New South Wales households looking to make the plunge into solar and battery storage have an interesting new option on the table, after the launch of a zero upfront cost package deal from EnergyAustralia was opened to eligible customers.
The Solar Home Bundle deal, simply called “On,” is being rolled out to three regions in NSW – Sydney, Central Coast and Hunter – after an initial trial was “embraced” by customers and even rated a mention from comparison site Finder in its innovation awards.
The newly expanded deal offers eligible customers (and we’ll get to that bit later) a 5.67kW rooftop solar system using Tier 1 panels (no particular brands mentioned), an Alpha-ESS inverter, and a 10.1kWh Alpha-ESS battery valued at $14,820, installed by Clean Energy Council accredited installers.
Customers pay nothing for the system up front, but rather pay a monthly bill for all of the electricity they use – be it from solar or battery or grid – at a flat rate of 26.9 cents per kWh and a daily supply charge of $0.73.
This arrangement is spread over a period of seven years, at the end of which time the system becomes the property of the customer.
According to the On Solar Home Bundle website, this works out to be roughly 5.5% cheaper than the average retail plan for the average residential customer in the Ausgrid area using 3,900kWh a year. (Although to be eligible for On, a household’s annual usage must be at least 7,500kWh.)
EnergyAustralia says the idea of its “game changer” offer is not only to offer households a way in to solar and storage without the big up-front cost, but also to take the stress out of the process, including product selection, installation and maintenance. Monitoring is also included, with “weekly insights” into each household’s energy use.
“When it comes to getting solar and batteries it can be hard to know where to start. It’s complicated and confusing – not to mention expensive. With our Solar Home Bundle we’ll do the hard work for you,” said EnergyAustralia chief customer officer Mark Brownfield in a statement last week.
“We trialled the offer initially to a small number of people to see if we were on the right track. We were – they loved it, saying it felt like it was too good to be true. They were looking for a catch, but there wasn’t one,” he added.
“Homeowners continue to use their electricity and be charged for it like they were before. They pay a discounted rate for their usage, regardless of whether it comes from the grid, solar or battery. And the usage rate won’t increase while they’re on the seven-year plan.
“This is a great thing, especially for families with kids home-schooling and adults working from home, consuming lots of electricity. And it’s a great feeling to know you’re helping the environment by powering your home with the sun.”
This is a decent pitch, particularly in light of the past two years of on-and-off lockdowns and a future work landscape that looks like being permanently altered, for many people, in terms of time spent working from home. It is a particularly good deal for those households also considering buying an EV.
To our rough calculations, over the seven year period, a customer using the stipulated minimum of 7,500kWh a year would pay around $2,500 a year for the battery, inverter, solar system, installation and maintenance – and grid access and electricity – and wind up with a decent quality solar and battery system at the end of it. Although they might want to rein in their electricity usage after that point!
In return, EnergyAustralia gets some “sticky” customers – although they’re not technically locked in for the seven year period, they can quit in return for a “one-off payment” that buys out the system; and the batteries installed join the gen-tailer’s NSW Virtual Power Plant, and are used help support the grid.
So, what are the catches? Not so much a catch but a barrier for some, is the list of eligibility critera. To be able to sign up, customers must have neither solar nor a battery already installed; must own and have lived in their home for at least six months, have an average daily electricity usage of 21kWh or more and; live in an eligible NSW postcode (you can check that pretty easily on the site).
Other conditions that will exclude households from the deal are having a resident at the home dependent on life support equipment, and being a concession card holder or eligible for other government rebates required by a government to be administered by an energy retailer
Those who can sign up must then also agree to pay their monthly bill by direct debit and agree to get their bills and any other correspondence by email.