Ray of hope, as Premier hints at changes to Victoria solar rebate

The Victorian government has shown signs of meeting at least one of the demands of the solar industry, as calls for urgent changes to the state’s rooftop PV rebate intensify.

With plans brewing for a second “bigger” public protest against the Solar Homes scheme on Thursday, reports emerged on Tuesday that Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews had hinted at a possible amendment to its design.

Industry opposition to the policy – which offers a $2,225 discount on rooftop solar panels for households earning less than $180,000 a year – has reached fever pitch, after the second month’s allocation of 3,333 rebates was completely exhausted in under two hours.

Solar installers and retailers say the stop-start effect of the capped monthly offer is killing business in the state – a claim that is now being reflected in the latest installation data from the Clean Energy Regulator.

A second public rally is being staged by the Smart Energy Council on Thursday – this time targeting the Premier’s office – to again call for urgent changes to the design of the rebate.

Demands include the removal of any red tape involved in applying for the solar rebate – in this case, an overly complex and glitchy online application process – and to at least halve the dollar amount of the rebate, and/or double the number available.

The state Labor government and the body appointed to oversee the scheme, Solar Victoria, have so far stood firm on its design, arguing that it was achieving its primary goal of helping more Victorian households afford to install solar.

But with another public protest in the works, and more and more stories emerging of solar businesses doing it tough, Andrews appears to be considering making concessions.

“I am happy to look at expanding the number of installations each month but I will only do that if I can be completely confident that high quality can be observed,” the AAP reported on Tuesday.

“There’s a delicate balance to be struck here.”

What, exactly, Andrews means by this – and just how seriously he is considering making this change – are unclear, and One Step has contacted both the state energy minister Lily D’Ambrosio and Solar Victoria for further comments.

It should be noted, however, that the Premier’s office was responsible for the design of the system, developed ahead of last year’s state election.

In the meantime, the SEC looks set to proceed with the planned Thursday protest, to “demand change” to the system, so retailers wouldn’t go broke and be forced to fire more workers.

“We need action within days, not weeks or months,” said SEC chief John Grimes in a statement.

“I just don’t know how much longer the solar industry can hang in there.

“The allocation for August was exhausted in around 90 minutes. Now, installers are sweating on the Premier doing the right thing, and increasing the allocation.

“Solar installation businesses should be going back to work. Instead, they’re being offered support through services like Lifeline and Beyond Blue to ensure they are able to deal with the stress of the uncertainty with the current solar rebate scheme.

“Our message to the Premier is simple, just fix it.”

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