Renewables sector faces uncertainty in Western Australia

Western Australia's renewable energy sector faces uncertainties greater than the Renewable Energy Target, with a power distribution company and retailers whose policies discourages solar power users.

They say the traditional power company and retailers impose higher rates on those who use solar installations, in a bid to ensure certain minimum traditional power consumption.

However, with the government set to review the electricity market, a more equitable playing field between fossil fuel generators and low-carbon energy producers might not be far away.

Dominic Da Cruz, managing director, Enigin, which focuses on energy efficiency, Dominic Da Cruz, told The Fifth Estate, the situation was ''very frustrating.

''The grid operator [Western Power] writes the rules, determines the rules and judges how they will be applied.''

Western Australia's power market was separate from the National Electricity Market, differently  regulated to other states. The state's Economic Regulatory Authority had oversight on pricing and contracts, but according to Da Cruz, the organisation was essentially ''toothless'' as ''it can only interpret the rules as Western Power writes them''.

The problem was that when commercial electricity customers wanted to install solar photovoltaics for on-site power generation and feed in excess to the grid, they first needed to obtain permission from their retailer in the form of an Electricity Transfer Access Application.

According to The Clean Energy Council, as the retailers were also producers, they were disinclined to grant permission as the solar power was a direct competitor to their own electricity.