Space Solar banned from Govt Rebate Scheme.

Solar company Space Solar have been banned from the Government Rebate Scheme for two years after an inspection conducted by Solar Victoria and Energy Safe Victoria found out that the company were employing unlicensed electrical workers, who were then “carry out works in an unsafe manner”.

Space Solar banned from Government Rebate Scheme.

Space Solar, also known as Community Energy Group, have had their director’s membership cancelled and (for the time being, their website is still up)

The company describes itself as the leading solar installer in Sydney and Melbourne with a decade of experience and a “team of professional engineers”.

According to an article in The Age, customers have been told to contact Consumer Affairs, and the government is expecting Space Solar to cover any costs. Sure that’ll work well.

The $2225 subsidy being offered to new solar installations in Victoria has attracted significant criticism for the method of its rollout and impact on solar installers (i.e. consumers ‘waiting’ to get the highly limited rebate and holding off on having solar installed)

Following on from such government-championed schemes such as the pink batts disaster, the government were quick to respond. Energy Minister Lily D’Ambrosio was scathing in her explanation of the situation:

“This kind of behaviour is totally unacceptable. Customers deserve to know their solar installations are completed to the highest standards and that’s why we have such a strict audit regime in the country,” she said.

“The majority of solar retailers and installers do the right thing – we’re acting to protect their reputation and uphold the standards of our world-leading solar industry.”

The company was registered as a Clean Energy Council-certified solar retailer in August. You have to use Council-approved retailers to claim the government rebate.  A new company named Solar Victoria was created to roll out the program, and the former boss of the government’s Victorian Cladding Taskforce, Stan Krpan is in charge of the company. Hopefully we see some more stringent checks on installs and weed out more installers who don’t follow by the guidelines. 

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Victorian Solar Rebate Rally | Solar Homes

Victorian Solar Rebate Rally – a rally was held at Victoria’s Parliament House today where hundreds of people in the solar industry voiced their displeasure with the rollout (and subsequent roll-in) of the Victorian solar rebate. Have they got a fair enough gripe? Let’s take a look.

Victorian Solar Rebate Rally

The original Victorian solar rebate (AKA Solar Homes) was announced in the lead-up to the 2018 election by Daniel Andrews and Lily D’Ambrosio. The plan was to install subsidised solar panels and/or solar batteries ($2,225 per system) – which then caused statewide PV solar installations to skyrocket from 3,000 / month to 7,000 / month.

Presumably the industry didn’t have too many issues with that, but the problem was when the scheme was paused in April 2019, only just recently reopening under an agency named Solar Victoria who had Stan Krpan from the Victorian Cladding Taskforce heading it up. 

This stop/start issue has seen a couple of follow-on effects – with owners now adopting a ‘wait and see’ approach and the subsequent slowdown in installations is causing a big bite for Victorian solar installers, especially those who have (bravely, given they’re relying on the Government) planned a growth strategy around the rebate. 

”This is a gold-level performance in incompetence,” said John Grimes of the Smart Energy Council in quotes relayed in The Age.

“The industry has become a solar coaster: one minute it’s up, the next it’s down.”

According to Mr. Grimes, installations across Victoria are down 30% since April. We also commend his pun game.

The Age article also quotes Dave Douglas of EverSolar who discussed his growth strategy prior to the rebate pausing and how it’s affected his business:

“We doubled in size because of this rebate. We put on an extra 20 staff, got more vans and ordered more solar panels.”

Mr. Douglas had a couple of ideas how to solve the issue – double the monthly subsidy quota or drop the eligibility from a pre-tax household income from $180,000 to about $80,000.

Opposition energy spokesman Ryan Smith was at the rally as well, with his own opinion (which, surprisingly, was the opposite of the incumbent Government) on the rebate:

“The change has made it more difficult to have panels installed,” he said. “Far from being cheaper, as businesses close, competition will dry up and panel installation costs will rise.”

Thoughts? Are you a solar business owner or a Victorian looking to get solar installed on your home? We’d love to hear from you.
 
To read more about the Victorian solar rebate please click here.

 

 

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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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Smart Inverters required under the Victorian Solar Homes Package

Victoria announced some more details of their solar homes package yesterday – and one of the interesting things that came out of this announcement were some specifics on what constitutes a ‘smart inverter’. 

