Rooftop solar, battery quotas revealed as Victoria prepares to reopen rebate scheme

New details have emerged for the next phase of the Victorian government’s Solar Homes subsidy scheme, which takes full effect – including offers of battery storage rebates and no-interest solar loans – starting July 01.

The Andrews Labor government said the first full year of the decade-long program would use a staggered approach, guided by set quotas of 3,333 rooftop solar systems per month, to deliver another 40,000 for private homes and community-owned housing in 2019/20.

The battery rebate – which offers discounts of up to $4,838 for a battery to households with existing solar systems – will also be carefully managed, with a roll-out to 1000 homes in the first year, within a limited selection of postcodes. Set numbers for monthly battery quotas have not yet been publicly revealed.

According to the Solar Victoria website, the postcodes (see list below) were chosen to target “growth areas” in the state, and suburbs with a high penetration of residential rooftop solar already established. Other locations may be added to the list in future, as they become eligible.

Energy minister Lily D’Ambrosio said this coordinated and meted approach, both with solar PV and batteries, had been designed to provide certainty about the availability of rebates to consumers and the solar industry.

Solar Victoria was no doubt informed in this approach by the less-than positive industry and consumer reaction it received in April, when the hugely popular subsidy – snapped up by more than 30,000 in its first six months – was abruptly closed to new applications for the three months to July.

This sudden pause had the effect of leaving the state’s solar retailers and installers in the lurch, as consumers held off investing until the rebate was re-opened.

To its credit, however, the state government has kept the dialogue open with industry, and taken measures to minimise the “solar coaster” effect that rooftop solar policy decisions are notorious for causing.

And Solar Victoria, the Latrobe Valley authority set up by the government to administer the scheme, in May named its CEO as Stan Krpan – a veteran of Sustainability Victoria and key architect of the Solar Homes rebate.

Krpan has also promised that Solar Victoria will continue to be vigilant about weeding out “cowboy” operators, attracted to the industry by the rebate. And to ensure that consumers are not misled on the terms of the rebate by dodgy marketing tactics.

In its statement on Tuesday, the state government said it had simplified the application process to make it easier for households to apply, with the rebate now submitted by the retailer at the point of sale, instead of the onus being put on the customer.

Further – as was established earlier this year – solar and battery systems can only be installed by Clean Energy Council accredited installers using Solar Victoria approved products.

To be eligible for both the solar and battery discounts, households must have a combined annual income of less than $180,000, and the home must be existing and worth less than $3 million.

And households can only apply for one rebate under the scheme – so homes that have accessed cheap rooftop PV through Solar Homes cannot apply for discounted battery storage.

Another new addition to the scheme starting July is the solar loans program, which gives eligible householders the option to apply for an interest-free loan equivalent to the amount of their rebate.

According to Solar Victoria, households approved for the rooftop solar subsidy will be offered the option to apply for a loan amount of up to $2,225, which – depending on the size and cost of their system – could mean no up-front cost for rooftop PV.

Beyond solar and batteries for home owners, the scheme also aims to deliver 2,000 rooftop solar systems on rental properties, and to fund 6,000 homes to get solar hot water systems installed.

For the solar industry, Solar Victoria has released an updated Notice to Market – which the Smart Energy Council has today described as “essential reading” – to advise on changes to approved products lists and mandatory eligibility (and recommended) requirements for installers and retailers.

Updates include a second key requirement (mandatory) for inverters used in rooftop solar systems installed under the scheme, to help distribution networks accommodate higher levels of solar PV penetration in the future, by requiring new capabilities of inverters.

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