Treasurer Ben Wyatt’s decision to increase power prices by 10.9 per cent — or $169 a year — from next month was a “penalty” on households with solar panels, energy experts said yesterday.
The State Government has applied the increase to the daily supply charge, which people pay for the right to be connected to the electricity grid.
This charge will increase from 48.6¢ a day to 94.9¢ a day.
The variable charge of 26.5¢ which households pay for every unit of electricity they use, is unchanged.
State-owned power provider Synergy will get about $170 million a year extra because of the increase.
Mr Wyatt said current electricity bills were unfair because most of the costs people paid were based on the amount of power they used from the grid.
He said some households, such as those with solar panels and large holiday homes, drew little electricity from the network, meaning they paid a fraction of the cost of providing the connection to the grid.
The Treasurer argued it was often left to households without solar panels to pick up the tab through the set supply charge and this was inequitable.
“The current (supply) charge has absolutely no correlation to the cost of supplying energy to each household,” Mr Wyatt said.
“At the moment, if you don’t have a solar panel you are subsidising the cost of being connected to the grid for those that do.
“This isn’t motivated or directed at those with solar panels. It’s all about ensuring that every West Australian connected to the grid pays for the cost of connection.”
But lobby group Solar Citizens criticised the move, saying it punished homes with solar panels.
Spokeswoman Shani Tager said many homes with solar systems would feel betrayed after investing their money in good faith.
The decision could prompt some people to buy batteries and look to disconnect from the grid.
“It’s pretty clear that when you’re doubling the fixed price you’re going to hit solar owners pretty hard because they use less power than other households,” Ms Tager said.
Jemma Green from Power Ledger, a Perth company which promotes solar households trading among themselves, said it made sense for people to pay what it cost to be connected to the grid.
But Ms Green said there needed to be broader reform of power prices such as “time-of-use” tariffs, which she said would allow better use of the network.
She said this would ensure households with solar panels and batteries were given an incentive to sell power into the grid during times of peak demand when prices were high, thereby reducing the need for costly network upgrades.
There could also be “perverse” outcomes, such as apartment buildings or offices installing solar panels and on-selling power to individual apartments, cutting out Synergy.
Opposition Leader Mike Nahan said that the increases amounted to a “massive broken promise” because the Government had argued during the election campaign that electricity charges would be lower under Labor.
Dr Nahan said self-funded retirees who used little electricity and did not have a pension card would be “hit very, very hard”, as would people who had invested heavily in solar.