Solar Victoria Scams – Residents Urged To Take Care

Solar Victoria Scams – the state government’s $1.3b solar power subsidy scheme has a lot of residents excited, but it’s also seen an influx of unethical ‘cowboys’ plying their trade.

Solar Victoria Scams – What to watch out for

Solar Victoria Scams
Solar Victoria Scams

“We have received alerts that scammers have been targeting Victorian households,” Solar Victoria’s website reads.

“Be alert to callers claiming to be from the Victorian government or Solar Victoria requesting bank account details.

“We will never ask you to provide personal details such as banking information over the phone.”

Premier Daniel Andrews was also quoted when he discussed the issue of Solar Victoria scams with reporters on Tuesday:

“If you’re being contacted by somebody, then that is not from the Victorian government, but I’m confident Consumer Affairs can handle this,”

Opposition energy spokesman David Southwick discussed a 72 year old pensioner who was conned:

“Despite telling the sales rep he was not interested in purchasing solar panels, the salesman let himself into John’s home and refused to leave until he signed up to a $9000 solar panel system on a financing plan he could not afford,” Mr Southwick said.

“What guarantees can you give that thousands of Victorians won’t end up with dodgy sales people knocking on the doors, phoning them, all hours trying to sign them up to solar panel deals that will leave them thousands of dollars worse off?”

Nigel Morris was quoted in the Solar Insiders podcast discussing what people’s attitudes are when there’s a rebate involved and how the scheme could impact solar companies, calling it a ‘classic solar coaster’:

“The government was going to give me something – I don’t really care why or how – and by god I’m owed it.

“Phones are ringing off the hook. People are ringing up saying ‘How do I get my tax back? How do I get my money? I don’t care about the solar panels. If you have to put solar panels on that’s fine, but tell me how I get that money.’

“So it’s causing a lot of angst … down in Victoria already, and almost a dead stop in solar sales.”

News.com.au is reporting that over 12,000 people have registered their interest for the Solar Victoria scheme. We’ll keep a close eye on how it goes and keep you updated!

Learn more about the Solar Victoria rebates by visiting the official website. And don’t agree to anything over the phone (or, even worse, a doorknocker)

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Solar Battery Rebates in Victoria | Solar Homes Program

Solar battery rebates in Victoria will be rolled out as part of the Andrews’ government’s $1.34b Solar Homes program. The program also includes half price solar panels for 650,000 households and a $1,000 discount on solar hot water installation for 60,000 households. 

Solar Battery Rebates in Victoria – Solar Homes Program

Solar Battery Rebates in Victoria
Solar Battery Rebates in Victoria (source: solar.vic.gov.au)

Victorian home owners who fit the criteria (it’s means tested) will get a 50% rebate to install battery storage. The rebate will be capped at $4838 in the first year and will slowly decrease to $3714 by 2026, factoring in the inevitability that prices will decrease and energy storage technology will improve. The Age are reporting that this policy will cost an estimated $40m, with around 10,000 Victorian households expected to take advantage of the fantastic subsidy offer. 

According to the SBS, it’s part of Labor’s wider plan to increase renewable energy use and decrease the cost of living – with the plan being to work with energy distributors and invest $10m to help ‘renewable-proof’ the state grid over the next ten years. 

“This is a game changer for Victorian families fed up with big corporations that have been price gouging and ripping consumers off,” Premier Daniel Andrews said.

“Only Labor will put solar panels, solar hot water or solar batteries on 720,000 homes – saving Victorians thousands of dollars on their electricity bills with renewable energy.”

Solar Homes Victoria Subsidy Breakdown

We’ve previously written about Labor’s half price solar for Victorians scheme- looks like there are some great plans coming to fruition for the state. 

Solar Panels – $1.2b for 50% of solar system installation costs for 650,000 homes.

Solar Hot Water – $60m for $1000 subsiddies to install solar hot water.

