Applications have officially opened for the Victoria Labor government’s 50 per cent rooftop solar rebate, a scheme that has attracted more than 10,000 registrations of interest and a “flood of inquiries” since it was announced just three weeks ago.
Minister for Energy Lily D’Ambrosio said on Friday that eligible Victorian households who had installed solar on or after August 19 could now apply for a rebate to cover half of the cost, up to a maximum of $2225.
To be eligible for a rebate, applicants must have a household income of less than $180,000, and be the owner and occupier of the property, which must be valued at less than $3 million.
The rebates for both solar panels and solar hot water systems – applications for which D’Ambrosio said would open “shortly” – will be available until June 30 next year.
After that point the Andrews government, if re-elected, will pay the full upfront cost of a 4MW solar array, allowing households to pay off half the cost via an interest-free loan.
As we have reported, the Victorian government expects the $1.2 billion scheme to extend rooftop solar to a further 650,000 homes in the state, and add an extra 2.6GW of distributed generation capacity to the grid.
In the statement on Friday, it noted that 10,000 homeowners installing 4kW solar systems would add 40MW of new solar power to the grid – “more than the new 34MW Cohuna Solar Farm,” announced on Tuesday as part of the VRET auction.
Also announced on Tuesday was a $40 million scheme to provide subsidies of up to $5,000 to help 10,000 Victorian households install battery storage in their homes – up to $4,838 per home, depending on the size of the battery.
“Under a re-elected Labor government, the Solar Homes program will cut electricity bills with either solar panels, solar hot water or solar batteries for 720,000 homes over the next 10 years,” a state government media release said on Friday.
“We’re offering half-priced rebates on solar panels from today, to save Victorians money and give them control back over their power bills,” said D’Ambrosio in comments.
Certainly, the huge level of interest in the solar scheme, and after just three weeks, suggests the Andrews government could be onto a vote winner as it heads to the November state poll, particularly considering there is little to compete with it coming from the Matthew Guy-led Coalition opposition.
But it also underscores industry concerns that the Victorian solar rebate could have unintended consequences for the broader industry, including bringing installs to a sudden stop – while customers wait to see if Labor are re-elected, and then wait again until after June 30 next year for the no-interest loan to kick in.
Another consequence is that the inevitable rocket under sales generated by the rebate will push down prices of small-scale technology certificates, or STCs, which act as their own up-front rebate under the federal SRES scheme.
As SunWiz managing director Warwick Johnston told One Step last month, STC prices have indeed been trending downwards over the past few weeks.
But he also noted that the current softening in that market had been “entirely expected,” and was not necessarily connected to policy ructions – state or federal.
“STCs have fallen a little, but … you’ve got a market that is highly oversupplied, and it was always going to be this time of year that that oversupply was going to bite,” Johnston said.