Demand for the Victorian government’s generous rooftop PV rebates continue to far outstrip supply. The latest round of subsidies of been snapped up in less than two hours, according to industry sources, with Solar Victoria confirming that applications for grants are now closed again until September 1.
The Clean Energy Council (CEC) reports that the monthly allocation of residential PV rebates was filled within 106 minutes. It says that a large number of solar installers will go bankrupt in the state without urgent reform to the rebate system.
“Solar Homes has created a devastating boom-bust which is hitting many small solar businesses hard,” said the CEC’s Darren Gladman, in a statement.
“Because the majority of Victorians are able to access the program, people are holding off installing solar altogether until they can claim the rebates. It means the state’s solar industry is being turned on and off like a tap – and for the whole of August the tap was only on for a couple of hours.” Gladman is the CEC’s Director for Distributed Energy.
The Smart Energy Council (SEC) also released a strident statement saying that the rebate being filled so quickly is “devastating” for the state’s solar sector.
“A survey undertaken by the Smart Energy Council yesterday of 60 Victorian solar businesses found a staggering 80% of solar businesses polled have either closed or are concerned they will close as a result of the Solar Homes Program,” said Smart Energy Council Chief Executive John Grimes. “77% of businesses said staff had been made redundant or were expected to be made redundant.”
Grimes likened finding a successful applicant under the program to discovering a “unicorn”.
Both the CEC and the SEC are calling for the Andrews’ state government to urgently reform the Solar Homes program.
Last month, hundreds of solar installers took to the steps of Victorian Parliament to send the message that the rebate is in need of reform.
The SEC has said that the application system needs to be redesigned, with the process technically challenging and requiring sophisticated verification measures. The CEC noted that there were reports that some householders were unable to access the government system this morning.
Measures to reform the Solar Homes process suggested by the industry bodies include a halving of the rebate amount and doubling of the number of rebates available, and a reduction in the means tested income level at which people qualify for a rebate.
“The industry has put forward a range of options to improve Solar Homes, but the first step to fixing it is a recognition that there is a problem. We are calling on Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews to urgently intervene and lead a review to revisit the criteria for the program,” said the CEC’s Gladman.
At present, the Victorian government allows for 3,333 applicants to Solar Homes on a monthly basis – representing an artificial cap on the residential rooftop market in the state.