Solar Batteries – $40m for 50% of solar battery installation costs for ~10,000 homes.

It’ll be very interesting to see how these solar battery rebates work in Victoria and if the other states (especially the ones with a high solar panel update) follow suit. Watch this space – we’ll keep you updated! 

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Half price solar for Victorians in $1.2b plan.

Half price solar in conjunction with solar loans will be available to Victorians under a $1.2b plan announced by the state government over the weekend.

Half price solar for Victorians

Half Price Solar for Victorians
Half Price Solar for Victorians (source: premier.vic.gov.au)

Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews announced a $1.24 billion solar plan yesterday. According to the press release the Labor Government released on their website, Victorians will save around $890 / year if they are interested in being part of the half price solar scheme – which involves 50% off solar panels and no upfront cost. The second 50% will be in the form of a solar loan from the government – but to get this loan the Andrews Government will need to be re-elected and implement it from July 2019. 

Premier Andrews has an ongoing argument with the federal government over the National Energy Guarantee – so this is a shot across the bow of Malcolm Turnbull who has recently decided to abolish all energy targets inside the NEG. 

“I can’t give you an answer on the NEG because I don’t know what the NEG actually means, this thing is changing every 24 hours,” Mr Andrews told reporters on Sunday.

 
Not wanting to see a repeat of the pink batts insulation fiasco, an independent agency named Solar Victoria will work with the industry, regulators, and training organisations to ensure the quality of installs is high. Around $9m will be spent to support accreditation of up to 4,500 electricians. Looks like there will be plenty of solar jobs in Victoria if they’re able to get this project over the line.
 
The Victorian Government are hoping to bring solar power to 650,000 households over the next ten years with the Solar Homes program, which they are investing $68m in to launch immediately.
 
Click here to view the Media Release, entitled ‘Cutting power bills with solar panels for 650,000 homes’. 
 
 

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National Energy Guarantee Approval – Next Steps

National Energy Guarantee Approval – the NEG has been approved by the states and territories of Australia ‘in principle’ – allowing it to move to the next step. There’s still plenty of discussion to go before we see anything signed off, but it’s a step in the right direction for those who believe in the NEG and its ostensible goal of cheaper, more reliable power with less carbon emissions.

National Energy Guarantee Approval

National Energy Guarantee Approval - Malcolm Turnbull
National Energy Guarantee Approval – Malcolm Turnbull (source: yourlifechoices.com.au)

As with most political decisions in this country, there is a lot of posturing and point scoring going on – depending on who you ask, it’s either a ‘great step forward’ or the governments ‘withholding support’. Regardless of the case, the Federal Government has now released a draft of the energy bill which will be taken to next week’s party room meeting for approval. If you want to learn more about what happened with the NEG during the week, please click here

The states want to see detailed legislation and some of them have ‘red line’ conditions which must be met before they fit in to the National Energy Guarantee – there’s still a long way before any of this becomes law in Australia.

Victoria were especially strident in their remarks about the NEG. Victoria’s Energy Minister, Labor’s Lily D’Ambrosio, said agreeing to the plan today would be like signing “with a blindfold on”. advising that they won’t support it unless the following four demands are met:

  1. The emission reduction targets can only ever increase and must not decrease.
  2. Targets need to be set in regulation (this one’s going to be a bit of a problem as Energy Minister Josh Frydenberg has already rejected it).
  3. Emission reduction targets must be set every three years, three years in advance.
  4. Creation of a registry which is transparent and accessible by regulators and governments.

The emissions reduction target in the NEG is to bring down emissions in the electricity sector by 26 per cent by 2030.

COAG Energy Ministers will have another discussion after the Coalition Party Room meeting on Tuesday. Watch this space! We’ll keep you posted.

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NEG – National Energy Guarantee and its Australian Future

NEG – The future of Australia’s National Energy Guarantee hangs in the making this week as state government cabinets meet to discuss their positions on it, ahead of Friday’s Council of Australian Governments meeting.

