Victorian Labor unveils solar renter scheme

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While rooftop solar has grown to near ubiquity in Australian cities, suburbs and regional centers, renters have always been left somewhat out in the cold. The Victorian Labor party, as it campaigns for re-election, has announced a new program of rebates and interest-free loans to encourage solar on rental properties.

Under the scheme announced today, owners of rental properties will be incentivized to install rooftop solar if they are able to strike a deal with their tenants.

The Victorian program proposes that renters contribute 25% to the rooftop solar array in quarterly instalments, the owner 25% up-front, while the Victorian government will foot the bill for half of the system. The renter would benefit from the cheaper power bills while the landlord benefits from the rooftop PV asset.

A media release from Daniel Andrews’ campaign explains:

“For a $4,000 panel [sic], for example, Labor will cover half, the landlord will invest $1,000 over time, and renters will pay a monthly levy totalling $250 per year for four years. The installation of solar panels will save renters up to $890 on their power bills every year, while landlords will benefit by getting panels at low cost.

The renters program is an addition to the Solar Homes program announced in August. Today it was announced that almost 11,000 people have already applied to the program.

The announcement at Gippsland Solar was quite deliberate, as the coal-producing region likely to be a community that will be on the pointy end of the transition away from coal-powered generation and towards renewables. The Victorian Labor Government has already committed to located the agency that will administer the Solar Homes program in the region.

“It is so good to come back to Gippsland Solar and see that additional staff has been put on and they’re searching for new staff again,” said Daniel Andrews at today’s press conference. “Solar panels is a very clear choice in the way that people will frame up the election and the choice they will make, a very clear contrast in the choice that they will make on the 24th of November [Victorian election date].”

“Today is about going one step further, $82 million investment so that 50,000 renters across the state will be able to access the Solar Homes policy,” continued Andrews. “They, via that agreement will save $600 each year, it’s a win-win for everyone involved.”

Environment Victoria applauded the move, noting that “for too long renters have been forgotten in the rush to embrace clean energy.

“Until now, people who rent have often missed out on smart, clean energy solutions like rooftop solar and energy efficiency upgrades. These are both essential elements of keeping household energy costs as low as possible,” said Environment Victoria CEO Mark Wakeham. “Renting is becoming more common and longer term. An important part of managing the transition to clean energy is making sure everyone benefits from it.”

The environmental lobby group also took the announcement to slam the state opposition party’s support of coal-fired generation in the state. Earlier this week, Victorian Opposition Leader Matthew Guy visited the Latrobe Valley and spoke in favour of moves to extend the life of coal generators and potentially build new coal-fired power plants.

“We need to look at places like Yallourn W for instance, or the Loy Yang power stations and whether or not we can do something better with those power stations in terms of their current emissions,” Guy was quoted as saying by The Age.

“The Victorian Liberal party still has no credible climate or energy policy, instead they’ve come out promising a new coal-burning power station in the Latrobe Valley this week,” countered Environment Victoria’s Wakeham today. “The Liberal’s are missing in action on clean energy. Their dangerous ideological stance is costing households and businesses money, and quite literally costing the earth.”

Labor’s Daniel Andrews said that the government “reserves the right” to extend the renters’ program beyond 50,000 homes if the initial rollout is successful.