Australian Solar Rebates and Incentives: Will They Save You Money?

Solar energy is a clean, generous and affordable energy resource that Australians continue to benefit from. It is by far the energy source of the future – and the government is now incentivising homeowners to switch to solar through various Australian solar rebateprograms.

Australia has one of the largest uptakes of solar energy globally, and solar system installations continue to be on the rise for homeowners. As of March 2019, 2.08 million rooftop solar systems were installed across the country. The uptick in a solar installation is partially due to solar rebates and incentives that now allow homeowners to afford a solar system.

What is the Australian Renewable Energy Target?

An Australian government scheme, the Renewable Energy Target initiative aims to reduce greenhouse emissions in the electricity sector by encouraging residential and commercial entities to generate their electricity from sustainable and renewable sources.

The target acts as a regulatory aim to reduce pollution and source two percent of Australia’s electricity generation from renewable sources. The target has been in effect since 2001 and is primarily divided into two sections: Large-scale Renewable Energy Target and Small-scale Renewable Energy Scheme.

The overall goal of these rebate programs is to make solar power more attractive and affordable to the average Australian homeowner. The large-scale and small-scale renewable energy schemes are the two primary solar panel federal rebates in existence. The article focuses on government rebates and schemes for residential candidates.

Also, it is important to note that specific rebate and scheme savings (specifically for Feed-in Tariffs) vary depending on the state, and there is currently no set rebate percentage on a national level. Under the small-scale renewable energy scheme, homeowners receive a small-scale technology certificate or can take part in Feed-In Tariffs (like the Net Metering or Gross Metering options).

Small-scale Renewable Energy Scheme (Rebate)

The Small-scale Renewable Energy Scheme provides a financial incentive for residential homeowners and small businesses to migrate to a small-scale renewable energy system. Small-scale renewable systems include solar panel systems, small-scale wind systems, hydro systems, solar water heaters, and air source heat pumps.

Under the scheme, Australian homeowners are offered primarily a small-scale technology certificate; where a small-scale energy system might be eligible for multiple technology certificates under the scheme.

Australian Clean Energy Regulator generalises that “one certificate is equal to one-megawatt hour of eligible renewable electricity either generated or displaced by the system.” The STC calculator is a reliable resource to calculate the approximate number of small-scale technology certificates (STCs) available for homeowner installation.

The number of STCs depends on the residential area of the homeowner and which solar zone (out of four zones) that they reside. The lower the number, the higher amount of sunshine the area receives resulting in a higher certificate claim.

Solarmarket.com.au shows the average value of the rebate per Australian state.

Feed-in Tariffs

A Feed-in Tariff (or FIT) is an energy scheme partnership between the Australian government and a local utility company. The agreement forces electricity companies to pay for excess electricity feedback into the electricity grid from a designated homeowner’s renewable electricity generation source (like a solar panel system).

The homeowner is paid per unit (kilowatt hour – kWh) of the unused electricity that a solar PV system overgenerates. The extra energy channels back into the electrical grid and the homeowner receives a credit on their electricity bill. Even though Feed-in Tariffs are widely offered, the FIT rate is location dependent and changes with the utility company. A FIT rate chart is organised and available at solarmarket.com.au.

Feed-in Tariffs are categorised into two methods: Gross Metering and Net Metering. Net metering is a billing system process that allows solar PV systems to receive credit for over generated solar energy. Gross metering solar electricity is exported to the power grid at 60c/20c kWh per based on a predetermined feed-in tariff.

Overall, small-scale technology certificates and feed-in tariffs are federal solar incentives to enable homeowners in cost reduction of their new solar panel system.

State-Based Incentives

Researching a specific state’s incentives and rebates is the best approach to personalising the experience. For example, a resident of Queensland has access to the Affordable Energy Plan which provides interest-free loans and grants for solar systems and battery storage.

In New South Wales, the Empowering Homes Program offers residents with an income of $180,000 or less eligibility for interest-free loans on solar batteries or combined solar PV and battery systems. Australian state-based incentives are organised into a comprehensive chart at solarmarket.com.au.

How Much Will A Homeowner Save

Australian residents now have the ability to purchase solar panel systems with the financial aid of solar panel rebates and incentives. Will the solar panel system rebates and incentives save homeowner money?

A simple rebate equation is calculated to project the government rebate for a solar panel system. Again, the rebate will slightly change due to the region of residence, the amount of potential light energy and geographical zone. The picture shows the zones and locations. The far East and South of Australia have the highest rebate reduction (i.e. Zone 4).

For example, a standard 3kW solar system averaged cost is between $4,500 and $7,500. As the homeowner, you chose a $6,500 system at the January 2018 government rebate of $665 per kW. The rebate equation is: $6,500 – (3 kW x $665). After the rebate, the homeowner pays $4,505 for the new solar system. For a personlised estimate, view a rebate calculator.

Can the Rebate End Soon?

Like all good things, a generous rebate such as this ends. The rebate can decrease or end due to multiple reasons; an increase in solar demand or the end of the rebate legislation.

The rebate total varies on current solar demand (or lack thereof) and a set time period. Overall, as demand for solar rises, the rebate opportunity for homeowners decreases. It significantly affects the ‘STC price.’

Think of the STC price as a number on the stock exchange. The STC price is valued between $0 and $40, with $40 being the highest it can reach by Australian law. The rebate might not end soon, but it is at one of the lowest percentages in years. Current rebate legislation is set to reduce by one-fifteenth every year starting from January 2017 until it drops to zero in 2032.

Solar energy in Australia is at an all-time low with several current solar rebates and incentives. It is in the best interest of the homeowner to consider the solar savings now and take advantage of these money saving opportunities.