While the federal government goes into leadership meltdown over climate and energy policy the Victorian government over the weekend went the other way, launching a massive solar panel and hot water rebate ahead of the state election on 24 November.
The new Solar Homes program, worth $1.24 billion, means households will be able to install half price solar panels and pay back the remaining cost over four years with an interest-free loan.
For 650,000 eligible recipients, this scheme could save households as much as $890 a year on electricity bills and a further $2225 on the cost of installing residential solar systems.
The government claims this will cut Victoria’s carbon emissions by almost four million tonnes – the same as taking one million cars off the road – and generate 12.5 per cent of the state’s 40 per cent target for renewable energy by 2025.
The state government will also offer 60,000 households a $1000 rebate to install a new solar hot water system. The 10-year $60 million package is expected to save the average Victorian household between $160 and $400 a year off their electricity bills.
The solar hot water system rebate is pitched at home-owners who are missing out on the cost savings of home solar because their roofs aren’t suitable for solar or are shaded.
As well as individual households, not-for-profit community housing providers will also be eligible to apply for a rebate on behalf of their tenants.
The rebates are available immediately and will be administered by a new independent agency, Solar Victoria, which will work with industry, regulators and training organisations to deliver the program.
The announcement was welcomed by Dr Ariel Liebman, director of the Monash Energy Materials and Systems Institute (MEMSI) and Monash Innovation Hub, who told The Fifth Estate that the scheme gives the less affluent members of society access to the cost-saving benefits of rooftop solar.
“At this stage, there is no downside to this scheme,” said Dr Liebman.
“Although I think I’d like to see government helping with the rental sector a bit more. But this is very challenging due to the split-incentive. It’s a very complex framework… I’m not exactly sure what this would be.”
Community-based organisation Solar Citizens also welcomed Victoria’s unwavering commitment to renewables.
“The only certain way to bring down your energy bill is by going solar,” said Solar Citizens national director Joseph Scales.
“Unfortunately, many people are locked out of enjoying the benefits of cheaper energy bills that solar provides because they can’t afford the upfront cost. The Andrews Government has today provided a simple but significant answer to that,” explained Mr Scales.
“While the Turnbull Government is actually making it harder for people to go solar, by cutting the Small-scale Renewable Energy Scheme (SRES) and disincentivising solar through the National Energy Guarantee, we are once again relying on leadership of states.”
The Commonwealth’s escalating energy policy crisis
Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull’s leadership is currently on shaky ground thanks to the federal government’s intensifying energy policy crisis.
On Monday Mr Turnbull announced that climate change targets would be removed from the NEG. Targets will now be put into a regulatory framework rather than bound into the NEG legislation.
The decision is designed to keep Liberal conservatives happy, who according to widesparead reports, have been encouraging Home Affairs minister Peter Dutton to challenge Mr Turnbull’s leadership over the NEG issues.
A slump in support for the PM in the Fairfax-Ipsos poll casts further doubt on the future of the Turnbull government. The Coalition primary vote has dropped from 39 per cent to 33 per cent.
The decoupling of climate change targets from NEG legislation “is precisely what is needed”, according to Australian National University professor Ken Baldwin, director of the Energy Change Institute and the deputy director of the Research School of Physics and Engineering.
“By setting the target in regulation rather than in legislation (and thereby running the risk of a hostile Senate), any future government can then ramp up the ambition of the electricity sector beyond 26 per cent; either to cover the inevitable shortfall in the more-difficult-to-achieve targets in other sectors, or in order to meet a more rapid decarbonisation trajectory if required by the world’s post-Paris progress,” professor Baldwin said.
“A separate regulatory ambition would also prevent the much-feared lock-in of coal-fired power generation on decadal timeframes.”