NSW Solar for Low Income Households trial begins

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The NSW Government has begun its Solar for Low Income Households Trial (the Trial). The Trial, a $15 million solar scheme announced exactly a year ago, will install free solar PV systems on the rooftops of applicants from up to 3,000 low-income households. The only catch, that successful applicants must forgo their energy rebate. 

“We are committed to reducing emissions and acting on climate change,” said NSW Energy Minister Matt Kean, “while also ensuring affordable and reliable energy for the people of NSW.” 

The Trial, which will attempt to help low-income households reduce their electricity bills by installed 3 kilowatt solar systems on their homes, has strict eligibility guidelines. Successful applicants must already be receiving the Low Income Household Rebate and agree to stop receiving the rebate for ten years. Moreover, in addition to owning one’s own house that doesn’t already have a solar PV system, applicants must hold a valid Pensioner Concession Card or Department of Veterans’ Affairs Gold Card, not live in a retirement village or strata building and reside in one of the following regions: 

  • Central Coast 
  • North Coast 
  • Sydney – South
  • Illawarra – Shoalhaven
  • South Coast 

At the outset, the Trial looks about as accessible as a Viet Cong tunnel system, which is probably why the Government has already lowered their household figure to 3,000 from the original 3,400 and boosted the system strength to 3 kW from 2.5 kW. If a successful applicant so desires, they can install a larger system of up to 6 kW by special request, but they’ll need to pay the difference out of their own pocket.  

The Government is right to fiddle with the scheme, though perhaps it should’ve started with the eligibility criteria. We have already seen how sluggishly the Queensland Government’s Solar for Rentals trial is proceeding, with only 42 rebates provided in the last financial year. A trial is made redundant if the sample size is too small to provide firm test results.  

As mentioned above, successful applicants will have to waive the Low Income Household Rebate, which currently provides a $285 annual discount to their electricity bills. However, the NSW Government expects the solar systems to more than cover the savings provided by the rebate. 

As then acting Secretary of the Department of Planning and Environment Liz Develin said, “The bill savings from the rooftop solar trial are expected to be close to double the value of existing rebate savings with an average bill reduction of $600 per household per year.” 

Energy Minister Kean was optimistic the Trial is a pathway to reduce some of the prohibitive obstacles of installing a rooftop solar system. “In addition to potential savings,” said Kean, “the addition of up to 3,000 more rooftop solar systems will and more than 8 MW of renewable capacity to help support a clean, affordable and reliable electricity grid.”  

Three solar companies are set to supply and install the solar PV systems for the trail. SolarHub, operating on the South Coast, SAE Group on the North Coast and Origin Energy on the Central Coast, Sydney’s South and Illawarra – Shoalhaven.  

For more information about Trial and to see if you’re eligible to apply, see here