Energy bill relief is being promised to low income households in New South Wales, with the state Coalition government announcing an expanded solar rebate scheme in its upcoming budget, including extra payments for homes using gas appliances.
In a move that takes the diametrically opposite policy stance to South Australia Labor last week, the Perrottet government has expanded and rebadged its efforts to get discounted solar onto the rooftops of the state’s most vulnerable households, just as soaring power prices start to hit.
Buidling on the Solar for Low Income Households scheme, the Perrottet government says the new “Energy Bill Buster” program will be opened to the roughly 1 million NSW households currently receiving the annual $285 Low Income Household Rebate.
The scheme – which in pilot form was first rolled out in five NSW regions and then, in March of this year, extended to 12 Greater Sydney LGAs and boosted by $50 million – offers these households the option to forego the energy rebate for a period of 10 years in exchange for “free solar.”
That is, an up-front, lump-sump rebate of $2850 can be put towards the installation of a 3kW rooftop PV system. And for the 2022/23 financial year, this offer will be extended to up to 30,000 eligible applicants, with the potential to grow that number if uptake is strong.
State energy minister and Treasurer Matt Kean says the exchange promises to as much as double a household’s energy savings, taking up to $600 a year off annual bills, just as they are set to soar by as much as $227 for the average NSW consumer in 2022-23.
In addition, households that use gas powered appliances can get an extra $110 discount. And for those homes not able to install solar – such as apartments – the government is offering access to $4000 in home appliance upgrades.
“People living in apartments or renting who can’t have solar installed may be eligible to swap their rebate for a suite of energy saving appliance upgrades, helping to reduce demand on the grid and lower power prices for everyone,” said Kean.
These appliances include energy-efficient fridges, dryers, air conditioners and hot water systems, as well as energy efficiency upgrades such as window shading and draught sealing.
“The NSW government is securing a brighter future for NSW families by helping boost the household budget, taking the pressure off families and small business, leaving more money in your pocket at the end of the week,” Perrottet said.
The NSW government pledge to boost access to discounted solar for some of the state’s most vulnerable households follows the decision by the newly elected Labor South Australia government to dump that state’s own version of a low-income home solar subsidy.
SA Labor stunned industry and green groups when it announced it would wind up the Switch for Solar program, which SA energy minister Tom Koutsantonis decried as “the most appalling policy.”
Koutsantonis has argued that the main reason the solar scheme is being dumped is that it had “failed,” with less than 4 per cent of the target group said to have had panels installed. But he also took a moral stance on the decision.
“I am glad that as a cabinet and as a party we are killing this scheme because this scheme that the Leader of the Opposition defends would have taken concessions off the most vulnerable people and that is just wrong,” he told Parliament last week.
“That is just wrong. If the former government wanted to hand out solar panels and batteries to people who are on concessions, then do so freely but don’t do it in exchange for their concessions. That’s immoral.”