Solar surcharge stays

Hawke’s Bay lines company Unison has won a legal battle to protect extra fees it imposed on electricity customers with solar panels in their homes.

It argued the use of solar panels lowered normal electricity consumption, and so lowered the money payable to lines companies.

But lines companies would still need to maintain those wires for solar users at night or on dull days, and for non-solar users at all times.

Without the surcharge, there would be less money available to cover those costs.

The problem is that we all pay a lines charge component, but some of it is hidden as a variable cost of the electricity itself.   So if people use less electricity, they could get to a point where they don’t even meet the true cost of supply.   Hence the need for the surcharge for anyone that is an extremely low electricity user.  Of course, the solar people take it personally.   

Greenpeace campaigner Kate Simcock said the High Court decision was disappointing as it allowed companies like Unison to continue penalising solar users.

“The fact that this ridiculous tax cannot be properly challenged shows that the electricity industry in New Zealand is not accountable to anyone,” she said.

“It’s morally repugnant that big electricity players are knowingly taking steps to slow the uptake of solar because they see it as a threat to their bottom line. It’s time for the government to overhaul this diseased industry.”

Morally repugnant is pretty much irrelevant.   Solar clients have had the best of both worlds and have essentially been cross subsidised by normal electricity users.

The answer is to separate the the supply charge from the electricity charge for all customers.

Solar is actually a bit of a problem for electricity companies that are trying to balance network demand.  To then have solar customers mooching off the others as well just adds insult to injury.



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As much at home writing editorials as being the subject of them, Cam has won awards, including the Canon Media Award for his work on the Len Brown/Bevan Chuang story. When he’s not creating the news, he tends to be in it, with protagonists using the courts, media and social media to deliver financial as well as death threats.

They say that news is something that someone, somewhere, wants kept quiet. Cam Slater doesn’t do quiet and, as a result, he is a polarising, controversial but highly effective journalist who takes no prisoners.

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