Victoria’s Solar Homes ‘annexe’ to help boost the state economy

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When you’re on a good thing … expand it! Last week , Victoria’s Minister for Energy, Environment and Climate Change Lily D’Ambrosio, unveiled a $15.3 million package to build on its Solar Homes program, with the aim of supporting solar installations on sports clubs, community halls, child-care centres and health facilities in the state — stimulating employment opportunities, and saving Victorians money on their home and community electricity bills.

D’Ambrosio said in a statement: “Solar panels are delivering significant savings for Victorians – particularly at the moment, with people staying home to slow the spread of coronavirus.” 

The state government says in its announcement that since the Solar Homes program was introduced in 2018, “More than 79,000 Victorian households have installed rebated solar panels, batteries and solar hot water systems,” with annual energy-bill savings from solar systems running at up to $890 per household per annum.

The latest package of clean-energy stimulus is spread over a number of building categories:

  • Sports clubs and community halls will benefit from $10.3 million for energy efficiency and affordability improvements, including solar installations on public buildings on crown land. 
  • Public housing and high-rise properties will share in $4 million dedicated to energy efficiency upgrades for hot water systems and lighting.
  • Regional communities have been allocated $1 million through the New Energy Jobs Fund to assist with renewable energy projects on buildings such as child-care and health centres. The fund is intended to create jobs across the Gippsland, Loddon Mallee, Grampians, Hume and Barwon South West.

Since it was introduced as part of the Andrews Labor government reelection campaign in 2018, Solar Homes has been both extremely popular and controversially managed.

The second round of the program got off to a rocky start in mid-2019, when it reopened after an oversubscribed round one, but placed a monthly cap on rebates for home solar systems which threatened to stifle the state’s installers.

Applications for the program are reported to have peaked this month as Australians seek to reduce their outgoings and improve their properties during the Coronavirus pandemic.

The government quipped that the solar panels so far installed under its Solar Homes initiative would cover the playing field of the Melbourne Cricket Ground about 125 times over.

While the MCG remains silent during these challenging times, D’Ambrosio said, “Our investment in renewable energy and solar panels will create jobs and help reduce power bills.”