income.

"A dollar is always more for a pensioner," he said.

The association said it voiced concerns about the scheme's cost several years ago to state officials. "Things had been done far too quickly and not thought through enough, especially about the cost to consumers who could not afford to install solar systems," Mr Jarratt said.

The solar scheme has had some benefits: creating employment for thousands of installers, reducing the state's dependence on coal and lowering carbon emissions.

Prices of home solar systems have dropped 50 per cent.

Installer numbers have increased from 78 in 2008 to more than 1100 today. The number of customers has increased from 1200 to around 180,000.

On the downside, "all Queensland households and small businesses indirectly foot the bill", Mr McArdle said.

The Government said it was obliged by legislation to continue the 44c tariff for the next 16 years, and risked lawsuits if it reneged.

PM Julia Gillard Blames Electricity Bill Shock on The States

PRIME Minister Julia Gillard will launch an attack on the states today over soaring power prices, barely a month after her own price-inflating carbon tax began. 
And she will use the latest figures to back up her argument - which show household power bills have increased by a staggering 62.4 per cent in South Australia over the past four years, adding $1086 in expenses to the average bill before the carbon price even kicked in.

That equals the second highest jump along with Western Australia, but is less than the 69.2 per cent hike in New South Wales since 2008-09.

Ms Gillard will say the burden on households from her carbon price will add a comparatively small $115 to that pain this financial year.

In a bold square-up to state governments who she says have too often benefited from revenue increases from electricity prices, she will claim the states are doing very well out of the misery of households and declare it simply cannot continue.

"Power bills have become the new petrol prices: not just an essential of life that always seems to be going up, but a vital commodity, where what we consume each day, or pay every quarter, seems far beyond our control," she will say in the address to the Energy Policy Institute of Australia.

"Prices have gone up - have gone up far and fast."
Government figures show the conservative-run states of NSW, Queensland and WA, where network services remain state-owned, have experienced windfall gains in revenue including 60 per cent growth for NSW, 16 per cent for Queensland, and almost 200 per cent growth for WA since 2009-10.

"Following the recent round of price increases, revenue for enterprises wholly owned by State Governments is up 50 per cent over the previous five-year period," she will say.

"This was in a period when revenue for the rest of the market players grew less than 30 per cent  ... for too long, some state governments have been increasing their revenue at the expense of the family electricity bill - that has to stop.

Power socket
Plugging in will cost up to 70 per cent more in NSW this winter. In Victoria it will cost just 10 per cent extra. Picture: Herald Sun

"Australia did not need nearly 50 per cent price increases for households over the last four years and Australians can't afford the same kinds of increases over the next four years.
"It's a huge cost to our economy and it's a threat to fairness in our society."

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