Empowering Homes – Interest free solar battery loans in NSW

Empowering Homes – Interest free solar battery loans in NSW could be set to commence towards the end of 2019 – let’s take a look at the system and how to apply for it.

Empowering Homes – Interest free solar battery loans in NSW

Empowering Homes – Interest free solar battery loans in NSW

The Empowering Homes program is going to support the installation of up to 300,000 solar-battery systems across New South Wales in the next 10 years, providing interest free solar battery loans to eligible residents. The loans will offer up to $9,000 for a battery system, or $14,000 for a solar battery system. As long as your household has a combined income of less than $180,000, you’ll be eligible for the scheme (subject to normal loan assessment criteria).

Empowering Homes interest free solar in NSW
Empowering Homes – Interest free solar in NSW. (source: energy.nsw.gov.au)

The scheme, which is using $50m redirected from a cancelled virtual power plant program, is still missing a lot of information. According to the official website it aims to ‘unlock up to $3.2 billion in clean energy investment, adding up to 3,000 megawatt hours of storage into the NSW energy system when complete’. 

“I want to deliver a program that provides robust consumer protections in terms of safety, system performance and value for money,” NSW Minister for Energy, Matt Kean, said in comments reproduced on the NSW Government’s website.

According to Solar Quotes and statistics provided by the Australian PV Institute, New South Wales’ solar penetration (at ~19%) is quite far behind Queensland (34.1%), South Australia (33.5%), and Western Australia (27.6%). 

According to figures from the Government website, “a household with a $500 quarterly electricity bill could save up to $285 a year on their bills while repaying the no-interest loan. Savings could increase to over $2000 a year once the loan is repaid.”

For further information about battery systems please visit Energy Saver NSW.

If you’re like to register your interest in the Empowering Homes program and also receive updates as they become available, please click here and fill in the form at the bottom of the website. According to the official site the first battery/solar-battery systems will be available for install in summer 19/20. 

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Solar Homes policy – NSW Solar grant

Solar Homes policy – the NSW Labor party have announced a huge solar rebate they will implement if they win the upcoming state election. Let’s learn more about how many households could be helped and what the particulars of the scheme are. 

Solar Homes policy

Michael Daley - Solar Homes Policy (source: michaeldaley.com.au)
Labor leader Michael Daley – announcing the Solar Homes Policy (source: michaeldaley.com.au)

The Solar Homes policy was announced by NSW Labor leader Michael Daley on his official website this week:

“This program will take NSW to over a million solar homes. Based on current take up rates for household solar, the program could help add solar to an additional 1 million homes over the next decade.” the website states. Further reading into the document shows that 500,000 households will benefit from the solar scheme. 

Under the Solar Homes policy, owner-occupied households in New South Wales are eligible for a rebate of up to $2,200, as long as their combined annual income is less than $180,000. 

Deputy Leader and Shadow Environment Minister Penny Sharpe said, “Under this plan, everyone wins. Families get help with their electricity bills and we are taking real action on climate change and giving NSW a cleaner, greener future.”

NSW Labor’s Leader in the Legislative Council and Shadow Minister for Energy and Climate Change, Adam Searle said, “Solar Homes is just one aspect of Labor’s plan for cheaper and cleaner energy across NSW. Our policies will cut both electricity bills and carbon emissions. We look forward to providing more in the lead up to the election.”

If Labor do win the state election (which will be held on March 23) and the Solar Homes policy goes ahead, it will commence in the 19-20 financial year (“to ensure an orderly rollout”), and follow other states with their own initiatives:

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Beryl Solar Farm Sold To New Energy Solar

We’ve written about the Beryl Solar Farm reaching a financial close back in May – now the 87MW (108MW according to the AFR) project has a new owner and is continuing construction. 

Beryl Solar Farm Sold To New Energy Solar

Beryl Solar Farm Sold to New Energy Solar
Beryl Solar Farm Sold to New Energy Solar (source: FirstSolar.com.au)

According to PV Magazine, the farm has been purchased by New Energy Solar – who also bought the 50MW Manildra Solar Farm for $113m last month. Both farms were previously owned by First Solar and the Beryl farm will be using their 420W large-format Series 6 thin film PV modules. Beryl also comes with a 15 year PPA with Transport for NSW – who will purchase 134,000 MWh from Beryl Solar Farm each year – using the power for the Sydney Metro Northwest railway. This long PPA with a AAA rated customer (i.e. the government) makes the farm a great buy in its current shape.

The EPC project was estimated at $150m according to Reuters, but it’s now estimated at $187m. Downer Utilities started work on the project in May and hope to have it finished in mid 2019. The farm will produce enough energy to power 25,000 households and doesn’t require any water for its electricity generation.

New Energy Solar said the cost of the farm won’t be announced but it was pegged to a target for five-year annual average gross yield of 8.2%, in comparison with yield on its existing portfolio of about 6.8% p.a, so by those metrics it looks like a canny purchase. 

New Energy Solar’s CEO, John Martin, discussed how the extra-long 15 year PPA helped get the sale of this project over the line:

“Beryl, New’s second investment in Australia, will further enhance the scale and contracted cashflows of our Australian portfolio,” said Martin. “Following the Manildra acquisition last month, we are delighted to be consolidating our relationship with First Solar through this second sizeable transaction in the Australian market.”

Martin continued to say that ~69% of the energy provided by the Beryl project will go to Transport for NSW – with the rest slated to package up with a 20MWh battery and sold to a corporate customer as commercial solar

To learn more about the project from the First Solar website please click here

If you’re interested in solar employment and working at the Beryl Solar Farm, please click here to visit the Downer Group’s careers website.

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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 PV installations in Australia Triple From 2017

Solar PV installations in Australia have tripled in the first half of 2018 in comparison to solar uptake in 2017. How will this affect our renewable economy and can we expect this to continue for the rest of the year? Where are all the installs coming from? Let’s take a look. 

Solar PV installations in Australia

Solar PV installations in Australia Triple From 2017 (source: Canberra Times via Green Energy Markets)
Solar PV installations in Australia Triple From 2017 (source: Canberra Times via Green Energy Markets)

The Canberra Times is reporting that household systems are now, on average, around 5 kilowatts. As the technology improves we’ll see this figure rise and (potentially) prices fall. They’ll certainly fall in terms of per watt pricing but the system uptake has resulted in 44% lower feed-in tariffs in New South Wales already – we’ll have to wait and see how this affects the rest of the country. It certainly doesn’t seem to have curbed the ACT’s appetite for solar systems – with the state leading Australia by a huge margin with a 130.8% uptake in installs over Q1+2 in 2018 vs. the same period. 

Green Energy Markets are also predicting that by 2020 renewable energy will represent around 33% (1/3) of Australia’s energy mix – almost double the 17.3% measured in 2015. Ric Brazzale of Green Energy Markets told the Canberra Times they are expecting to see around 30% higher figures by the end of the year:

“If we continue on at the same rate of installations we will end the year at between 1450 MW to 1500 MW – this will be more than 30 per cent higher than the 1100 MW installed last year,” he said.

It’s important to note that the amazing growth commercial solar (i.e. systems which are more than 15kW) has also seen over the last 12 months is heavily reflected in these figures. Over a quarter of June’s solar system demand is due to companies wanting to insure themselves from rapidly rising electricity prices and take control of their bills back by installing a commercial solar system on their premises. 

If you’re interested in reading all the specifics of their report, please click here to download Green Markets’ Renewable Energy Index for May 2018.

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