Australian Solar Council warns of risk to commercial STCs

The Australian Solar Council (ASC) has reported that, in its discussions with an unnamed Federal Coalition MP, that there are plans for small scale technology certificates (STCs) to be abolished for “commercial”, often known as commercial and industrial (C&I) solar arrays.

This presumably would affect systems larger than 10 kWp and smaller than 100 kWp – at which capacity large scale generation certificates (LGCs) apply.

The Solar Council reports, in an email distributed earlier on Monday, that it understands the Federal Government’s decision is “firm” and “with an imminent implementation.”

The ASC has reacted angrily to the mooted move and has, in its typically strident manner, called on the government to “categorically rule out any changes to commercial scale solar.”

“Attacking commercial solar would be an attack on all Australian businesses,” the ASC statement opines. “With energy costs sky high, the federal government should be helping businesses slash their power bills, not making it harder for them.”

Not all segments of the Australian solar industry support STCs. While undoubtedly a crucial instrument in enhancing the competitiveness of rooftop solar in the country, some question the influence the certificate program has on system quality.

STCs are generated by a rooftop PV system based on installation size, rather than on generation – kWp rather than kWh. The danger inherent in this is that a system of suspect quality receives the same subsidy as one of very high quality, potentially incentivizing size and volume over quality.

Certainly, the Australian solar industry has been plagued by poor component and installation quality in the past. However, recent industry reports have been that certification programs have tightened and that the general trend within the sector has been towards higher quality systems.

Whether this more nuanced argument, regarding the true value of STCs, will penetrate the looming campaign regarding a potential scrapping of commercial STCs is unclear, however there does seem to be value in the industry having such a discussion. It also remains uncertain as to whether the government position, as communicated by the ASC, will indeed eventuate.

Until that point, the ASC is calling for donations to launch a campaign is defence of commercial STCs.