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How our electricity pays us

More and more Australians are turning to solar power to help off-set their electricity bills. One family shares their story.

Stuart McQuire, 50, Vic

My family was the second in Australia to get a solar power system linked to the electricity grid. We paid $5000 in 1996 to have the system installed.

Because we're linked to the grid it means any surplus energy we generate we sell back to the electricity company.

'We are so lucky to be getting cheques instead of bills for electricity,' I laughed to my partner Wendy, 50, as I waved a cheque in the air.

We get cheques every year. In fact this year we hope for $1000 from our electricity supplier because we've had more solar panels installed. But our motivation wasn't money. That's just an added bonus.

When we moved into our house 20 years ago we wanted to take responsibilty for the environment and make it as sustainable as possible.

We felt it was important to leave the planet healthy for future generations.


Then when my two daughters were born in the early 1990s, we realised the next generation was here! We wanted to educate them about solar power and how we can all take small steps to reduce our impact on the environment.

Because we're linked up to the grid, we won't ever be short of electricity. Even in peak times, like at night or when we're using a lot of electrical devices at once, we won't be left in the dark. But we watch the amount of electricity we consume and try not to overdo it.

We also consider the energy rating when we need to buy new appliances, such as fridges, televisions, washers and computers.

I was once told the amount of sunshine that falls in Australia in just one day could power the whole world for a year if it was harnessed. But I understand it can be quite overwhelming finding all the information about home solar systems, so I wanted to use my experience with solar power to help others.

I now offer people free home sustainability assessments to help them decide if solar power is the right choice for them. It means the world to me and my family to help save our planet and we hope others will follow suit.

Visit Stuart's website, Green Makeover.

The money and the megawatts

  • Electricity prices in Australia have jumped significantly. In Queensland and NSW, they have risen 13 per cent, in South Australia and Western Australia they've jumped by 10 per cent, Tasmania has seen a six to eight per cent increase, while the Northern Territory is paying five per cent more.
  • One megawatt hour of solar-derived electricity stops one tonne of carbon dioxide (CO2), a greenhouse gas, being released into the atmosphere.
  • This year the government introduced the Renewable Energy Bonus Scheme to help households save money on power bills and reduce their carbon emissions by replacing electric hot water systems with solar systems. Under the scheme, those eligible can claim a government rebate of up to $1000 for a solar hot-water system. The Solar Credits Scheme can provide further discounts for those installing solar panels or solar hot water, on top of any government rebates.
  • Not only could a solar system save you money, but you could also be paid for the excess electricity you produce. The rates differ from state to state, so check with your electricity supplier.
  • A typical Australian house consumes around 18 kilowatt hours (kWh) of electricity per day. A 1-2kW solar system will cover 25-40 per cent of an average electricity bill.
  • Until recently, a household solar panel system could cost as much as $20,000 - but the government rebate combined with the Solar Credits Scheme means that some systems now cost as little as $3000 once rebates have been paid.
  • Shop around for the best deals. For a list of accredited solar system installers, see the Clean Energy Council website -
  • For information on rebates, go to, click on 'what you need to know' and select 'renewable energy'.

Check out our easy tips on how to reduce your power bill.

How do feel about the future of your electricity? Share your thoughts by leaving a comment below.

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