Revised Victoria solar rebate tripped up by “technical difficulties”

Victoria’s troubled rooftop solar rebate program has hit another snag, with “technical difficulties” taking the online application portal out of action on the first day of the expanded September offering.

Soon after opening up 6,500 rebates for application at 9am on Monday – almost double the amount offered for the whole of August – Solar Victoria posted a note on social media channels acknowledging a problem with the site.

“We are aware some customers are having difficulty selecting their chosen solar retailer and retrieving their quote. Our team is working to resolve this and we will keep everyone updated. Thank you for your patience,” a message said.

The portal was then taken offline, to resolve the issues. The latest update from Solar Victoria – posted at around 2pm – said the site’s developers were still working to fix the problems, and that an update on any progress would be provided as soon as possible.

Solar Victoria has also said that rebates were not being allocated until the problem was fixed.

The technical snafu – and the hundreds (and counting) of less than patient messages being posted in response to it on Facebook – delivers a fresh blow to the Labor government’s Solar Homes policy, which has been dogged by controversy since its official launch in July.

As we reported here, the Andrews government last Wednesday announced it would almost triple the amount of rooftop solar rebates on offer to the state’s households for the month of September, as part of a raft of changes to the troubled scheme.

State energy minister Lily D’Ambrosio said an additional 23,000 rebates would be opened up to application across the financial year, and that Solar Victoria would release two separate rebate allocations each month, to better meet demand for discounted rooftop solar.

The new regimen was to have kicked off this morning, with 6,500 applications on offer for the first half of the month, and then another 3250 rebates in two weeks time, taking the total to 9750 rebates across the month.

All up, the increased allocation of rebates boosts the total number being offered across the 2019 financial year to a total of more than 60,000, an increase of more than 50 per cent.

The changes were made in response to heavy criticism of the original design of the policy, which from July had offered 3,333 rebates of up to $2,225 off the cost of residential rooftop solar installations.

Industry claimed that the small number of rebates offered up each month – and in August, the month’s allocation of rebates was taken up completely within just two hours – had effectively put a cap on the market, and forced some businesses into liquidation.

Two separate public protests were held against the scheme, to demonstrate the urgent need for changes to the number of rebates made available each month, and to the application process itself.

Comments on Monday on the Solar Victoria Facebook page reveal a build-up of frustration with the scheme, with many customers trying for the third month in a row to apply via the online portal for a rooftop solar rebate.

A number of comments suggest people have taken time of work to try to ensure their application was successful.

Once the problems with the site are under control, all eyes will be on the rebate numbers, and on how quickly this month’s expanded offering is exhausted.

The industry response to the government’s changes to the rebate were overwhelmingly positive, but it remains to be seen whether they will deliver any relief to retailers and installers that have been doing it tough.

Solar Victoria and the state government will no doubt be hoping that demand will start to even out, and that the broader residential market will start to regain its previous momentum.

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