Latrobe Valley solar: 30 public buildings to get PV.

Latrobe Valley solar energy is set to get a boost with 30 public buildings in the area to have rooftop installed at no cost, thanks to a bit of help from the state government in Victoria.

Latrobe Valley Solar Scheme

Energy and environment minister Lily D’Ambrosio was in Moe last week to discuss the scheme and show the Latrobe Valley residents a list of the public buildings in line for free solar upgrades, including in some cases solar hot water and lighting. One such building is the Toongabbie Mechanics Institute – a building where existing solar has already saved $500 on last quarter’s electricity bill. Toongabbie Mechanics Institute treasurer Roger Ries summed it up very succintly:

“It’s made amazing reductions. It’s cheaper for the recreation reserve users and it will make it cheaper for the hall here,” Mr Ries said.

Minister D’Ambrosio spoke about the impact these home solar energy upgrades will have on the lives of lives of 1000 vulnerable Gippslanders.

“The energy upgrades and solar installations will not only help bring down energy prices for the Latrobe Valley, they will create local jobs in the renewable energy sector,” she said.

According to the Latrobe Valley Express, over 1000 households/low incomes earners are also eligible for solar systems as part of the $5 million Latrobe Valley Home Energy Upgrade Program.  Local businesses Gippsland Solar (who are responsible for the fantastic Camberwell Grammar School Solar System), Sunny Afternoons and Rocky’s Electrical will be used for both programs which will create 10 full-time jobs.

Latrobe Valley Solar Scheme
Latrobe Valley Solar Scheme (source: EPA Victoria)

There’s been some great solar news for the Latrobe Valley / Gippsland area with regards to both end-user solutions and large-scale renewable energy production – with a 70MW solar farm on the outskirts of Morwell announced back in April, to be build by ARP Australian Solar who said the plant will be a hybrid solar and battery farm which create “well over 100 jobs [during construction]” for the area. 

“There would also be a number of ongoing jobs … involving security, electrical testing, monitoring and what have you.”, according to ARP Australian solar director George Hughes. 

Mr Hughes elaborated on a potential timeline for the Morwell solar farm: 

“With everything going according to plan, we’re looking to start construction in January or February next year, early 2019.”

We’ll keep you updated on both the Latrobe Valley Solar Scheme and the Morwell solar farm. Exciting times for Gippsland!

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Rooftop solar subsidies – ACCC calls for axe.

Rooftop solar subsidies should be completely removed and the solar feed-in tariffs should be managed at a state rather than a federal level, according to recommendations from the competition watchdog.

Rooftop solar subsidies in Australia

The Australian Competition & Consumer Commission’s electricity affordability report, which was released this week, highlights the cost of our National Energy Market, which include the large-scale renewable energy target, the small-scale renewable energy scheme and solar feed-in tariffs.

The ACCC said the cost of the LRET are expected to fall in the years after 2020, and were happy to leave the scheme to wind up on its 2030 end date. They said that the SRES, however, cost $130 million in 2016-17, and should be wound down and abolished by 2021, almost ten years ahead of schedule, to reduce costs for all consumers – not just those with solar installed.

The report, according to the Australian, found that households with solar panels installed earn $538 per year via feed-in tariffs, which doesn’t count the fact that they pay less for electricity as well:

“Meanwhile, non-solar households and businesses have faced the burden of the cost of premium solar feed-in tariff schemes and the SRES,” the ACCC said.

“While premium solar schemes are closed to new consumers, the costs of these schemes are ­enduring.”

With the New South Wales solar feed-in tariff to drop by 44% this financial year, the glory days of feed-in tariffs could be behind us. But at what point do we stop to count the social cost (i.e. the environmental displacement)? 

Rooftop solar subsidies in Australia - Opposition Leader Bill Shorten
Rooftop solar subsidies in Australia – Opposition Leader Bill Shorten (source: Wikipedia)

The 398 page report has ‘produced vital ammunition to reform energy’, has been ‘hijacked by zealots’ and doesn’t justify the building of new coal-fired power stations, depending on who you ask. About an hour ago Bill Shorten admitted he hasn’t read the ACCC report yet so it’ll be interesting to see what his thoughts are. Certainly just early days for this conversation, but it’s good to see Australia talking about our energy future and trying to come up with a plan. Watch this space! 

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Solar Battery Storage could rise 10x – AEMO

The latest Electricity Statement of Opportunities by the Australian Energy Market Operator (AEMO) forecasts a potential 10x increase in solar battery storage uptake. The statement of operations is produced annually by AEMO and helps them plan for projected installation of solar panels, batteries, and their capacity as the technology increases and Australia continues its march towards our Renewable Energy Target for 2030.

