Solar Victoria Overlooks Plea For Change After Panel Rebate Exhausted In 90 Minutes


UPDATE: An emergency Victorian Solar Webinar is set to be held 11am, 5th of August by John Grimes, Chief Executive of Smart Energy Council. The webinar will be based on a new action plan. The Smart Energy Council and Solar Cutters are also asking for those impacted to save the date – Thursday, 8th August 11am for what we assume will be a rally or protest of some kind in the city.

Gone in 90 minutes and causing havoc in the solar industry of Victoria, the Solar Victoria Homes Program continues to be the deciding factor on Victoria’s solar PV demand and work.

Solar Homes PV Rebate Allocation

After the re-opened Solar Homes PV Rebate in July had its monthly allocated rebates of 3,333 snapped up in only 3 days, it caused the solar industry to come to a complete stand still until resuming the rebate on August 1st with its monthly rebate allocation, which was then exhausted in less than 2 hours.

Warning signs and issues with the structure of the program were raised back in April when the program was abruptly paused due to funding being exhausted earlier than anticipated. It was this funding issue that caused Solar Victoria to relaunch the program with a monthly cap on rebates, in hope of running the scheme over a 10-year period.

Unfortunately, this cap has caused more destruction and disruption in the solar industry than benefit with solar providers and companies not being able to obtain enough steady work with the stop-start nature of the program.

During the week The Smart Energy Council surveyed 60 Victorian solar companies and found an alarming 80% have either closed their companies or fear they need to as an outcome of the Solar Homes Program.

“77% of businesses said staff had been made redundant or were expected to be made redundant.” Smart Energy Council Chief Executive John Grimes.

Smart Energy Council’s Plea For Change

Victorian Solar Rally

On July 25th the Smart Energy Council rallied on the steps of the Victoria Parliament House along with hundreds of those in the Solar Industry pleading for the Government to make urgent changes to the program before the August 1st re-opening.

Suggestions such as the below were put forward;

  • The amount of the rebate (currently capped at $2,225) to be lowered to allow the number of rebates available each month to be increased
  • The eligibility criteria for the rebate to be changed from combined household taxable income of less than $180,000 per year to less than $90,000

“The industry has put forward a range of options to improve Solar Homes, but the first step to fixing it is a recognition that there is a problem. We are calling on Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews to urgently intervene and lead a review to revisit the criteria for the program,” CEC’s Gladman.

Unfortunately, despite the numbers and coverage of the rally, the State Energy Minister Lily D’Ambrosio has insisted that the Government will make no changes to the structure of the scheme.


Negative Impact to Customers

It is not only the solar companies being negatively affected by the Solar Homes Program either. Many households are holding off from installing solar until they can access the rebate, which is proving to be difficult with rebate availability only lasting days or hours into the month.

“You are more likely to encounter a unicorn in Victoria today, than meet someone who was successful in securing a rebate, because there are so few rebates, and such high demand, we estimate that around 90 % of customers who had accepted a quote, and are eligible, missed out.” Smart Energy Council Chief Executive John Grimes.

Beyond Blue & Lifeline

There is an increasing concern for those losing their jobs and their companies in Victoria due to the implications of no steady work in the solar industry. Those who have been negatively affected and require assistance are being urged to contact Lifeline and Beyond Blue.

For help with emotional difficulties, contact Lifeline on 13 11 14 or www.lifeline.org.au

For help with depression, contact Beyond Blue on 1300 224 636 or at www.beyondblue.org.au


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Understanding Batteries

Off-Grid Systems

For some households a battery system can be of great benefit and minimise a home’s reliance on the grid. However, it’s important to understand for a battery to be useful your solar system needs to be generating excess energy for the battery to store, which you can then use at night or when the sun is not out.

When selecting a battery, you’ll want to invest in a system that is most suited to your home and can drive the best return on investment (ROI). Despite a larger upfront cost, a higher quality battery may significantly increase your ROI.

    Battery systems start from $6,000 and costs can vary greatly based on the following factors:

  1. Cycle Life-Time

    The number of times a battery can fully charge and discharge.

  2. Battery Power (kW)

    How fast it can be charged or discharged.

  3. Storage Capacity (kWh)

    The maximum amount of energy a battery system can store.

  4. Battery Management System (BMS)

    An electronic ‘smart’ system that gathers data and manages the battery ensuring it does not overload or operate outside of its safe functioning zone..

  5. Inverter

    Battery systems require their own inverter if your solar system does not have a hybrid inverter.

  6. 'All-In-One Unit’

    A system which includes the battery, BMS and an inverter all in one unit.

  7. Warranty

    Length of time or cycles the battery system is under guarantee.

  8. Blackout Protection/Backup

    It’s important to note this is not a common feature of a battery system and could cost thousands of dollars to include. Blackout protection not only requires additional components but also a specialised installation and rewiring. For grid-connected homes, the cost for blackout protection can outweigh the benefit.

Additionally, if your purpose for adding battery is to go Off-Grid and become completely independent from the grid you will need to ensure your solar system can generate enough energy to power your home and your battery system is large enough to store this energy. For homes in metro areas going Off-grid is not cost effective and is only recommended for those in remote areas with limited access to the grid. Off-grid solar systems with battery start at approximately $30,000.

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