Solar tax to be taken to hearing
Auckland, 01 February 2017 - A complaint that lines company Unison Networks breached the electricity industry code when
it introduced a solar tax last year has won the right to a full hearing after it was earlier rejected by New Zealand’s
The Electricity Rulings Panel, which will review the complaint made by New Zealand’s leading solar energy services
company, solarcity, to the Electricity Authority, says the issues around Unison’s tariff need to be “fully tested.”
“For months, we have been fighting for our right to challenge the legality of Unison’s tax which wrongfully
disadvantages solar users,” says solarcity CEO Andrew Booth. “It's only fair that this dispute is heard by an
independent body, something Unison has done its best to prevent."
Last year Unison said electricity customers in Hawke’s Bay, Rotorua and Taupo areas that installed rooftop solar after
April 1, 2016 would be charged an extra fee for their lines connection. It plans to extend that tax to all solar power
users in its region from April 1, 2019 (1).
“Unison is discriminating against its smartest, most energy aware customers and is charging up to an extra $239 per year
without providing any extra services. That effectively makes it a tax on solar,” said Booth.
Unison challenged Greenpeace for using the word “tax” to describe the extra fee in its advertising campaign to have it
scrapped. The Advertising Standards Authority ruled there were no grounds to proceed saying the word “tax”was considered
appropriate by some because the charges were compulsory and were a demand on people’s resources (2).
Three separate complaints about Unison’s solar tax were lodged with the Electricity Authority. It ruled that Unison had
not breached the Electricity Industry Participation Code (3). Solarcity challenged this decision by taking it to the
Electricity Rulings Panel, an independent appeals authority.
Solarcity had insisted on a hearing, including citing the 13th Century Magna Carta saying justice denied was justice
delayed. In a written decision the panel rejected Unison’s request to disallow a hearing.
“We consider that a hearing is an opportunity for the issues to be fully tested by allowing the tribunal to observe the
demeanour of witnesses, and to ask questions,” said Booth.
A date for the Electricity Rulings Panel hearing has yet to be set.
Booth says it is likely Unison’s solar tax will be consigned to history as a bad idea.
“These kinds of approaches by monopolies to try and stop solar won’t work. Similar moves in Spain, Sweden and south
Australia have all failed.(4) Here in New Zealand Vector, Orion, Network Tasman and Powerco have told us they have no
intention of introducing a solar tax.
With climate change being the major threat facing the world it’s vital all countries do everything possible to encourage
the shift to clean energy.”
Vector CEO, Simon Mackenzie, has long held the view that solar is absolutely part of New Zealand's clean energy future
and it is important to not penalise particular technologies.
With wide scale reform of electricity pricing being called for by regulators it is vital the customer is at the centre
of how pricing could change. In addition, Vector has just commenced customer engagement and trials as part of this and
will not be seeking to target solar prosumers who are an exciting addition to a new energy future.
At the end of last year Greenpeace delivered a petition signed by 45,000 Kiwis calling on the Electricity Authority to
support solar energy and prohibit electricity providers from penalising solar users.(5)