Brunswick MP highlights solar homes program needs urgent restructure

August 15, 2019 at 2:23 pm Leave a comment

Solar installs in contraction due to poor implementation of Solar Homes Package

Brunswick Greens MP Tim Read has highlighted in state parliament the urgent need for the solar hones program to be restructured.

This is a flagship program by the Labor’s Dan Andrews Government for residential uptake of solar panels and growing renewables in Victoria. But the program is so popular and demand is being capped so that it is driving renewables installation businesses to the wall. The industry and jobs are in contraction.

While the Liberal Party MPs and Leader of the Opposition criticise the scheme for the impact on the small installation businesses, this is in stark contrast to their lack of action when they were in government in promoting residential or utility scale renewables.

The criticism by Dr Read is that the scheme is vital, but has been implemented badly in terms of producing a series of short boom and bust cycles which provide no business certainty for small scale solar intallation businesses.

There is a substantial demand for residential solar, but the scheme may actually be hindering even faster adoption and rollout of residential solar.

The August rebates for solar installations ran out in just two hours according to Renew Economy article. In this article Warwick Johnston articulates four possible ways out of the mess, including: Get rid of the Solar Homes Package entirely; Change the number (quantum) of rebates available over the course scheme; Lower the eligibility threshold for the scheme so that fewer Victorian homes will be eligible (thereby reducing demand for rebates); Change the amount (value) of each rebate.

Tim Read articulates some of these solutions, but also adds using government purchase for solar such as on schools and other government buildings to fill up the slack.

“bring forward some of the spending planned for future years, increase the number of rebates, and if it is too expensive, consider reducing the size of the rebates and/or tightening the means test. Or purchase some panels for schools and public housing as well, to create work and cut power bills for those who need it most.”- Tim Read

Residential solar installations are actually in contraction according to a report by Green Energy Markets Ric Brazzale reported in ReNew Economy.

“The solar industry in Victoria is currently going through a contraction period, which will continue for some time as the Victorian government has announced a cap of 42,000 rebates for the 2019/20 financial year.

“The government’s policy commitment was to support 650,000 PV systems over 10 years, and it appears that this has been considerably back ended.”

What is clear is the scheme needs to be adjusted to provide a measure of certainty for those employed in the industry. Labor speaks about the need for a just transition, but this also needs to be applied in hour programs are implemented such as the solar homes package.

50 percent renewables target by 2030 legislated

Ironically, this week the State government legislated a 50 per cent renewables energy target for Victoria by 2030, to add to the VRET — the Victorian renewable energy target — of 25 per cent by 2020, 40 per cent by 2025. So in the 5 years from 2020 to 2025 renewables are to grow by 15 per cent, but the five years to 2040, to grow by only 10 per cent.

The 2030 target for Victoria is far to conservative. We have a climate emergency, we should be aiming at 100 per cent renewables by 2030 and closure of all coal fired power stations by then and be well advanced in the phase out of fossil gas use.

We remind Minister for Energy and Environment Lily d’Ambrosio that she signed the climate emergency declaration last year. She needs to take action accordingly.


Dr READ (Brunswick) (19:12): (882) My adjournment matter is for the Minister for Energy, Environment and Climate Change and Minister for Solar Homes, and the action I seek is a restructure of the Solar Homes program to enable greater reductions in greenhouse emissions by installing more solar panels more cost-effectively.

Average annual rainfall across Victoria has declined by 100 to 600 millimetres in the past 50 years. Bushfires are starting earlier in spring and burning later in autumn and they are burning hotter.

Droughts and fires are costing us dearly and will steadily erode state budgets in the years to come as temperatures rise. We face a climate emergency, yet we burn over a million tonnes of coal a week. We do not talk about it much, but that is creating about half of the state’s greenhouse emissions.

The Labor government have trumpeted their Solar Homes program as their flagship response to climate change, and we need renewable energy to replace coal power. So the Solar Homes program is vital, but the community needs to see we are getting the greatest possible emission reductions for every dollar we spend. Losing community confidence in renewable energy and climate action will set us back for years, so it must not fail. The program stopped in April, resumed in July for three days and then in August subsidies ran out in under 2 hours. The government has a responsibility to future generations to get this right.

Industry groups say buyers are choosing to wait, putting installers out of work. Some installers have contacted me, saying they are laying off staff and some are going out of business. The current ration of generous subsidies appears to be doing more harm than good to the industry and to have been inadvertently suppressing installations since April. Clearly there is a demand for solar panels and the government needs to respond to community demand for ambitious climate action. So bring forward some of the spending planned for future years, increase the number of rebates, and if it is too expensive, consider reducing the size of the rebates and/or tightening the means test. Or purchase some panels for schools and public housing as well, to create work and cut power bills for those who need it most.

It will cost money, but inaction will cost more. Think of the cost of doing too little, too late to fight global heating and think of the effects on farms, forests, fisheries, foreshores and future generations, and investing in the Solar Homes program sounds like more than a bargain; it sounds essential.

Entry filed under: 100% renewables, Labors Climate Record, news, Policy, renewable energy, solar power. Tags: , , , .

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