2nd July 2019
Victoria’s residential rooftop solar market is set to take off once again, with the state government’s $1.3 billion Solar Home rebate reopening on Monday to “pent-up” demand that has seen one-third of the month’s quota snapped up within hours.
The launch of the first full year of the decade-long program follows a short but painful lull in business for the state’s solar retailers and installers, after the massively popular scheme – tapped by more than 32,000 in its first six months – was closed to new applications for the three months to July.
In an effort to prevent this sort of “solar coaster” effect from happening again, Solar Victoria is taking a staggered approach in 2019/20, by offering applications for 3,333 rooftop solar systems per month, to deliver a total of 40,000 systems for private homes and community-owned housing in 2019/20 (and another 2,000 for rented homes).
Nonetheless, demand appears to be red hot, with nearly 1,200 applications already lodged by 3pm on Monday, leaving just 2,157 remaining for the month.
Acting Solar Victoria CEO Jonathon Leake said the massive uptake on day one of the new scheme was likely due to a bit of “pent-up demand,” resulting from the aforementioned pause in the rebate.
But he said that making the application numbers visible, with live counters for each of the rebates on offer from Solar Victoria, was one of a number of requests from industry to help reduce the potential stop-start effect of the scheme.
“After the pause in the scheme, we got together with industry who said, set application numbers once a month, make them visible, and then we can better match supply with demand,” Leake said.
Monday also signals the beginning of the Andrews government’s home battery rebate – which offers discounts of up to $4,838 to households with existing solar systems.
The first 12 months of that program will be even more carefully managed, with a staggered roll-out to a total of 1000 homes – 200 from 1 July, 400 from 1 November and 400 from 1 March 2020 – restricted to a limited selection of postcodes (see list here) and eligibility criteria.
Whether the battery offering will be as well embraced by Victorian households as the rooftop solar rebate remains to be seen.
As Giles Parkinson noted in last month’s Solar Insiders Podcast, residential battery storage uptake remains slow and steady in Australia, even in states like South Australia where rooftop solar uptake is high and storage incentives have been in place for some years.
According to the Solar Victoria live tally, a total of five applications for the battery subsidy had been made by 3pm on Monday. It will be fascinating to watch.
On the solar side of the equation, the state government and the body set up to oversee the billion-dollar program – Solar Victoria – have taken a number of measures to minimise consumer confusion and maximise the quality of installations.
“In a very competitive market, our objective is to protect consumers from those who prey on people with little knowledge or experience with solar,” said acting Solar Victoria CEO Jonathon Leake in a separate release on Monday.
This has included changing the way households apply for the PV rebate, with a new “streamlined” process the government says will see installations completed faster by providing the discount of up to $2,225 off their invoice from their solar retailer.
The no-interest loan for solar panels will also be offered at the point of sale, matching the rebate amount, a department of energy statement said.
From consumers, the scheme requires at least one quote from a Clean Energy Council-approved retailer before confirming their eligibility through an online portal.
Solar Victoria said the CEC had rejected 23 applications for its approved retailer list, with most already reapplying to ensure they meet the high standards.
“We’re holding solar retailers to the highest standards. Victorians want to be assured solar (they) will adhere to all legislation and regulations, and that sales representatives will act ethically, and honestly,” Leake said.
Leake said that Solar Victoria was also on the lookout for “dodgy behaviour” by solar retailers and installers, and would refer any offenders to Consumer Affairs Victoria and the Clean Energy Council.
“Solar Victoria is committed to delivering a quality program and to do that we must ensure solar retailers understand what is required of them,” Leake said.
“We have referred 19 businesses to Consumer Affairs Victoria for investigation. These include online operations that have no commercial substance, but which make spurious claims and generate leads for other businesses.”
“Lifting standards will establish a level playing field for all companies and add to the work already being done with Energy Safe Victoria, WorkSafe, the Victorian Building Authority, Essential Services Commission and Consumer Affairs Victoria,” he said.