VIC government scales up solar, battery schemes in Australia’s biggest energy efficiency package


Victoria’s Andrews government will provide $191 million to expand its Solar Homes program, including an additional 42,000 rebates for rooftop solar. The funding will give a total of 140,000 households the ability to install rooftop solar panels at no upfront cost over the next two years. The package also makes small businesses eligible for 15,000 new solar rebates.

Victorians across the state will now also be able to apply for a Solar Homes battery, with the government providing 17,500 household battery rebates over the next three years, hopefully levelling out the current disparity between demand and supply in the program.

Described as the biggest household energy efficiency package in any state’s history, the new policy suite sets the tone for the state’s Covid-19 recovery budget which is set to be delivered next week.

The plan has been welcomed by industry and environment groups, hailed as shrewd form of stimulus, cutting both bills and emissions while simultaneously creating jobs.

“The Andrews Government has used its solar rebate program to improve standards for safety, quality and new technology,” Clean Energy Council Chief Executive, Kane Thornton, said in a statement. “We expect the battery rebate will also help deliver in these areas as well as strengthening and stabilising the grid.”

The Clean Energy Council said it is looking forward to working with the state government to design and implement the initiatives to ensure continued confidence in rooftop solar and batteries among industry and customers.

“Importantly, [Tuesday’s] announcement allows energy users and the rooftop solar industry to reap the benefits immediately, unlike long-term projects,” Thornton added.

In addition to the solar and battery schemes, the package also includes $335 million to replace old heaters with new energy-efficient systems, with the program specifically earmarking low-income earners. A further $112 million will be provided to improve energy efficiency 35,000 social housing properties.

Minimum efficiency standards for rental properties are also being introduced and are expected to benefit renters in around 320,000 properties considered “poor-quality.” Funding is also being provided to help set Victoria up for the move to 7-star efficiency standards for new homes.

“This pandemic has been hard enough without worrying about whether you can pay the power bill. Not only will we help cover that cost – we’ll help Victorians make their home more efficient and fight climate change,” Minister for Energy, Environment and Climate Change, Lily D’Ambrosio, said in a statement.

Cam Walker, campaigns coordinator at Friends of the Earth, called the package a “win-win,” delivering both climate action and economic relief.

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