Victoria delivers another 4,000 rooftop solar rebates as battery offer languishes

Another 4,000 discounted rooftop solar systems have been allocated to Victorian households, with the mid-October offering of the state government’s Solar Homes rebate all but fully subscribed in little more than two hours.

The second round offer for the month – 3,250 plus surplus re-allocated rebates to make a total of 4,308 – opened at midday on Wednesday and had been whittled down to around 250 by 2pm. (*At close of business on Wednesday there were still 71 rebates open for application.)

Uptake was slower paced than at the start of the month, when a similarly sized allocation of 4,000 rebates was fully taken up in 80 minutes.

Overall, however, the scheme looks to be getting onto an even keel, less than two months after it was revamped and rebate numbers boosted in response to customer frustration and industry-wide protests.

The industry claimed the original design of the scheme, which starting in July offered only 3,333 rebates for application each month, had put an effective cap on the market, and pushed some businesses to the brink of insolvency.

As we have reported, the rebate – which offers a maximum discount of $2,225 on a rooftop solar system, for households with a combined annual income of no more than $180,000 – has been hugely popular. The July allocation was exhausted within three days, while the August allocation was snapped up in just 90 minutes.

After some resistance, Victoria’s state Labor government agreed in late August to boost the scheme by a further 23,000 rebates across the financial year, and switch to releasing two separate allocations each month, to better meet demand for discounted solar.

By October, Solar Victoria, the authority administrating the scheme, had also made amendments to the operation of the rebate website, including more detailed information about when it was overloaded.

This week, Solar Victoria also encouraged customers needing assistance with their applications to contact the organisation’s call centre staff, to get the fastest response to any questions.

In comments to One Step on Wednesday, Solar Victoria CEO Stan Krpan said the pace of uptake of the rebates had been slowing down over the past two months, even as a record number of applications were being processed.

“We’ve had a really good response since we increased the numbers in September and we’ve now processed more than 20,000 applications for rebates (in other words aproved them) since July.

“The portal performed well (today) – around 10 per cent of customers were able to go through the online process without intervention,” he added.

Krpan said things appeared to be improving for the industry too, with a “pipeline” of rooftop installations starting to build in the state.

He also noted that more than 40 per cent of the rebates were being taken up by households in regional Victoria, while in the metro regions, uptake was highest in the growth suburbs.

“This year will be a record calendar year and we’re well on track for a record financial year,” he said.

That said, Solar Victoria is aware there is still room for improvement across the scheme, including the operation of the onilne application portal.

Another issue, says Krpan, is that they are still seeing a fair number of applications drop out after two weeks, and his team is working closely to make sure that doesn’t happen.

“For a variety of reasons, some people aren’t completing their applications, and of course that means that other people are missing out.”

Krpan says people experiencing difficulties with their application are encouraged to call Solar Victoria, and get assistance from the help desk.

As for the Solar Homes’ battery storage rebate, Krpan says uptake of that offer remains very slow, with only 100 of the 200 batteries applied for so far.

Whether this stifled response to the battery offer is linked to the restricted number of postcodes allowed to apply remains to be seen.

Krpan says changes to the eligibility criteria will be announced by the energy minister in November – a month in which Solar Victoria has committed to a release of 400 discounted batteries.

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