On Thursday a rally is set to be held on the steps of the Victoria Parliament House, following on from a united response by the solar industry, after a webinar last week held by Smart Energy Council CEO John Grimes. In the webinar John spoke of the negative impact the Solar Homes Program has had on the Victorian solar industry thus far and provided case studies of solar industry workers and consumers who were struggling with the current processes of the program.
Victorian Solar Rally
Commencing at 10:30 am on Thursday the 25th of July, many of those workers within the solar industry and individuals who have been negatively affected will come together to demand a change in the Solar Homes Program with the main issues being;
- the number of rebates available each month creating such an inconsistency in work and cash flow for solar providers
- the face recognition identity checks which makes applying for the rebate almost impossible for consumers
“The Victorian Solar Homes Program has been a debacle. Solar businesses have shut down, jobs have been lost, apprentices stood down. Victorian families have suffered from bureaucracy gone mad. Facial recognition software!!! The Victorian Government needs to slash the red tape and increase the number of people getting the rebate.”
John Grimes, CEO Smart Energy Council.
Number of Rebates Available Each Month
After abruptly pausing the solar PV rebate back in April, the solar industry in Victoria went quiet as consumers eagerly awaited rebate applications opening again in July. After re-opening on July 1st, the 3,333 rebates that had been allocated for the month were snapped up within 3 days, bringing the solar PV demand to a halt once again, until applications are to open up again in August.
It is expected that there will be a state of urgency in the first week of each month as consumers scramble to apply for a rebate and solar providers strive to secure work. Then once the monthly allocated rebates are exhausted for that month the solar industry will once again go quiet awaiting the next month.
This stop start nature of the program has solar companies and workers in detriment, unable to secure steady work, cash flow and in many cases, installers are losing their jobs and solar companies are having to close their doors.
The Smart Energy Council hopes to rally the change in how the rebates are released and the number of rebates allowed per month by proposing The Solar Homes Program halves the figure of the rebate (currently capped at $2,225) and doubles the number of rebates available.
Face Recognition Identity Verification
According to the Sydney Morning Herald, 40% of Solar Victoria’s attempted facial recognition identity checks failed in the first two weeks of July, with users not given the option up front to bypass facial recognition in favour of submitting their paperwork manually.
Due to this barrier many applications have been abandoned and left incomplete, which leaves some eligible consumers with no solar PV rebate, solar providers with less work and installs being cancelled, despite providing quotes and making sure they are eligible to participate in the program.
One customer stated that to be able to take a picture to match her passport photo in the application process she was required to take her glasses off but then had to somehow fit her face in the outline on the smart phone screen when she was practically blind.
After the image wasn’t accepted, she was prompted to have her image certified by doctor, police officer or chemist etc. For this certified person to be approved as a someone to sign off on her proof of identity they also needed to upload their proof of identity.
Another stated “The process was more difficult than securing a mortgage”.
At Thursdays rally The Smart Energy Council is calling for the entire facial recognition component of the application to be axed.
“The Government should immediately scrap the use of facial recognition, with its failure stalling installations across the state and leaving elderly customers in tears.
This application has made the process of installing solar even harder. The industry is really struggling after being choked by Solar Homes Victoria, and this application is not helping, it’s making things worse.”
John Grimes, CEO Smart Energy Council.
Solar Victoria Improvements Announced
On Monday Solar Victoria announced some improvements and updates for retailers and consumers, as well as portal training dates via webinars for those who need assistance.
The main updates included;
- The ability to save draft quotes in the Retailer Portal at any time, even when the monthly allocation has been exhausted. This will mean providers can continue uploading customer’s information to the portal at any time. The information will be saved so providers can log in and press submit on the first of the month.
- The eligibility application process for customers will allow more time to complete online identity (ID) verification
- Applicants who prefer to verify their ID outside of the Portal, will have a manual ID verification option (Note that if the customer takes this option, it can take up to 14 days to confirm their eligibility).
- The save and exit function has been improved, so customers can get back into the system to retrieve their application if their session times-out or they have internet connection issues
Not Enough To Save The Program or Industry
Whilst it’s good to see Solar Victoria making improvements inline with providing a simpler process, is it a little too late? And are the real issues with the Solar Homes Program being addressed?