Victorian protests over solar rebate woes to continue this week

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Following last week’s rally on the steps of the Victorian parliament, the Smart Energy Council (SEC) and industry group Solar Cutters are all set to continue the fight for a workable solution for the Victorian Solar Homes scheme this week. A new rally has been scheduled for Thursday at 11 a.m. in front of Premier Daniel Andrews’ office.

The second protest will be held in the wake of the August round of the Solar Homes program, which saw the solar rebate quota filled at the speed of light in only 90 minutes. With no new rebates available before September, the industry bodies have warned that a large number of solar installers will go bankrupt in the state without urgent reform to the rebate system.

As shown by a survey of 60 Victorian solar businesses undertaken by the SEC on the last day of July, 88 % stated the rebate scheme had a negative effect on business. As many as 78% polled are facing closure as a direct result of the scheme.

“For the past three months businesses have had no income because the phones have stopped ringing. Why buy solar if the government will give you $2225 for it? No one is buying.  But wages still have to be paid, as do rents and bills,” SEC Chief Executive John Grimes said at the previous rally. “Some businesses have recorded a 95 per cent drop in activity. Companies are being put into liquidation – that means people are out of work.”

Measures to reform the Solar Homes process suggested by the industry bodies include 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. On top of this, industry voices have called for streamlining the technically challenging application process and verification measures.

“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,” Darren Gladman, Clean Energy Council’s Director for Distributed Energy, said earlier.

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.