Australian state launches solar rebate program for estimated 1 million homes


From pv magazine Australia

Rooftop solar PV systems and energy-saving upgrades to home appliances are on offer for eligible households across New South Wales (NSW) as part of an AUD 128 million ($91.7 million) initiative included in the state government’s upcoming budget.

The Energy Bill Buster program, which is to replace the Empowering Homes initiative, will allow eligible households to receive the equivalent of up to 10 years’ worth of rebates in an upfront lump sum contribution of approximately AUD 2,850 towards a solar system or home appliance upgrade.

About one-third of NSW households that have a pensioner concession cardholder already receive a low-income energy rebate to help with bills but the Energy Bill Buster program will allow eligible households to apply for an upfront payment instead of the annual AUD 285 subsidy.

Eligible households will be able to use the money to install a 3 kW solar system. The state government estimates the array could save a household up to AUD 600 a year, instead of the annual AUD 285 low-income household rebate.

If the household has access to gas, they will receive an additional AUD 110 subsidy. For those homes not able to install solar, the government is offering access to AUD 4,000 in home appliance upgrades.

NSW Treasurer Matt Kean said the package would help ease cost-of-living pressures as Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and supply chain disruptions push up energy prices.

“People living in apartments or renting who can’t have solar installed may be eligible to swap their rebate for a suite of energy saving appliance upgrades, helping to reduce demand on the grid and lower power prices for everyone,” he said.

These appliances include energy-efficient fridges, dryers, air conditioners and hot water systems, as well as energy efficiency upgrades such as window shading and draught sealing.

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Climate Council campaigner Louis Brailsford welcomed what he said was a sensible policy, adding that it would provide practical help to households in creating a sustained reduction in power bills while cutting emissions at the same time.

“The surge in gas prices this year should spur governments around the country to speed up the phase out of fossil fuels in favor of affordable renewables. Replacing inefficient gas appliances in homes with electric alternatives is one of the easiest ways to do this,” he said.

“The quickest and cheapest way to increase Australia’s supply of clean affordable energy is to replace fossil fuels with renewables and electrify our households and businesses.”

The NSW government said it would initially provide funding in the budget for 30,000 households to access the upfront payments, at a cost of AUD 128 million, but would consider further spending if there is strong uptake. The NSW 2022-23 budget is to be announced on June 21.

The Energy Bill Buster program replaces the NSW government’s Empowering Homes initiative, which provided eligible homeowners with access to interest-free loans for battery and solar-battery systems. The program promised interest-free loans of up to AUD 9,000 for a battery system or up to AUD 14,000 for a solar and battery system. Applications for the Empowering Homes pilot will close on July 31.

The NSW government’s unveiling of the Energy Bill Buster program comes just days after its South Australia counterpart axed a string of renewable energy initiatives introduced to help homeowners access solar, battery energy storage systems and electric vehicle charging solutions.

The South Australian government last week announced it would abandon the AUD 100 million Home Battery Scheme, the Electric Vehicle Smart Charging Subsidy, and the AUD 4.25 million Switch for Solar program.

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