NEG – National Energy Guarantee

The Australian is reporting that Energy Minister Josh Frydenberg has accused Labor states of “politicking and posturing” ahead of the meeting.

NEG - National Energy Guarantee - Energy Minister Josh Frydenberg
NEG – National Energy Guarantee – Energy Minister Josh Frydenberg (source: JoshFrydenberg.com.au)

“This is politicking and posturing ahead of Friday’s meeting, because the states know all well and good that what will hopefully occur on Friday is that we agree to the design of the national energy guarantee subject to a phone hook-up after the policy has been through the federal Coalition party room,” Mr Frydenberg said on ABC radio.

Mr Frydenberg continued talking about what Australia can expect from the NEG: 

“It’s a 38 million tonne reduction, but importantly it’s a $550 annual saving to Australian households and a 20 per cent reduction in wholesale prices,” he said.

He noted that there’s no reason for the state governments to cause any issues for the NEG as they will still retain the right to have their own RETs:

“Nothing in this policy prevents the states from having their own renewable energy targets. “They complement what is being done at the federal level, but we do need the federal government to maintain whole responsibility for this, because it’s a national problem and it requires a national solution, and it’s the federal government that is the signatory to Paris, not the states.”

Ed McManus, chief executive of Meridian Energy Australia and retailer Powershop, said states should back the NEG despite the emissions target being less than many of us had hoped. Mr McManus said he thinks some of the potential benefits of the NEG are already taking root in the futures market:

“I do believe some of the benefits of the NEG are already built into the forward prices. You only need look at the impact of the recent coal outages on calendar 2019 wholesale [futures market] prices, where prices have rallied $7-8 per megawatt hour,” Mr McManus said.

Labor frontbencher Michelle Rowland discussed what she sees as NEG flaws:

“We have a situation where we have very low emissions targets under this government’s policy, but in particular, this would absolutely stifle investment in renewable energy, and if you want to talk about jobs, you need those large scale renewable energy investment decisions to be made in order to drive those jobs into the future in this sector,” Mr Rowland told Sky News.

“This government wants to say it’s focused on innovation and science and all the rest of it. “Again, this shows that there is absolutely nothing joined up when it comes to their policies in this area.”

As usual it’s impossible to expect the politicians to stand up and try and make decisions to benefit the nation, so who knows what to expect ahead of Friday’s meeting. Renew Economy have a great hit piece on how the coalition have come up with the $550 / year figure. We weren’t exactly overly charitable about it when Malcolm Turnbull announced the National Energy Guarantee last year, so it’ll be interesting to see what happens over the coming weeks. Watch this space! 

 

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Western Australia Solar Subsidies may be cut – Wyatt

Western Australia Solar Subsidies look like they’re in the firing line right now – with Energy Minister Ben Wyatt advising that he supports either completely scrapping or winding back rooftop solar panel subsidies.

Western Australia Solar Subsidies

Western Australia Solar Subsidies - Synergy
Western Australia Solar Subsidies – Synergy (source: synergy.net.au)

Earlier this year the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission called to axe rooftop solar subsidies Australia-wide by 2021. Ben Wyatt said he has asked the Public Utilities Office to have an in depth look about the buyback scheme which could probably do with a bit of an overhaul, or at least a step in the right direction, technology wise.

“While the cost of solar PV systems has reduced significantly since the introduction of the Renewable Energy Target and is now considered economically viable in the absence of government subsidy, the implications of such a change need to be fully thought through, including the impact on the local solar industry,” Mr Wyatt said.

In WA, Synergy currently pays a feed-in tariff of 7.1c/kW to 240,000 households with solar – and over 70,000 customers entitled to the premium solar feed-in tariff which is 40c/kW (there’s no indication that the gov’t is looking at winding back the premium FIT). This is known as the Renewable Energy Buyback Scheme (REBS). Mr Wyatt said that Synergy are paying ‘over the odds’ for this power during hte middle of the day, when demand is low and output high. If you’d like to learn more about WA’s unique energy situation please have a look at this article.