Smart Inverters required under the Victorian Solar Homes Package

Victoria’s Solar Homes Package provides a rebate up to $2,225 or 50% of the price of a solar power system. This is in addition to Australia’s country-wide solar subsidy (STCs). They’re also responsible for solar battery rebates in Victoria and offer an affordable and exciting way to install solar and/or energy storage at your premises. 

“Victorians have been enthusiastic about adopting renewable energy technology, to take charge of their power bills and help protect the environment,” Minister for Solar Homes Lily D’Ambrosio was quoted online as saying. “Ensuring all new systems are equipped with smart inverters will mean we have a more responsive grid that can handle the rapid uptake of renewable energy.”

With the concept of a ‘smart inverter’ being somewhat of a misnomer, in that it’s not really clear what would make an inverter smart. Solar Quotes initially called it a ‘buzzword’, but, with the release of the Government’s Notice To Market, we are now able to discuss the functionalities an inverter will have to have if can be rebated by the Victorian Solar Homes Package:

a) “Enhanced Anti-Islanding”

No inverter is an island. “Normal” anti-islanding refers to turning off the inverter as soon as grid power is lost, as it has the possibility to damage grid equipment and can also be very dangerous for those on the grid trying to fix things up (as it can turn a ‘dead’ power line into something you really don’t want to be working on). A ‘smart inverter’ would have an inverter which complies with international standard IEC 62116, a comprehensive standard to ensure the inverter is able to work well above minimum safety requirements. 

b) Volt-Watt / Volt-Var

These features “facilitate greater penetration of distributed energy sources (DER) by automatically improving power quality”, as per the Victorian Government. This isn’t a major issue as their Notice to Market notes that 95% of inverter installations under the rebate scheme have installed suitable brands with these options, (and, indeed, 95% of the inverters have ‘enhanced anti-islanding’. 

It’s great to get some clarification on this and we’re excited to see how the rest of the solar homes package ends up. 

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SRES – Will solar rebates increase the cost of electricity?

Will solar rebates increase the cost of electricity? Yesterday The Australian newspaper published an article titled ‘Households’ $2bn solar hit’ which hypothesises that every Australian household will have to stump up $195 to help subsidise the subsidies. Is this rubbish? What impact does the SRES really have on electricity prices? Let’s read on…

SRES – Will solar rebates increase the cost of electricity?

Ketan Joshi via Renew Economy wrote a great article titled “How a ridiculous falsehood about solar power self-replicated in media”. You can read it on Ketan’s blog (ketanjoshi85) by clicking here. The “$2b solar hit” is a sum which has been basically made up through some extremely shoddy extrapolations.

The article in the Australian was run with by a number of Australia’s most trusted media outlets – News.com.au, 7 News, Sky News, the Today Show, and the consistently atrocious Daily Mail – who titled their article about the rebates thusly: 

“Climate change farce: How every Australian household contributes $200 a year to those lucky enough to be able to afford to put solar panels on their roof”

Energy Minister Angus Taylor decided to blame the big electricity retailers:

‘The big cost is the profits being taken by the big energy companies in the wholesale market, without innovation or new products, and it is time for them to deliver a fairer deal for their customers,’ he said.

‘According to the Australian Energy Market Commission, the small-scale technology certificate cost is less than three per cent of the bill, whereas 46 per cent is going to the big generator retailers.’

The Renew Economy article notes that, for FY18 and FY19 respectively, Australians paid/will pay $19 / $32 towards the scheme. This is a stark contrast to the $134 / $195 which was reported. It appears that the figures are so badly skewed for a number of different reasons including the assumption that 100% of electricity costs are passed on from businesses to households. They also haven’t factored in the Small-scale Technology Percentage, which will be set by the Energy Minister in March – and the effect this will have on STCs is quite marked. Installing solar power systems becomes cheaper if the STCs are higher, so you can see how this would have an impact which could be measured erroneously. It’ll be interesting to see how this impacts on solar grants moving forwards. 

The Small-scale Renewable Energy Scheme (aka SRES) is scheduled to run until 2030. If you’d like to read more about it please visit the Clean Energy Regulator’s website – where they have plenty of information about the scheme. 

We’d also recommend Ketan’s article for a more in depth exploration of the issue.

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