Glimmer of hope as pressure, frustration mounts for Vic installers

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Oversubscription is a sign of popularity, but if it leaves many missing out then it can lead to frustration. It could also lead to change, and in the case of the Victorian Government’s Solar Homes program the state’s residential PV installers are hoping for the latter.

Installers protested again in the Melbourne CBD yesterday, this time turning up at Premier Andrews’ office at 1 Treasury Place. The good news is that it appears that the state Premier appears to be considering making changes to the Solar Homes scheme.

On Tuesday, Andrews told reporters that he had “always anticipated” making changes to the program – noting that the program is set to run for 10 years, and it has only been running for five months.

“I’m happy to look at expanding the amount of installs each month,” Andrews said. “But I will only do that if I can be completely confident that high quality will be observed and safety will be observed.”

Speaking at yesterday’s rally, the Smart Energy Council’s John Grimes reacted angrily to Premier’s musings. The solar body has been warning for some weeks that many solar installers in the state are suffering as the Solar Homes program is acting as an artificial cap on the market.

“Don’t tell us that this is something that maybe, maybe, maybe they will consider,” said Grimes. “Act, as it is only through action that this gets fixed.”

Attending the event was solar installer Ryan Atkins, proudly sporting a Solar Cutters’ hoodie. He said that while the government was “in a bit of ‘rock and hard place situation’ because they’ve made a commitment to the electorate,” but that he hoped that rebate was reduced and number of rebates increased. Solar Cutters joined the Smart Energy Council in supporting Thursday’s protest.

“Ideally they will scrap it altogether, but I don’t see that happening there would be too much backlash,” said Atkins. He noted that many Victorian solar businesses were, “in a pretty tough place,” but that they were trying to hold on to save jobs.

Frustration is presumably building among homeowners interested in signing up to the scheme, worth up to $2,225 for a rooftop PV system. With the August allocation fully subscribed in 90 minutes, many would have missed out leaving them waiting for at least another month before going solar. Currently, 3,333 residential installations qualify for a grant under the Solar Homes program each month.

The Smart Energy Council has also complained of the complicated nature of the application and verification process – arguing that it particularly disadvantages older people who may not be tech savvy.

While the pressure being exerted by the Smart Energy Council, Solar Cutters and the Clean Energy Council is admirable, and the pain being experienced by installers real, it is perhaps voter frustration at being shut out of the Solar Homes program that may push the government to reform Solar Homes. Harnessing that frustration is the challenge.