By Anne Martinelli Efficiency Campaigner
The Andrews government’s announcement of solar for 650,000 Victorian homes has generated a lot of interest and quite a few questions. Victorians are keen to find out how they can get involved and get solar panels on their rooftops.
Here’s a quick summary of what we know about the Solar Homes program so far. (For more detail as it becomes available, visit the program’s website at solar.vic.gov.au.)
AM I ELIGIBLE?
Yes, if your household income is less than $180,000, your house is worth less than $3 million, and you install solar panels on or after 19 August 2018.
The government has announced a large-scale commitment to installing solar panels on the roofs of 650,000 Victorian homes over ten years. The scheme will start with a 50 percent rebate for any solar panel system under 10kW, up to a maximum rebate of $2225.
This $2225 figure is roughly half the cost of an average 4kW system, which was mentioned in the announcement. But the rebate applies to other system sizes, not just 4kW.
It is available for 24,000 eligible households between now and July next year. If the government is re-elected then the scheme will be expanded to target more households and include an interest-free loan from July 2019. This will mean no upfront cost, and the system can be paid off with electricity bill savings.
Victorian households are eligible to receive the solar panel rebate if they:
WHAT ABOUT THE SOLAR HOT WATER REBATE?
There is also a $1000 rebate available for installation of solar hot water systems, but you can only access one of the rebates – solar panels or solar hot water.
The government is also providing a $1000 rebate on solar hot water systems for 6000 households. Victorian households are eligible to receive a Solar Hot Water Rebate if they:
Households will only be eligible for one rebate under the Solar Homes package. This means a household that accesses a solar hot water rebate cannot also claim a solar PV rebate.
WHAT ASSISTANCE IS AVAILABLE BEFORE THE ELECTION COMPARED TO AFTERWARDS?
Rebates for solar panels and solar hot water are available from now until June next year, at which time interest-free loans will also be offered if the government is re-elected.
For the remainder of this financial year (to end of June 2019), a rebate covering 50 percent of the cost of a solar system is being offered to 24,000 eligible households. If the government is re-elected, from July 2019 the scheme will be expanded to offer interest-free loans so that households can access solar at no upfront cost.
The solar hot water rebate will be expanded to 60,000 households from July next year, under a re-elected Andrews Labor government.
However, the Victorian Opposition responded with criticism to the Solar Homes program announcement, and is yet to clarify their position. There’s a serious risk the rebate won’t exist if they win the election.
WHAT ABOUT RENTERS AND SOCIAL HOUSING?
Community housing providers are eligible to apply, but landlords are ineligible.
Only owner-occupiers who meet the eligibility criteria can apply for a solar panel or solar hot water rebate, so this rules out landlords and renters. But not-for-profit community housing providers are eligible to apply for the solar panel or solar hot water rebate on behalf of their tenants.
WHAT ABOUT SAFETY AND QUALITY ASSURANCE?
The program includes extra funding for accreditation of 4500 electricians and other quality assurance requirements.
The program includes $9 million to support accreditation of 4500 electricians to install solar panel systems. The eligibility criteria for accessing rebates also require that accredited products be used and be installed by Clean Energy Council accredited installers who can provide a statement that they have not received a WorkSafe infringement notice in the past three years.
WHAT IF I ALREADY HAVE SOLAR?
If you were an ‘early adopter’ of solar and meet all the other eligibility criteria, then you can claim a rebate for a new or expanded system.
An early adopter is defined as a solar system that was installed before the commencement of the Premium Feed-In Tariff (PFIT) on November 1, 2009. If your household doesn’t meet this definition of an early adopter, then the solar rebate cannot be used to expand an existing solar panel installation.
But households that have already installed solar are eligible to apply for a solar hot water rebate.
WHAT ABOUT BATTERIES?
The Solar Homes program does not include rebates for battery systems.
But we are hopeful there will be further clean energy and efficiency announcements between now and the election in November.
WILL THIS ANNOUNCEMENT AFFECT THE SOLAR FEED-IN TARIFF?
Not directly – the feed-in tariff is set by the Essential Services Commission.
From 1 July 2018, customers on the current minimum feed-in tariff have been receiving either 9.9 cents per kilowatt hour (c/kWh) or a time-varying feed-in tariff. There is a chance that higher uptake of solar by households could result in a lower feed-in tariff, reflecting the lower value of solar energy at times of the day when solar panels generate power as more systems come online. That’s why Environment Victoria is also calling for the government to support the roll-out of household battery systems, to help even out the peaks and troughs of energy supply and demand that influence power prices. But regardless of what happens to the feed-in tariff in future, the 50 percent rebate should ensure households still come out ahead.