❝Western Australia would not be able to privatise its electricity assets “even if they gave it to them for nothing” because the popularity of rooftop solar panels has made state-owned power stations unprofitable, a renewable energy expert has said.
Prof Philip Jennings, a lecturer in energy and physics at Murdoch University, said the uptake of solar was a looming problem for the Barnett government, which has indicated it may consider privatising some or all of its energy assets after the 2017 state election.
An analysis of energy regulator data by Curtin University found that rooftop solar panels had the capacity to produce more electricity than any power station servicing the Perth grid.
WA’s electricity network is 66% over capacity, thanks in part to an unexpected increase in rooftop solar.
❝“Effectively we have built another very large power station on the rooftops of Perth, and that is what has thrown the government’s calculations out because they didn’t factor it into their calculations when they decided to go in and bring [coal-fired power stations] Muja A and B back online,” Jennings told Guardian Australia…
They are used intermittently at high-demand times.
The power stations, which Jennings described as “not particularly clean and not particularly efficient”, were tipped to be among the state assets up for sale in a bid by the treasurer, Mike Nahan, to curb WA’s credit rating.
But Jennings said unless the state’s energy profile changed, investors were unlikely to be interested in Muja or any other assets.
❝The cost of electricity in WA has increased 85% since 2008, and the number of houses with solar panels has increased by 40%.
“Every time they put up the tariff for coal-fired power in WA it just encourages people to put solar on their rooftops,” he said. “We’re not talking solar panels in Cottesloe [the beachfront inner-city suburb where the state premier, Colin Barnett, lives]. The general take-up rates are not in the wealthy suburbs, they are in the mortgage belt. People factor it into the cost of building a house.”
Backwards, greedy public utilities [is there any other kind] throughout the industrialized world face the same problem. Those with a significant number of politicians in their deep pockets try for the most egregious of solutions – for their balance sheet. They get the state to tax homeowners an exorbitant amount for the privilege of semi-independence from the “requirements” of the electric grid.
We face the same here in New Mexico even though solar power is a natural and the state engineer’s office determined decades ago we could be an electricity-exporting state on wind power alone. But, our utility is into coal – lousy quality coal at that – up to their conservative eyebrows.