Victoria delivers on solar homes, arms “energy cop” with budget funding

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Victorian government establishes dedicated energy cop to catch price gouging energy companies while extending zero-interest solar loan program to renters.

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The Victoria budget has delivered on the Andrew’s state Labor government pledge to expand the Solar Homes program, which promised an additional $1.3 billion to support the installation of rooftop solar on Victorian homes over the next 10 years.

As was announced before the 2018 Victorian election, the Victorian Labor government will support the installation of an additional 770,000 rooftop solar systems over the next 10 years.

In this year’s budget, the Victorian government has allocated $545 million over the next five years to deliver the Solar Homes package.

Under the Victorian Solar Homes program, households may receive a rebate of up to $1,000 for the installation of a solar hot water system, and up to $2,225 for the installation of a rooftop solar PV system.

Through the program, the Victorian government is aiming to support the installation of 700,000 new rooftop solar PV systems, an additional 60,000 solar hot water systems and up to 10,000 new battery storage devices.

The Victorian government recently tapped the former head of Sustainability Victoria, Stan Krpan, to serve as the first CEO of Solar Victoria, with responsibility for delivering the Solar Homes package.

The initiative forms part of the Victorian government’s efforts to achieve a 25 per cent renewable energy target by 2025, as well as its goal to have half of the state’s energy supply sourced from renewables by 2030.

“In doing so, we are making our energy cleaner, putting downward pressure on power prices and ensuring the security of our energy system for decades to come.” Victorian treasurer Tim Pallas said in his budget speech.

“Our landmark Solar Homes program is boosting supply, driving down energy prices and creating thousands of jobs – it’s an investment in the future of our economy and our work to tackle climate change.” Victorian energy minister Lily D’Ambrosio added.

Victorian households will also be eligible for a $50 rebate to put towards their electricity costs after using the Victorian Energy Compare service, to compare offers from electricity retailers, providing an incentive for Victorians to seek out the best deal for their electricity.

The Victorian government has also allocated $27.3 million to fund the work of an additional Essential Services Commissioner, who will have dedicated responsibilities for pursuing energy retailers who behave unethically towards their customers. The new commissioner will have the ability to instigate formal enforcement activities and recommend formal prosecution where necessary.

The budget commitments were welcomed by environmental campaigners, who see the commitment to funding for new solar installations as a win for the State.

“To ensure Victoria remains a leader on climate action and continues to create thousands of jobs, our government must meet the investment targets promised during last year’s election campaign. And they are doing just that.” Environment Victoria CEO Jono La Nauze said.

“The Solar Homes program has been incredibly popular. Victorians love solar, they know it’s good for the environment and their wallets.”

Notably, the budget lacks additional funding to support workers to transition into new industries. Victoria sources a majority of is electricity from brown coal generators located in the Latrobe Valley. Many of these power stations are expected to close in coming decades, following the fate of the Hazelwood power station which closed in 2017.

The budget faced criticism from Victorian Greens leader Sam Ratnam, who said it lacked the initiatives needed support the brown coal-heavy state’s transition away from fossil fuels.

“We are facing a climate emergency, and while the solar homes investment is welcome, the budget contains no plan to stop burning coal and fails to address the extinction crisis,” Ratnam said.

“The Greens wanted to see a plan for a just transition away from coal, including a plan for coal workers and investment in new long-term job opportunities. The transition is inevitable but without a clear plan it will happen too late for our climate and without support for workers.”

Uptake under the program has been strong, with the Victorian government announcing in April that 10,000 households had received rebates under the Solar Homes programs, with all rebates for the 2018/19 financial year being fully subscribed.

The security of grant funding for the next five years will be welcomed by Victorian solar installers, who suffered from a significant drop in demand prior to the election following the Victorian Labor announcement. Before the election, the announcement of a generous rebate saw households delay their decisions to purchase a solar system, following the opportunity to take advantage of the financial support on offer.

Applications for a new round of rebates under the Solar Homes package will re-open on 1 July.

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