Hundreds of installers rally on steps of Victorian Parliament to urge Solar Homes rethink

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Over 100 solar installers took to the steps of Victoria’s Parliament today to warn that the current Solar Homes scheme is severely damaging the installation business in the state. Smart Energy Council Chief Executive noted that Victoria’s installers are some of the most efficient in the world, and run the risk of being decimated as Solar Homes artificially caps the market.

 “In Victoria, there are an average around 3500 installations a month. In Victoria you are probably the most efficient solar industry in the world and are highly competitive,” Grimes said at the Rally. He said he was “delighted” by the turnout at the rally. Grimes also took to local media to spread the message.

Overnight the CEC echoed the Smart Energy Council’s calls for a rethink to Solar Homes.

CEC Chief Executive Kane Thornton said while the intent of the program is welcome, the monthly cap of 3333 rebates for home solar systems is stifling the solar industry.

“We urge Premier Andrews to reduce the value of each rebate to make more rebates available, or to reduce the income threshold for eligibility so that the rebate is available to fewer customers. This would lessen the impact of the program on the Victorian solar industry,” Thornton said in a statement.

The potential for a rebate, despite the program’s small and monthly cap, has induced potential solar customers who ordinarily would have invested in a solar installation, to bide their time. The result has been a state-wide rush for a capped number of rebates, troughed by periods of three to four months with zero business.

It is becoming increasingly clear that the intervention by the Victorian Government into the state’s residential solar sector, though admirable in its intent, has backfired horribly. The SEC is reporting that many solar companies have been forced to shut up shop, risking jobs. Meanwhile, states and territories without rebates, like NSW and ACT, continue to thrive.

“It’s heart-breaking stuff,” said the CEC’s Thornton, “The program was designed to support the industry but unfortunately is having the opposite effect.”

Industry group Solar Cutters shares the sentiment that although the solar industry supports the Andrews Government’s “endeavour to increase the behind the meter renewable energy generation which will lower electricity costs and reduce the state’s carbon emissions,” the way in which the scheme has been rolled out has unintentionally blown out the tyres of the state’s solar industry. Or, as one SEC member put it, it is as if the “government has their foot on the accelerator and the brake at the same time.”

Possible Solutions:

Both of Australia’s renewable energy industry bodies have advocated for specific changes to fix the problem. In a statement, Thornton pointed out several ways in which Premier Andrews could take urgent action, such as reducing the annual income eligibility threshold, increasing the number of rebates available by reducing the value of each rebate, and/or bringing forward future rebates to remove the months of pent-up demand which is causing big problems.

The SEC’s Grimes has argued that the rebate application process itself, which involves downloading an app and sophisticated security measures, is prohibitively difficult and disadvantages older consumers.

Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews has indicated that while he is not against making adjustments to Solar Homes, he will put a priority on safety and quality.

“If the choice is between these criticisms or rushing the program, or essentially having it uncapped, having cowboy operators who compromise safety and quality. Well, that is not a difficult choice,” Andrews told reporters, as reported by the AAP. “Quality and safety have to come first.”