The reason going off-grid (for electricity) looks like it's a con!
It starts with your intention. Once upon a time, the world of solar energy was run by a bunch of Solar Engineers. Most of them were very well educated, and had a passion to show people how to be independent of the National electricity grid. Most installed renewable energy systems because they cared for the environment, the intention was to install a system that made them independent and was the best solution for the environment. Back in the early 80’s, prices were about $10 a watt for panels (that’s not counting inflation) on your roof. These days it's about $3, and dropping all the time. If you were installing solar in the 80’s/90’s, you did it because either you really cared deeply about the environment, or you had no other choice.
In 2015, we have solar panels everywhere. What happened to the industry? People were given financial incentives to install solar. As usual, the people with money got in first and made an absolute fortune! Some homeowners were getting paid 60 cents per Kwh when the retailers were selling it to the end user for 15 cents! Why would you do that? What was the real intention for the government to give away money? It's not something that they normally do, it's pretty out of character if you ask me!
The one thing I can guarantee that it did, is getting people to think about installing solar because they were going to be financially rewarded. People’s intentions went from installing solar for environmental reasons, to I can make some money out of this! What happened to the industry, and all of those once highly educated engineers and people that were passionate about doing the right thing for the environment? Well, most of them went out of business or got out of the industry. There still are a few in it until the end!
The reason the guys who had built the industry were hit really hard was that they didn’t want to be involved in something they knew that wasn’t the best thing for the planet! Also, a lot of clever sales and marketing guys with no background in solar created an amazing campaign to get people to install solar for financial reasons, not for environmental reasons. It became very easy to take people’s money though when you could say hey, make money and save the planet?
This did wonders for some and caused a nightmare for others. I have a friend that works in a call centre that takes complaints about the solar rebates. The most common complaint is “I purchased a house, the last owner told me he got 22 cents per kwh and now I only get 8 cents?”. And the reason they are calling is because they want someone to come take it off because it's not worth it! Give them my number I say, I will be around there and kindly remove it for free!
Unfortunately, most people are just uneducated about how solar and electricity works, and if this is you that is ok. The best thing you can ever do when it comes to electricity is just learn all about the WATT HOUR. This will change your life when it comes to energy.
All these cheap solar systems have been installed because the industry has become ‘make it all about the money’! Show me the MONEY! It's all about the money. Systems were installed everywhere, and in reality most of them will have to be replaced. I know so many people got cheap inverters and have had a couple of them- now they wish they had never gone solar because it just cost so much to keep the cheap system working. One of the worst parts is that to make this happen we have used so much of the earth's rare resources, making it look like we were doing the best thing by not burning coal. Instead we wasted a heap of rare earth resources on cheap crap that just wants replacing all the time, and it's going back into landfill.
This is not for all cases though. Some people out there spend money on good systems and have systems that will work for years to come. If you are a self consumer (which means you use all your solar and very little from the grid) that can be a great solution as well.
The reason going off grid looks like a con is because of what it's compared to- any good quality solar system with battery storage is a very different result than a system that feeds back to the grid. You are comparing something that will supply all of your power needs 100% of the time if sized right for 25 years with very few dramas. Offgrid also doesn’t get any help or rebates from the government, and it doesn’t just reduce your electricity bill- it eliminates it!
This is what I did. My daily usage was 30 kwh per day and I want to go off grid. Knowing that going off grid I had to reduce my load. If I had of kept doing what I was doing, I would have spent about $50,000 plus in the next 20 years on energy if prices did not change.
I reduced our family's load to 12kwh per day without any investment in technology when I learnt all about the watt hour. Next, our flatmates of ten years said they had had enough and were moving out! This was perfect timing to buy all new energy efficient appliances- they took anything that was electrical and we upgraded.
At that point our daily usage was 5 Kwh per day, which, in a financial capacity, was about $1.25 per day. At this point, installing a solar system for financial reasons would have been crazy as any type of system that was installed would mean it would take a very long time to get our money back.
Now, we are getting our system installed and we will have no electricity bill! If we wanted to, we could still have the grid for a back up electricity source.
The reason we did this is we wanted to be self reliant for our energy needs and not for the money. If we weren’t 100% committed to that cause, we wouldn’t have done what we did. Now if we would have just stayed connected to the grid and installed a grid feed system, we would have been exposed to any future price rises and any government or rule changes. When you get government money, you sign a contract and you are also connected to someone else's system on the grid. It is owned by a company that has the right to do what they want on their side of your property and charge you for it. Read your energy contract. If you are connected to the national electricity grid, you have a contract.You might not like what it says.
If we just kept doing what we were doing before, we would have spent over $2500 per year without energy price increases. Now, in ten years time, we will have our initial investment returned and no cost besides maintenance (and maybe an inverter) for the next 15 years! That’s with no rebates. AND have saved a ridiculous amount of carbon pollution.
The more you educate yourself and learn how to install a system like this yourself, the more you will save on installation fees. It's not that hard.
The reason going off grid looks like a con is because it's not comparing apples with apples. Just because it is a solar system and you add batteries, it’s not the same thing. Being connected to any type of grid gives people a false sense that things never run out- like water/ electricity/ supermarkets. People don’t like that feeling the minute you introduce an option to have a limit or be connected to something that never runs out.
Have a think about how much of a con the national electricity grid is in the first place. They are allowed to spend whatever they want to upgrade the system so that you have a power supply. The numbers just don’t work, we really should be paying more on our bills because of the real cost it takes to supply us. It is all hidden in rebates that the government give the industry. And my biggest gripe is that they don’t pay for the resources out of the ground in the first place! No cost of goods for them, the only cost is extracting it. Overseas companies come here to mine our country, they don’t pay any consideration for the goods taken, and, if the company is clever enough, they also pay no taxes in Australia!
The more people that disconnect from the grid the better it will be for everyone. Independence always cost more initially, however normally it is the best option in the long run.