Solar rebate debate: It's nothing to do with men in tights

Canberra just loves a Robin Hood reference. Nothing paints a better picture on policy than the thought of merry men in tights. But in recent weeks we’ve been introduced to a whole new episode in public policy folklore featuring none other than the menacing ‘Reverse Robin Hood’.
If you listen to a few squeaky wheels in the Coalition caucus you could be led to believe that Robin’s villainous alter ego comes in the form of solar rebates.
This (limited but loud) school of thought is suggesting that solar rebates predominately exist to serve the rich, whilst low income households find themselves footing the bill for benefits they cannot afford to reap.
As the Co-Founder of ShineHub, a Community Solar organisation primarily focused on making household solar affordable and accessible for all Australians, I can attest to this notion being entirely incorrect. In fact, rebates empower the solar industry to offer real solutions for those most in need.
Unfortunately, debates around rebates often dominate public discussion on the topic of household solar. We continually see reports of rebates getting slashed or increased, reduced or extended. But, we don’t often hear about the genuine impact they make within our communities.
With the support of rebates, my team at ShineHub has been able to develop a number of solar solutions specifically targeted at low income households.
Most notably, we have developed a scheme called ‘Free Access Fixed Rate,’ which enables households to have a solar and battery system installed entirely free of charge. No loans, no tricks, no gimmicks – they simply pay for the energy the system produces at a low fixed rate.
We’re seeing households (high income and low income alike) instantly reducing their electricity bills by up to 30 per cent, without paying a single cent upfront. Without rebates, schemes like this would not be financially viable.
When we tell people about this scheme they literally don’t believe it. They are so blinded by the assumption that solar is unaffordable that they can’t wrap their heads around being offered a free system and a drastically reduced energy rate.
The fact is, it is entirely possible to develop schemes like this where ‘everyone wins’. But, in order to do so, government support is vital.
When we visit local communities and explain our solar affordability initiatives we often see an outpouring of emotion. At a recent event in Adelaide a woman named Cassandra literally burst into tears as a wave of relief came over her.
Like many Australians, she had been a victim of ‘power poverty’, sacrificing her quality of life to pay her electricity bills. She attended our information evening as a long shot – knowing that solar could be her solution, but assuming it would always be financially out of reach.
There is nothing more rewarding than being able to tell people like Cassandra that we can help them. The reason we can do this is because government rebates empower us to do so.
The reality is Australia is in the midst of an energy crisis. Everyday Australians are suffering at the hands of greed, mismanagement and misinformation. Everyone is looking for a solution, but low income households desperately need one.
There is a well ingrained myth in Australian society that household solar is prohibitively expensive, but when government funding supports innovation this simply isn’t the case.
When we look to the future of solar in Australia, we don’t see Robin Hood fleecing the rich, nor his alter ego robbing the poor, we see government and industry working together to give every Aussie a fair go.
If we have to choose a man in tights to paint our policy picture, we’ll go with Captain Planet – because with our powers combined power poverty will be a thing of the past.
Alex Georgiou the Co-Founder of ShineHub

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