Households encouraged to explore incentives for solar panels and batteries
Cash-strapped home owners are being encouraged to explore a range of public and private-sector incentives that reduce the costs of installing renewable technologies.
The latest incentive comes from Commonwealth Bank, which on Monday announced a new low-interest loan for home loan customers wanting to install renewable technologies, such as solar panels and electric vehicle charging stations.
Dubbed the ‘CommBank Green Loan’, the financing option allows CommBank customers to borrow up to $20,000 against their home loan over a 10-year period at a fixed interest rate of 0.99 per cent.
Annual interest repayments on a loan of $20,000 would be $198.
The loan charges no set up, monthly service, or early repayment fees, and is scheduled for a national rollout in May.
“For most customers, they will see their energy bill drop by over $500 per year if they switch to solar, which will offset total repayments of the loan in the long term,” said CommBank group executive Angus Sullivan, citing CSIRO figures.
Canstar Blue energy spokesperson Simon Downes said at first glance the CommBank Green Loan looked like it could fill a gap in the market for “new, innovative incentives”.
Although there are several government-funded programs that help reduce the cost of installation, a major reduction in the amount of money paid to households that sell energy back to the grid (‘feed-in tariffs’) had “diminished” the incentive to instal solar, he said.
“So what we need to do now is find the next generation of really good incentives to get even more households signed up to solar, because it’s really in everyone’s interest to get as many households connected to solar as we can.”
Mr Downes said households should expect to pay between $5000 and $6000 to install a rooftop solar system and noted most would take several years to recoup the costs.
“The most important thing to keep in mind with solar is that it’s an investment,” he told The New Daily.
What people really need to focus on and keep in mind is that they’re investing in their future energy bills, but they’re also investing in their property.”
According to the Clean Energy Council, there are two key ways to recoup the costs of installing and maintaining rooftop solar and battery systems: Government rebates and feed-in tariffs.
Clean Energy Council chief executive Kane Thornton said the federal government offers the largest rebates in the country via the small-scale renewable energy scheme.
“It provides an upfront rebate to households in the form of what are called STCs. They’re basically certificates that you can take advantage of that come off the upfront cost of the system,” he told The New Daily, noting they can amount to roughly one-third of the overall price.
Retailers will typically include the STC discounts in any quote they provide for a solar or battery storage system.
And households can find additional state government rebates on the federal government’s energy website.
“There are some rental programs in South Australia, and there are some low-income programs in a few other states,” Mr Thornton said.
“But Victoria has the biggest and most comprehensive, which is also an upfront rebate program that households can apply for if they meet certain criteria.”
Victoria offers eligible home owners rebates of up to $1850 to cover the cost of installing solar panels.
Households must have a combined taxable income of less than $180,000 per year to be eligible, and owner-occupiers can also apply for an interest-only loan that matches the size of their rebate.
This means that if a household’s total system costs less than $3700, they pay no upfront costs.
Asked to provide advice to households intent on installing rooftop solar panels, Mr Thornton said the first step was to choose an approved solar retailer to ensure high standards of service and warranty.
Households should then work out how much energy they use and the time of day that they use it, so that they are well placed to select an appropriate system and energy plan.
“Use the guide that we’ve prepared to make sure you ask the right questions of your retailer and choose a system that’s right for you,” Mr Thornton said, referring to this document.
“And then you need to make sure you maintain the system.