Suspicions grow that Solar Homes being gamed

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Some Victorian installers, who were previously performing 30 or more installations a month, have received zero new customers in August via the Solar Homes rebate portal. The result: the whole month is a write off.

These are just some of the horror stories emerging as the pushback to the scheme, which few doubt as being well intended, continues to build.

John Grimes, CEO of the Smart Energy Council, estimates that the Solar Homes rebate scheme, rather than bolstering the state’s residential solar segment, will cost around 1000 jobs. He empathises with a pained and angry Victorian solar industry and is hearing tales of woe on an almost daily basis.

“We’re in close contact with solar business owners,” said Grimes, “who are deeply distressed that they could be forced to close, lay off even more workers and incur heavy losses.”

Jack Long, co-founder of Solar Cutters, a solar industry community group and campaigner against the runout of the rebate, says that the sense of overwhelming frustration among established installers. Some report that they “obtained pitiful numbers on D-Day, resulting in near zero new install work for the entire month.” Many emotional and exasperated installers are “dumfounded”, said Long, “at the sheer speed the rebates went in.”

According to Solar Cutters, there are increasing suspicions among some installers that “dubious operators [are] ‘harvesting’ and ‘gaming’ the initial stages to scoop up allocations, as quick as 50 rebates going a minute”, noted Long.

A lack of clarity from Solar Victoria regarding percentages and breakdown of allocations doesn’t help to alleviate growing scepticism. It is understandably that some installers, in their desperation, are tempted to look for foul play.

Of course, it is not just the installers and potential new solar consumers that are feeling the pinch of this unintentional dog’s breakfast of a scheme. Long emphasised the long-term issues arising for existing solar consumers who are being left in the lurch by quality operators going out of business and leaving them without warranty and system support.

The Smart Energy Council is attempting to keep the attention firmly focused on the government. “Minister Lily D’Ambrosio has ignored our concerns and blamed business owners,” claims Grimes, “That’s inappropriate blame shifting. If the Minister can’t fix this, we’re taking it to the next level and taking our message to the Premier.”

Attendees to Thursday’s rally at Premier Daniel Andrews’ office reported the success of the event and the sensational job the speakers did at conveying the issues at hand. Members from both the Liberal and Greens parties spoke, as well as Ryan Akers of Greenhouse Electrical Services who spoke for the Solar Cutters. Approximately 200 Victorian solar installers and disgruntled solar consumers attended the rally.