by Graham Hunt

If you want to reduce your ecological footprint by installing items in your home such as rainwater tanks and solar cells but not sure if you can afford it, it’s worth checking if you are eligible for the many government rebates and assistance packages. The Federal and state government all have some schemes available.

The first place to find out more information about Federal rebates is https://www.environment.gov.au/rebates/index.html . You can read about available rebates in the following sections:-

•    Energy Efficient Homes Package

•    National Rainwater & Greywater Initiative

•    Renewable Energy in Remote Areas

•    Solar Panels

•    Green Loans
The Energy Efficient Homes Package provides the following:

•    Up to $1600 towards the cost of installing ceiling insulation in your own home if it has not been previously insulated or has existing insulation of negligible effect.

•    Renters and/or Landlords can apply for up to $1000 towards the cost of installing ceiling insulation for properties previously uninsulated. Landlords can apply for this rebate for more than one property.

•    If you have an existing electric storage hot water system in your home, up to $1600 towards the cost of replacing this with a new solar or heat pump hot water system.

Homeowners can apply for either the ceiling insulation or hot water rebate but not both. The insulation is to be installed by an accredited installer and should be of a standard appropriate to the location.

The National Rainwater & Greywater Initiative provides a rebate of up to $500 towards:

•    The purchase and installation of a new rainwater tank which is connected for internal reuse of the water for toilet and/or laundry use; or

•    The purchase and installation of a permanent greywater treatment system

All must be installed by a licensed plumber; the rainwater tank needs to be at least 2000L and the greywater system need to be a full treatment system (not just a diversion system) and the output needs to be either plumbed back into the house or into a sub-surface irrigation system.

Under the Renewable Energy in Remote Areas program, up to 50 per of the cost of renewable energy systems for houses, communities, not-for-profit, businesses, government and other organisations in remote locations where they are not connected to the electricity grid.

The popular Solar Panels rebate will be replaced in mid-2009 by the new Solar Credits scheme which is part of the revisions to the Mandatory Renewable Target Scheme (MRET) scheme. Under the current MRET scheme, solar panel systems receive one Renewable Energy Certificate (REC) for each mw of power created over the 15-year life of the system. Under the new scheme, systems up to 1.5 kw in size will initially receive five RECs for each mw generated. The certificates are redeemable and this provides the cash incentive for people to purchase systems.

The means test will be removed from this system and will now be open to others than just householders such as schools, businesses etc. The amount available with the RECs will be less than the previous rebate (for example a 1 kw system in Sydney would only generate RECs to a current amount of approximately $4500 compared with the full $8000 now available). There is some concern about the arbitrary generation of additional RECs under the proposed system. For more details go to – https://www.climatechange.gov.au/renewabletarget/publications/fs-ret.html

The details of the new Green Loans scheme are still to be announced. It is meant to commence mid-2009. Under the scheme, householders will be able to borrow up to $10,000 on a low interest loan to install energy and water efficiency measures in their home.

Conditional on applying for the loan is to have a detailed, quality sustainability assessment of your home. The loan can be used to purchase a whole range of options including insulation, shading devices, solar hot water heaters, Photovoltaic systems, rainwater tanks. The purpose of the sustainability assessment is to determine the most effective of these options for each particular house.

Graham Hunt is principal of GE Hunt Architect, sustainable building design, BASIX/thermal comfort assessments