Solar Battery Storage and the AEMO

Solar Battery Storage (source: AEMO/RenewEconomy)
Solar Battery Storage (source: AEMO/RenewEconomy)

AEMO’s 2017 Electricity Statement of Opportunities helps us project the next 10 years of energy generation and runs simulations for different scenarios (changes in solar battery technology or peak demand, for example). It’s worth reading the whole thing but here are some interesting tidbits we picked up around the place:

An interesting note that Renew Economy picked up on is that peak demand (with an average of around 3,700MW for the last ten years) was at its second lowest level since 2009 in 2017 – largely in thanks to the high numbers of rooftop solar systems installed throughout the country. Being able to manage peak demand means that infrastructure won’t be as expensive and we simply don’t need as much energy – so it’s a great result!

Cameron Parrotte, the boss of AEMO in Western Australia, discussed the situation and what it means for Aussies:

“While there have been recent retirements of some fossil-fueled generators, new renewable generation capacity is enabling the RCT to be met within the defined reliability standard, and with significantly lower excess capacity than historically recorded”

There’s also some great news for Western Australian solar power, where the grid includes a ‘capacity market’ – making it a bit different than the other states. The report projects that the current amount of live and committed generation resources will meet forecast peak demand in the state’s South West interconnected system (SWIS), despite around 400MW of coal, gas and diesel being replaced by approximately the same amount of rooftop solar, large-scale wind and large-scale solar. If you want to read more about the Wholesale Electricity Market in Western Australia please click here.

Some great news for Australia’s energy future. There’s no doubt that we’ll see more and higher capacity solar batteries installed in houses over the next ten years, let’s see how accurate those projections are!

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Darebin Solar Saver – Interest Free Solar Loans

The Darebin Solar Saver, a groundbreaking solar scheme in the Victorian city of Darebin, means that residents are able to take out an interest-free loan from the council to cover the cost of solar panels and installation, with repayments added to household rates. 

About the Darebin Solar Saver

Darebin councillors signed a $10m contract with EnviroGroup in Northcote to manage the expansion of the Darebin Solar Saver program, with systems available from 2kW to 10kW – installations are set to commence in July 2018. This is in addition to the ~500 households already enjoying the program. 

The $10 million expansion, which will be funded via existing cash reserves, will help further the council’s goal to double solar-power generated in Darebin from 18,000kW to 36,000kW. 

The Herald Sun quoted Kingsbury resident Mai Pham as a very happy user of the Darebin Solar Saver:

“We are really happy with our solar system. We’re saving on our energy bills and it means we don’t need to worry so much,” she said.

“The cost of installing solar means it’s not even a possibility for many low-income families, so this help from the council to cover the initial outlay is such a good idea.”

Residents who would like to take advantage of the generous and forward-thinking solar programs (which are currently slated to run from 2017 – 2021) can click here to register their interest. Alternatively, if you have any questions email [email protected] or phone 8470 8888.

Darebin Solar Saver
Darebin Solar Saver (source: darebin.vic.gov.au)

Interest Free Solar Loans

We’ve previously written about interest free solar via Annastacia Palaszczuk’s Labor Party and their ‘Powering Queensland’s Future’ scheme which may be offering no-interest solar loans in Queensland. There are a number of retailers currently offering low/no interest solar deals to customers but to have the purchasing power and safety of the government behind one of these schemes would be an amazing step in the right direction. We’ll keep you updated on any further details for councils subsidising solar for their residents! 

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NAB Solar & Origin – Credit Card Rewards

The National Australia Bank and Origin Energy have partnered up so homeowners will be able to save up to $2,250 on the cost of a new solar system. The NAB Solar credit card rewards scheme will include the option to purchase and install solar panels through Origin via purchasing vouchers with rewards points. 

Origin and NAB Solar Rewards

According to domain.com.au and NAB Consumer Lending executive general manager Angus Gilfillan, the scheme will be launched on November 28 and will max out at $2,250, for new NAB Home Loan and Banking Bundle customers who redeem 350,000 rewards points. 

NAB Solar Rewards Platinum Card
NAB Solar agreement with Origin – Buy a system with points accrued via their Rewards Platinum Card (site: nab.com.au)

According to Mr. Gilfillan, the high cost of entry of solar installations is something NAB are trying to mitigate with their new scheme, saying : 

“We know that cost is a significant factor for consumers when making a purchase, so we hope this initiative makes it easier and more affordable for Australians to make the switch to solar.”

Ryan Willemsen-Bell, the Origin Solar and Energy Solutions General Manager of Business, said that you don’t need to be an Origin customer to take advantage of their offer and they could save almost 60% on a new install in certain circumstances: 

“Using suppliers Fronius and Zeversolar for inverters and China-made panels from China Sunergy and Trina, the outlay for a 3.2-kilowatt solar system would be about $1500 under the new offer compared with a retail price of $3593,” he said.

According to Mr. Willemsen-Bell, the average solar+battery system costs around $13,000 and Origin are trying to find ways to make it more affordable for their customers – offering incentives for solar power users such as a two year interest free payment plan and a Solar Flex power purchase agreement for power from solar panels installed and owned by Origin (an offer which has been taken up by a lot of commercial solar customers, he said). 

We’re not sure how long it’d take to accrue 350,000 rewards points, but this seems like a great way to bring down the initial cost of installing a solar system – please let us know in the comments how you go if you take them up on this offer! 

 

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