We’re all for furthering the cause of solar, but is it worth taking a look at maybe moving some of the subsidies and tariffs towards energy storage rather than energy generation?

Ray Challen, who was the top energy adviser as the head of the Public Utilities Office up until the end of last year, said he thinks it’s time to consider the best way to continue improving our renewable generation:

“The reason for subsidising any form of behaviour is to produce some sort of greater social good, and it would be difficult to say at the moment that there is a greater social good from subsidising small-scale solar because people could do it anyway,” Mr Challen said. “Not only that but if you wanted to subsidise anything in the power sector then you would be probably subsidising batteries.”

So will we have a solar battery subsidy? It’s hard to say at this point, but many people are talking about making a change to the way we currently reward solar generators. Would a carefully managed solar battery rebate help? Watch this space…

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South Australian Virtual Power Plant Launched

Tesla’s South Australian Virtual Power Plant has begun deployment, with the first 100 Powerwalls combined with a 5kW solar array rolling out across a group of South Australian households this month. This rollout is in conjunction with the Household Storage Subsidy Scheme in South Australia.

South Australian Virtual Power Plant

South Australian Virtual Power Plant Tesla
South Australian Virtual Power Plant Tesla (source: Tesla / YouTube)

Housing SA are working with Tesla to install the distributed Powerwall tech which is going to start with a focus on public housing and will end up with arrays and Powerwalls/other batteries (read on to learn about the Household Storage Subsidy Scheme) on up to 50,000 homes. 

Another 1,000 South Australian households will have the Tesla batteries installed before July 2019, but potentially ‘in a few weeks’, according to Electrek. Lots of different figures floating around right now so we’ll update you as we hear more.

It’s actually quite similar to the 100MW / 129MWh Powerpack project in that the whole system will help stabilise the grid and provide a strong baseload of power so we don’t see the blackout issues South Australia suffered through in 2016. In this case it’s not one big project, however – many homes working together will decrease cost of electricity and ensure grid stability improves (and continues to). 

There’s also a separate scheme for other battery subsidies – underwritten by the $100 million Household Storage Subsidy Scheme. The push to help renters and low-income earners enjoy the benefits of solar has been fantastic and we’re excited to see some stats and results after the estimated 40,000 SA households receive on average $2,500 each. Please note that this particular scheme is for people who already have solar power installed and want energy storage as well and is not related to the Tesla virtual power plant.

You can watch a video Tesla released about the South Australian Virtual Power Plant – it’ll explain what the plan is and what we can expect to see next from SA and Tesla!

There’s also a video on Twitter from Nine News Adelaide where the current (Liberal) SA state government seem happy to take credit for this scheme (which was totally organised under the previous (Labor) government). Bit of an eye-roll, but then again it’s par for the course for our beloved Australian politicians.

Regardless of that, the tenant in this video had a $500+ bill for electricity every quarter, which has been reduced to $175 since having the solar system installed. So those are some fantastic numbers!

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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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Australian Solar Subsidies under fire in 2018.

Australian solar subsidies are expected to cost $1.3b in 2018 as the Clean Energy Regulator estimate that 22 million small-scale technology certificates will be created. This will add approximately $100 to the average Australian solar bill. At what point, if at all, do we look at reining these subsidies in? 

Australian solar subsidies

Australian solar subsidies - Clean Energy Regulator
Australian solar subsidies – Clean Energy Regulator (source: cleanenergyregulator.gov.au)

The small-scale technology certificates (STCs) are given to people installing solar panels, and electricity retailers are required to buy them. So although this expected $1.3b will ostensibly be paid by the energy retailers, naturally the cost is passed on to the end user – resulting in even higher electricity bills.

