ERGON Energy has cleared the way for customers to install solar PV systems that do not feed power into the grid and to add battery energy storage systems in the future.
Chief executive Ian McLeod said the changes did not affect customers who already had a solar PV system and new customers would still have access to the government-mandated Queensland Solar Bonus Scheme.
Eligible Ergon Energy customers whose solar PV systems with a maximum inverter capacity not exceeding five kilowatts export to the grid and receive a feed-in tariff of 9.07 cents a kilowatt hour, as set by the Queensland Competition Authority.
Mr McLeod said the new standards responded to the challenges of solar PV systems exporting back into the grid, which was designed and built for one-way electricity flows.
"Ergon has 96,000 customers with solar PV installed across regional Queensland. That equates to 17% of residential customers," he said.
"Considering there were fewer than 2000 homes with solar just five years ago, that's an almost 5000% increase, requiring Ergon Energy to manage the impacts on the network in terms of safety and reliability, while working to provide customers choice.
"In some cases, customers have their applications to install PV systems on constrained sections of the network downsized, unless they are prepared to pay for an upgrade to the network."
He said the greater benefit for customers came from using the power derived from their solar PV system rather than exporting it to the grid.
"In the longer term, if the price of battery energy storage systems falls as predicted, then it may also create an option for customers to store the excess electricity created during the day for their own use at night," he said.
"If the stored power is used during peak times, this has the potential to help manage future prices for all customers."
AllSafe Energy salesman Josh Goodall said the cost of installing a system that did not export power to the grid depended on how much power people wanted to use at night.
"You might have a bank of 20 kilowatt hours of batteries," he said.
"It's very individual - it really depends on usage and requirements."
Mr Goodall said five-kilowatt panels with a 12-kilowatt-hour battery bank would start at about $22,000.
"The scenarios we've done show it's cheaper to stay with Ergon," he said.