In news that will blow the minds of many a Melbournite, Murray Plains MP Peter Walsh has asserted that Melbourne is not, in fact, the centre of the universe. Walsh is currently fuming about his electorate’s apparent refused access to the Andrew’s Labor Government’s Solar Homes rebate scheme for energy storage devices.
The news comes as a bit of a drag on a scheme that seems to have finally found its feet after almost accidentally derailing the state’s whole solar installer industry. Indeed, last month Victoria’s Minister for Energy, Environment and Climate Change Lily D’Ambrosio, unveiled a $15.3 million package to build on Solar Homes, with the aim of supporting solar installations on sports clubs, community halls, child-care centres and health facilities.
The Andrews Government claims 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. Unfortunately, nobody in Murray Plains is enjoying those same solar savings.
Walsh claims that not a single one of Murray Plains 28 postcodes can be found on the Solar Homes list of eligibility or the battery scheme, which offers up to a $4,838 rebate on a battery system. Walsh believes this is just another example of neglect inflicted on all regional people by the Melbourne-centric Andrews Government.
“There is outrage in my electorate from people who have contacted me about every single person in an Opposition held seat being excluded from a 10-year rebate program,” said Walsh.
A livid Walsh noted how much his electorate has embraced solar, and yet they don’t get the same rebate privileges as others. “The Andrews Labor Government said the battery program targeted designated postcodes with high photovoltaic penetration and population growth,” Walsh continued. “What they meant to say was the battery program targeted designated postcodes with high photovoltaic penetration and population growth – except or regional Victorians.”
Walsh is certain his electorate reaches the benchmark or solar panel uptake, but obviously, rural Northern Victoria is not exactly experiencing a population boom. But maybe rural populations would grow, Walsh suggests, if rural Victoria enjoyed the same privileges as people in Melbourne and surrounding suburbs.
When called for a reply to the comments made by Walsh by pv magazine Australia, VIC Minister for Energy, Environment, Climate Change and Solar Homes Lily D’Ambrosio said: “Any household across Victoria can apply for solar panels for their rooftop, which can save an average of $890 per year on power bills, or solar hot water – all at not upfront cost.”
D’Ambrosio may sound like she’s avoiding the question, but such is the art of politics. However, Minister D’Ambrosio may perhaps have some small leeway in avoiding the question in so far as the Solar Homes scheme may have a whole lot less to answer for than Walsh claims.
In November 2019, the Solar Homes battery rebate was expanded from its initial 24 postcodes to 104. In March 2020 this number was upped again to 247 eligible postcodes, with 70% of the additional 143 postcodes located in regional Victoria, including areas, says Solar Victoria, “surrounding Melbourne, and in the Goulburn Valley, North East Victoria, Gippsland and Barwon South West regions.”
Obviously, Walsh is passing on the valid concern of his electorate and its exclusion from currently eligible postcodes. Considering that Solar Homes is now sailing smoothly after its early debacle leaving port, it seems only a matter of time before the scheme becomes ubiquitous throughout the state. In the meantime, the Andrews Government may be forgiven for favouring centres of population growth.
In the end, let’s not blow this concern out of proportion, the salient point is that people want the Solar Homes program, people want an energy storage system to compliment their solar array, let’s work toward giving the people what they want.
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