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SIESA Reneg on Previous Agreement over Grid Tied Solar Power Installations.

To my consternation I learned late last week that SIESA has gone back on an initial and advertised commitment to pay $0.20 per unit for power supplied to the grid by their customers.

This is apparently a decision made by our local community board. We are part of Southland District Council, and Stewart Island Power Authority (SIESA) is owned by them. So ultimately a decision made by SDC.

We had been down the “no pay” route previously as SDC web site had their scale of tariffs which included $0.20  per unit for consumer generation back fed into the system.
Copied from P 27 SDC Web Site 

About the time we decided to go solar the local community board voted to dishonour this promise. Had they not done so we would  not have gone off grid.  I had several phone conversations with Stuart and gained the impression that he supported the payment, and indeed agreed that it had to be honoured. On that basis we had 5 kw P/V panels installed at Kowhai Lane, and SIESA installed a meter which would record both inward and outward power consumption. This would indicate they recognised a legal obligation to honour their conditions of service.  It took 2 or 3 months but eventually SIESA did meet their payment obligations from the date of commissioning the system.

But now we are again back to the “No Payment” regime. Happy to take the power we generate, and re sell it to other consumers for $0.85 per unit. But not prepared to pay for it.

Well,  as Iris says it’s hard to fight City Hall, but in my view it is at least worth shining a light on what for us is an incomprehensible decision.

So I decided to send an open letter to James Shaw, who is Minister for Climate Change.

Copies also went to :-

  • Stuart Smith, National Party Energy Spokesperson
  • Penny Symmons, MP for Invercargill & Stewart Island
  • Scott Donaldson, ACT Party, Invercargill
  • Megan Woods, Minister of Energy & Resources
  • ODT
  • STUFF Invercargill

This, with the introductory letter are below

Good Morning ,

The attached is an open letter I have sent to James Shaw, Minister for Climate Change , and will send to the local press as well.

I would like to draw your attention to issues regarding electrical supply on Stewart Island. As you know presently Stewart Island “Runs on Diesel” for almost all of the Island electrical needs, although there is a small number of properties installing photovoltaics. These are mainly grid tied, although we personally are now off grid. Our power supplier initially promised to pay $0.20 per unit for power “uploaded”. They have withdrawn this offer which will have a very dampening impact on possible future adoption of P/V, as the small payment for excess production was an incentive to adoption and of course did in some small way reduce the amount of diesel fuel consumed without impacting on the overall economics of the system.

I am concerned that our Community Board, and by extension Southland District Council have a “head in the sand addiction to diesel” approach to a problem which has long been addressed and solved in communities world wide. Perhaps a “Hoping for a Faerie God Mother” approach, when the solutions are not rocket science, and well understood elsewhere. Perhaps it’s a bit like when tractors arrived on farms. Blacksmiths and Farriers complained. The smart ones leant how to fix tractors

The attached open letter expands on this issue, and I hope that you might give it due attention.

I am of course happy to assist with further information at any time.

Yours sincerely……….. Peter Tait

The Honourable James Shaw.
Climate Change Minister.
Associate Minister for the Environment
Parliament Building

An Open Letter

Dear Sir.

As you are aware electricity on Stewart Island is generated by our local authority (SIESA) using diesel fuel.

Up until around a year ago they had provision to reimburse customers who had solar power installed and fed back into the grid using a grid tied system. Payment was set at $0.20 per unit. We installed 5 kw on the roof of a property we manage for our daughter, and SIESA installed a meter to calculate power both inward and fed back into the grid. The local community board then decided that they would reneg on the advertised commitment to pay the $0.20, however some 3 months later we were informed that they would pay that. But today I have just been informed that they have again gone back on the original commitment.

As a nation we are increasingly concerned about climate change, the use of fossil fuels and all the associated issues.

At our Island level add to that the increasing cost of diesel fuel which has just seen Stewart Island power prices lift from $0.61 per unit to $0.85. We have also been informed that even that rise is less than the actual cost of diesel require for generation, and so the system is chewing into reserves. Anecdotally we have been told that if no steps are taken SIESA will run out of funds mid 2024

For SIESA to reneg on a commitment to paying $0.20 per unit seems contra-indicated, as power fed back into the grid directly replaces at least some of the diesel which would otherwise be burnt. Saving the system both money … $0.20/unit is less than the cost of diesel to generate the same amount …… and reducing at least slightly our dependance on non-renewable energy.

And of course refusing to pay even that small amount discourages clients from installing solar, as the small payment for surplus does help allay the costs of installation.

We have our own home completely off grid, and so far the return for us looks to be around 13% on capital invested, and by installing a heat pump have cut our diesel use for home heating and domestic hot water to around 20% of previous. We do have a small back up generator for dark days, and over the past year have run it 8 minutes per day on average…. Around 1 cup of diesel per day.

Our own solar power journey is detailed at https://sailsashore.co.nz/sails-ashore-and-the-stewart-island-environment/ and in particular my views on community adoption of renewable energy which can be found at Community Power on Stewart Island – (sailsashore.co.nz).

Micro Grid technology is nothing new and is not rocket science. Communities all over the world have had them running for decades. See https://www.bbc.com/future/article/20170329-the-extraordinary-electricity-of-the-scottish-island-of-eigg .

There are other links looking at community energy solutions including https://www.stuff.co.nz/business/green-business/128618849/researcher-says-8m-may-get-stewart-island-off-diesel-energy

What is particularly intriguing is that the Southland District Councils August 2022 Newsletter touts “Sustainable Tourism helping Southland meet Net Zero 2050 emission targets” SIESA is owned by SDC

I have no idea what, if anything you might be able to do to have SIESA honour its original commitment of payment for grid fed power, but it is surely a bad look at the very least given the issues we have with the use of non-renewables.

Yours sincerely………….. Peter Tait

Links which detail our journey into Solar Power can be found at https://sailsashore.co.nz/sails-ashore-and-the-stewart-island-environment/ .

You will find there links to various blog posts of ours, in sequence, and also links to external resources.