Victorian solar rebate program concerns aired

By Ashlea Witoslawski

The Victorian Government’s new solar energy has received mixed reviews locally and statewide after the maximum rebate amount was reached within three days of offer.

Co-ordinated by Solar Victoria, the rebate program re-opened on Monday last week after a 10-week hiatus.

The new limited 3333 rebates per month for a solar power system had reached capacity by Thursday, with those eligible waiting for the next opening on August 1.

Byers Electrical solar manager Clint Dudgeon said the high demand made it difficult on businesses in the area to organise systems for their clients.

He said many were holding off in order to receive their rebate of up to $2225 next month, which caused a boom-bust effect in the market.

‘‘People aren’t prepared to hand over the money and they want to wait,’’ he said.

‘‘It makes it hard on all of us.’’

Mr Dudgeon said there was also concern about the backlog of quotes that would continue to be seen every month through this system.

‘‘As of August, there is going to be heaps waiting to get their quotes in again, if you do miss out, how long do they keep stretching it out?’’ he said.

As part of Solar Victoria’s rebate program, retailers cannot install systems or claim a rebate under the Solar Homes program until customer eligibility is confirmed by their organisation.

The new process includes several steps, which first involves the solar retailer logging into a portal and uploading the customer quote.

The customer then logs and uploads their personal eligibility and identity verification information.

Once confirmed, the customer can contact the retailer and organise installation.

The retailer then uploads payment claim information into the portal and the rebate is processed.

Mr Dudgeon said the portal had the potential to make things easier, an opinion Norvec Electrical director Jamie Fawcett shared.

Mr Fawcett said limiting the rebate also stopped the creation of a ‘‘massive bubble’’ and a false economy.

He said rebate systems could sometimes cause the increase of bad quality products and installations.

He said it was difficult for purely solar installation businesses to survive with this rebate program.

‘‘Solar is about 23 per cent of our core business,’’ he said.

‘‘We don’t have to ride the wave unlike businesses that are solely solar.’’

Mr Fawcett said investing in solar was a positive for all homes and added it had about a three-year return on investment.

He said it was important for people to choose a reliable and reputable business.

‘‘Anything with a rebate will bring the sharks out,’’ he said.

‘‘This rebate process stops marketers coming in.’’

Clean Energy Council smart energy director Darren Gladman also stressed the importance of selecting a reputable installer to help with the new rebate process.

He said this was important for future support and maintenance.

‘‘People should be cautious when they buy, get three quotes and buy from someone reputable,’’ he said.

As the peak body for the clean energy industry in Australia, Mr Gladman said his organisation was mostly supportive of this new rebate program in creating more responsible retailers and higher quality standards.

‘‘The program is the victim of its own success,’’ he said.

‘‘The demand for rebate has gone well beyond what they initially thought would be the case and there’s not enough money in the kitty.’’

Mr Gladman said the ‘‘first in, first served’’ approach worked well, but the high number of qualifying households meant a higher number of successful applicants.

According to the Solar Victoria website, eligibility criteria states the home owners have a combined household taxable income of less than $180000 per year, do not have an existing solar system and that the property be valued at less than $3million.

Mr Gladman said the rebate needed to be targeted more at lower income earners who did not have the means to invest in solar without a rebate system.

‘‘At this stage we understand they (Victorian Government) have a strong imperative to make sure that everything is delivered in full,’’ he said.

‘‘At some stage this program is going to need a review to be more successful in the future.’’