Jeff Bye from Demand Manager in Sydney, a company that trades STCs, was quoted in the Australian as saying this years cost increase means an average electricity bill will raise by around $100:  

“The cost increase (this year) is about $800m and there are 8 million households … so there’ll be a cost impact of around $100 per household. The electricity impact might be $40 or $50 per household but businesses will pass through the additional cost too … That subsidy of $500m last year, or $1.2bn to $1.3bn this year, is added on to everyone’s bills.”

Is it time to abolish the solar subsidies?

Is this fair for renters or apartment dwellers (a rapidly increasing segment of the population)? At what point do we start to reconsider these subsidies?

With the price of solar + storage driving down as the technology gets better and better, there’s certainly going to be a ‘tipping point’ where the market can stand on its own two feet. But with Australian solar growing at an astronomical pace it’ll be difficult to find the right time/method to adjust these subsidies.

According to Energy Minister Josh Frydenberg, the Australian Energy Market Commission found the average cost to households over the past five years was about $29 a year.

“The AEMC forecasts residential electricity prices will fall over the next two years as renewable energy, including small-scale solar supported by the Renewable Energy Target, enters the system,” Mr Frydenberg said. So potentially some of that $100 will be offset by lower prices from the energy retailers. 

His political opponents were a little less hopeful – as backbencher and former PM Tony Abbott fired back after hearing the statistics, saying:

“Australians are paying far too much for our emissions obsession. Government must end subsidies for new renewables,”

Liberal MP Craig Kelly, Chair of the Coalition’s Backbench Energy and Environment Committee, told Chris Smith on 4BC his thoughts on the scheme:

“All these schemes have done is make electricity prices dearer for every single Australian.”

Whilst those quotes can certainly be taken with more than a grain of salt given the abysmal state of Australian politics, it’s definitely worth having a look at these subsidies against the cost of solar, its level of technological maturity, and schemes to help low income earners, renters, and apartment dwellers benefit from renewable energy as well. 

 

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ACT’s Next Generation Energy Storage Program

The ACT’s Next Generation Energy Storage Program will provide solar batteries to over 5,000 homes and businesses by 2020, offering $25m of funding so ACT residents are able to take advantage of rapidly evolving solar battery technology at a subsidised price. 

Next Generation Energy Storage Program

Next Generation Energy Storage Program in the ACT (source: actsmart.act.gov.au)
Subsidised Solar Batteries – Next Generation Energy Storage Program in the ACT (source: actsmart.act.gov.au)

According to ACT Climate Change Minister Shane Rattenbury there are plans to increase the current amount of storage by up to 36x by 2020: 

“We’ve already had around 400 batteries installed across the city. It’s providing over a megawatt of storage which is both helping households cut their energy bills, manage their own energy usage, but also provide backup for the grid here in the Territory,” he said.

“The battery storage roll-out program is building on Canberra’s reputation as a globally-recognised hub for the renewable energy industry,” Mr Rattenbury was quoted as saying – noting that the program will offer support of up to $825 for each kilowatt of sustained peak output for homes and businesses who install a battery (it can be connected to a new or existing PV solar system). The government estimates that this will represent a subsidy of approximately $4,000 for an average household solar system. 

Six partners have been awarded $3m in grants to help fund the project: ActewAGL Retail, Energy Matters, EPC Solar, Evergen, ITP Renewables, Origin Energy, Power Saving Centre, and Solar Hub. EPC Solar and Evergen were already in the project, the rest are new additions. 

Mr Rattenbury also noted that this project will also help expand the virtual power plant Reposit Power and EvoEnergy are currently trialling: 

“The batteries are also contributing to the world’s largest residential virtual power plant being trialled by Reposit Power and EvoEnergy (formerly ActewAGL Distribution), which allows battery owners to sell their energy to the grid to help support the electricity network.”

For more information and how to apply, click here to download the actsmart battery storage fact sheet

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