Putting in a solar energy system can cost a lot of money. But some people might end up saving money, depending on:
- how they use energy
- what offer they sign up to
- how much they had to pay to put in the solar energy system.
You can compare electricity plans available to customers with solar energy systems on Energy Made Easy.
How does solar work?
Solar energy systems use solar panels. Solar panels can also be called photovoltaic (PV) panels. The panels usually last for about 20 years. They turn the sun's energy into electricity.
Solar systems can be either:
- connected to the electricity network – this is called the 'grid'
- separate from the electricity network – this is called 'off-grid'.
When you put in a solar energy system that is connected to the grid, you might get paid for the electricity you put back into it.
How do you get paid for putting electricity back into the grid?
This depends on:
- government rules
- whether your retailer has its own solar feed-in tariff.
A solar feed-in tariff is an amount that you get back for putting solar energy into the grid.
The amount of money you get depends on:
- the type of solar system you have
- the amount your state or territory government has set
- whether the retailer adds more to what the government has set.
There are 2 kinds of solar feed-in tariffs:
- net feed-in
- gross feed-in.
Net feed-in tariff
This is where you get credited for the amount of electricity your solar panels generate but which you don't use.
Net feed-in tariffs are used in:
- South Australia
Gross feed-in tariff
This is where your retailer credits you for all the electricity your solar system feeds into the grid, and then charges you separately for all the electricity you use.
Gross feed-in tariffs are used in the:
- Australian Capital Territory
- Northern Territory.
Retailers in New South Wales can choose which type of feed-in tariff to offer, so net and gross are both used.
Will I save money with solar?
Installing a solar system doesn't guarantee cheaper electricity bills.
There are things you need to think about, like:
- the size of the solar system
- how much sun it gets
- how much electricity you use and when
- the energy plan you sign up for
- whether you have to pay for a new meter.
Some people might choose to go with a solar panel supplier to purchase a solar system. There are some extra things they need to think about, like:
- How the price of electricity is worked out, for example, is it fixed or can it go up?
- Who looks after the solar system, for example, who is responsible for maintenance and repairs?
- What happens at the end of the offer or if you move, for example, who will own the system?
The Clean Energy Council’s consumer guide to buying and installing household solar panels can help you decide if solar is a good choice for you.
- questions you should ask installers and retailers
- a step-by-step guide to putting in a solar system.
More information: Solar hot water
Water heating is the largest single source of greenhouse gas emissions from the average Australian home. It makes up about 25% of household emissions.
Putting in a solar hot water system is different to putting in solar panels. You don't need to sign up to a solar plan with a retailer when you put in a solar hot water system.
GreenPower is a government program that lets your energy retailer buy renewable energy to sell to customers.
Renewable energy can come from the wind, the sun or rubbish waste.
When you sign up to a GreenPower plan, you can choose how much power you want from renewable energy (up to 100%). Just remember that the more GreenPower you choose to get, the more you'll need to pay.
Look for 'renewable energy charge' on your bill to see how much GreenPower costs.
You can compare electricity plans with GreenPower on Energy Made Easy. The cost of GreenPower is in the Basic Plan Information Document or the retailer's written summary of the plan.
Different retailers have different amounts of renewable electricity to sell. You can ask the retailer to tell you more before you sign up to a plan.