Excess energy from Western Australia’s booming rooftop solar sector will be used to help households struggling with cost-of-living increases with the state government unveiling a new Community Energy program that will provide free electricity to Synergy customers during off-peak times.
The Western Australian (WA) government said the new scheme announced on Monday will provide free electricity between 9am and 3pm to Synergy customers who are experiencing ongoing financial hardship and are being case managed by the state-owned utility.
WA Energy Minister Bill Johnston said the Community Energy program will provide eligible households with 10 units of free electricity – which is about 75% of an average household’s daily usage – in the off-peak periods.
Johnston said the electricity will come from excess power generated by rooftop solar systems connected to the South West Interconnected System (SWIS), the state’s main grid.
More than 400,000 WA homes and businesses, about 36% of customers, now have PV systems connected to the SWIS and collectively rooftop solar is the largest generator in the state.
Johnston said the new scheme would help address the new generation dynamic and stabilise the grid by incentivising customers to shift their electricity consumption away from evening peak demand periods to the middle of the day when solar generation is high and household usage is traditionally low.
“The Community Energy product, introduced by Synergy, offers 10 units of electricity at no cost during the day to those on the case management program,” he said. “This will bring the cost of electricity down for those experiencing financial hardship while also making use of the energy being generated by solar panels during the day.”
Johnston said the new program also provides households doing it tough with an alternative to installing solar panels, giving more Western Australians access to the benefits of cheaper electricity during the day.
To be eligible for the program, financial hardship customers must have an Advanced Metering Infrastructure (AMI) meter and not have solar panels installed on their property. It is estimated about 9,100 Synergy customers are currently eligible.
The state government has forecast the scheme will save participants between $200 to $500 on their electricity bills a year.
It comes as the WA government released the first of two instalments of a promised electricity credit, with a minimum of $400 to be provided to every household across the state. It is being delivered in two lots of at least $200 with the second credit to be supplied in the November to December billing period.
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