An appeal by SA Power Networks to charge a proposed charge on solar-powered households been rejected by the Federal Court.
On Wednesday, Justice John Mansfield declined SA Power Networks’ request to intervene in its dispute with the Australian Energy Regulator.
SA Power Networks accused the Australian Energy Regulator of unreasonably standing in the way of proposed tariffs.
Opponents of the scheme, however, claimed solar rooftop owners would be “gouged” an extra $100 a year in order to make the plan work.
In his judgment, Justice Mansfield said the Australian Energy Regulator had “not fallen into error” by stopping the plan because it “created a new class” of power customers.
He said that, while hardship and solar customers would benefit, all other power users would be comparatively disadvantaged.
“This was a restructure (that) would treat a class of customers less favourably and would disadvantage them,” he said.
“It has fallen foul of the law … I reject the application in full.” In August, SA Power Networks had taken its battle with the regulator to court to protect its 2015-16 pricing plan.
The AER’s opposition earned the support of advocacy groups the Total Environment Centre and Solar Citizens.
Solar Citizens Consumer Campaigner Reece Turner said it was “a sensible outcome” given that “more families are going solar every day.”
“These are households who have decided to beat the rising costs of electricity by taking power generation into their own hands,” he said.
“Solar households are most common in lower income suburbs, and the main reason these families go solar is to help with the rising cost of power bills.“ These homes reduce the need for expensive new poles and wires, stimulate jobs in the renewable energy industry and create clean, cheap energy that helps all Australians.”
SA Power Networks said that it was “disappointed by the appeal decision” and maintained that it’s proposed charge on solar-powered households was about “fair and equitable cost-sharing among customers”.
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