Buying solar panels for your home can seem pretty confusing at first. Can you still get solar rebates? How do you know what sized system to install? Will you need to notify your power company? How do you choose the right installer? And what on earth is a feed-in tariff or a small-scale technology certificate? Over the past few years, solar has gone through a roller coaster of booms, plateaus, government rebates, fly-by-night installers and of course other incentives, credits and associated solar schemes.
It’s hard enough for those of us in the industry to keep up with all the different terminology, industry and government regulations and the finer details involved in installing solar panels, so we can only imagine how hard it is for you to keep abreast of it all. In this article we outline all the different types of financial; incentives and schemes that you may be eligible for and explain how each works, so you have a better understanding of how you can save money when making your decision to help save the planet and your wallet by installing solar panels for your home or office.
What are solar rebates?
Solar rebates is a previously used term to describe financial incentives that encourage the production and use of renewable energy, which is super important for all Australians. It reduces our reliance on fossil fuels and makes for a cleaner, more sustainable future. This is why Australia’s federal and state governments have programs in place that could help you reduce the initial cost of your solar system, and provide you with the opportunity to earn money for the energy your solar panels on an ongoing basis, reducing or eliminating your traditional power consumption.
Solar incentives are put in place to help reduce the barrier to entry for your solar installation by making them more affordable and also providing the ability for everyday Australians to earn from power their panels produce and helping increase Australia’s production use of renewable energy.
What solar financial incentives are available and why are they in place?
Renewable Energy Target (RET)
The Renewable Energy Target is an Australian Government scheme designed to ‘reduce emissions of greenhouse gases in the electricity sector, while encouraging the additional generation of renewable energy through financial incentives’, to reach a goal of 20 percent of Australia’s electricity supply being created by renewable sources by 2020. To help the government reach this target, they are providing various financial incentives for both your solar panel installations and once your system is installed.
The SA Home Battery Scheme
The SA Home Battery Scheme is a State Government subsidy which helps homeowners to pay for the installation of home battery systems. The subsidy is calculated on the kilowatt hour capacity of the battery you choose to purchase. Finance is also available through peer-to-peer RateSetter to help households pay for the balance of the subsidised battery and new or additional solar panels, if required.
In addition, to assist low-income households who wish to access the Scheme, Energy Concession Holders are eligible for a higher subsidy. To claim the subsidy, an approved battery system needs to be installed by a System Provider who is qualified under the Scheme.
Small-scale Renewable Energy Scheme (SRES)
The Small-scale Renewable Energy Scheme creates a financial incentive for homeowners to install certain small-scale solar installations such as solar hot water systems and rooftop solar panel systems. Under the Small-scale Renewable Energy Scheme (SRES), eligible solar panel systems are entitled to a number of small-scale technology certificates (STCs). This is based on the amount of electricity in megawatt hours (MWh) the system generates over the course of the solar panels lifetime. STCs are created following the installation of an eligible system, and are calculated by the amount of electricity the system produces or displaces.
Most system owners choose to assign the right to create the STCs to a registered agent as receiving an up-front financial incentive is often a simpler process, and faster than trading the STCs through the STC Clearing House. Applications and paperwork for these certificates is usually handled by your solar power installers. The current incentives will be reduced as of January 2020. For the average home installing a 6.6kw system this will mean a saving of $350 if installed before 31 December 2019. So once you’ve made the decision to switch, it’s important that you take action swiftly.
Feed-in Tariffs & The Solar Feed-in Scheme
In simple terms, Feed-in tariffs pay you for the power you’ve generated from your solar system that has been fed into the main grid by your small-scale solar panels. It does not apply to off-grid systems. Feed-in tariffs are no longer available, for more information on what past Feed-in Tariffs were available, please visit this link. The Clean Energy Council’s Consumer Guide to buying household solar panels outlines some important questions to ask your electricity retailer about your feed-in tariff agreement and your state government sets and administers feed-in tariffs.
You will need to contact your state government regarding the current feed-in tariff in your state. The solar feed-in scheme was an SA Government initiative for electricity customers that consumed less than 160MWh per annum that commenced in July, 2008. It meant that small customers such as households, small businesses, community buildings and churches were eligible for the scheme if they obtained approval to connect by midnight 30 September 2013. Applicants had to have or had to be planning to install a qualifying solar PV system. To qualify the final installed solar PV system had to:
- Comply with the relevant Australian Standards for safety.
- Be connected to the electricity grid via an import/export meter.
- Have a maximum output of 10kVA for homes with single phase, 30kVA for homes with three phase electricity.
Unfortunately this scheme has now ended.
What is the minimum retailer payment?
If a retailer has an offer available for solar customers, it must include a retailer feed-in tariff for any excess energy exported to the grid. There is no mandatory minimum retailer feed-in tariff amount. Not setting a mandatory minimum means retailers have flexibility in the offers they make available to benefit solar customers, such as better total packages, time-of-use feed-in pricing arrangements, or other improved options.
Visit the Energy Made Easy website to compare offers for solar customers from different retailers. Retailer tariffs are additional to any solar feed-in scheme tariff that you may also be eligible for if you entered the feed-in scheme prior to 30 September 2011. The requirements around retailer feed-in tariffs are determined by the Essential Services Commission of South Australia (ESCOSA).
Adelaide City Council Solar Incentives
Certain customers within the Adelaide City Council area are eligible for financial incentives known as the Sustainability Incentives Scheme, when installing solar and battery storage. Unfortunately, many individual households won’t be eligible for these incentives. However, low income owners or renters within the city may see the financial benefits passed on to them.
Private landlords and concession card holders can receive up to $5000 for their solar PV systems with the Scheme. Up to $1000 is available for households and commercial properties who install or up grade their solar hot water. Eligibility Criteria and Conditions
- To be eligible a property must be located within the City of Adelaide municipal area.
- Incentives are not available for installations completed more than 12 months prior to the Council receiving the application form.
- Sustainability Incentives Scheme (the Scheme) funding is subject to Council’s annual budget processes and accordingly the funding is limited.
- Council has the right to cease the Scheme at any time without notification and applications made to the Scheme are not guaranteed to receive funding (except where pre-installation commitment has been approved and activated – please refer to www.adelaidecitycouncil.com/takeaction
- Residents, businesses, building owners, tenants, community/strata corporations, universities, schools, community organisations and sporting groups are eligible to apply.
Limit Per Category:
- Eligible Residential, Business, Education, Community and Sporting premises – Maximum of 1 incentive per electricity meter (National Meter Identifier – NMI).
- Building Owners, Community Corporations and Body Corporates – Maximum of 1 incentive per NMI.
- Government – ineligible except for Education Institutions – Maximum of 1 incentive per NMI.
Solar City Program
The Solar City program was part of an Australian Government initiative in various locations around Australia creating new ways to save energy, increase the uptake of solar power systems while rewarding energy efficiency and generating more solar power. The program ended in July, 2013 but you can read full details in this article.
What helps me reduce the cost of installing a solar system?
Solar Finance Options
In addition to federal or state government support, you also have the option of purchasing your system on interest free financing. Read about our solar finance options here. For commercial and business customers with a minimum spend of $10,000 you also have the option to lease your solar system over 3, 5 or 7 year term.
Unsure which solar incentive applies to you?
If you’re still not sure what solar incentive you’re eligible for, contact Solar Power Direct today for a chat and we’ll happily explain your options based on your own unique circumstances and energy use.