NSW to trial free rooftop solar systems for low income households

The NSW Government has opened the Solar for Low Income Solar trial to applicants, with the government offering pensioners and veterans the opportunity to have rooftop solar installed for free.

Under the trial, the NSW government will offer a free 3kW rooftop solar installation to up to 3,000 low income households, with households expected to save more than $300 a year on their electricity costs.

To be eligible to participate in the trial, applicants must own their own home, and hold a valid Pensioner Concession Card or Department of Veterans’ Affairs Gold Card.

In return for receiving a free solar installation, households must agree to forego the Low Income Household Rebate, which is currently worth up to $285 a year, for a period of 10 years.

Using this arrangement, the NSW government can recover most of the cost of the solar installation by avoiding the need to pay rebates to households, while the households benefit from the reduced cost of electricity.

Participants in the trial will be able to install an ‘upsized’ system of up to 6kW, but the NSW government will only cover the costs of the first 3kW.

“For low income households the cost of buying and installing a rooftop solar system can be prohibitive, so we’ve set up this trial so more of these homeowners can unlock the savings benefit offered by rooftop solar generation,” NSW energy minister Matt Kean said.

“In addition to potential bill savings, the addition of up to 3,000 more rooftop solar systems will add more than 8 megawatts of renewable capacity to help support a clean, affordable and reliable electricity grid.”

The trial will operate in five regions, the NSW Central Coast, North Coast, South Coast, Sydney-South and the Illawarra-Shoalhaven.

It represents a slightly scaled back trial, with the NSW Government saying at the time the trial was first announced they had a target of up to 3,400 households participating under the scheme, but this has been offset by offering households larger systems (3kW compared to an original offer of 2.5kW).

The NSW Government will work with a dedicated installer in each of the five regions, with Origin Energy serving the Central Coast, Sydney South and Illawarra-Shoalhaven regions, the SAE Group serving the North Coast and SolarHub serving the South Coast.

“Through the Solar for Low Income Households Trial we will unlock the environmental and economic benefits of clean energy for more homes in NSW,” Kean added.

To participate in the trial, households can register their interest via the NSW Government energy website and will be referred to the relevant installers.

As part of its election commitments, the NSW Government intends to offer interest free loans for the installation of solar and battery storage to all eligible NSW homes, but has been slow to reveal the details of the program.

NSW homeowners will be able to apply for loans of up to $9,000 towards the installation of a battery system, and up to $14,000 for a combined solar and battery system. The program will be means capped for households with income of up to $180,000.

The NSW Government is aiming to launch the Empowering Homes loan program by the end of the year.

The initiatives form part of the NSW Government’s wider support for clean energy, drawing upon the $1.4 billion Climate Change Fund.

At the beginning of the month, the NSW Government revealed its shortlist of large-scale energy projects, including a collection of pumped-hydro and battery storage projects to boost the amount of low-emissions dispatchable power in the state.

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