2 August 2020

Labor pledges interest free green loans in first election pitch

| Ian Bushnell
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Solar panels

Roof top solar is already popular in Canberra and many households will look to complement their systems with battery storage. Photo: File.

Canberra homeowners will be able to obtain interest-free loans to boost the energy efficiency of their properties under a re-elected Labor Government.

In its first major election announcement, ACT Labor has committed to a $150 million program offering interest-free loans for rooftop solar panels, household battery storage and hot water heat pumps.

Chief Minister Andrew Barr said the commitment would not only save households thousands of dollars and make them more sustainable, but also create and protect hundreds of jobs in the renewable energy sector.

He said the commitment was one of the most significant investments in clean energy in the ACT’s history.

“We believe Canberrans should have the opportunity to benefit from cheaper household energy bills and make their households more sustainable,” Mr Barr said.

Canberrans will be able to apply for interest-free loans of between $2,000 and $15,000 to help with the upfront costs of installing these energy-saving measures, and they will likely be available from the first quarter of 2021.

Mr Barr said that an average ACT household could expect to save more than $10,000 over 10 years when installing solar panels, battery storage and a heat pump.

“Our plan will mean more households can make the right investments in their home without having to cover the upfront costs,” he said.

”Our interest-free loans will create and protect hundreds of local jobs over the next decade, at a time when our city needs it most.

”We’ve created and protected Canberra jobs through good times and bad. Now more than ever, we need a government that Canberrans can trust to protect local jobs and support our economy.”

Mr Barr said the government’s clean energy investments were already powering the ACT with 100 per cent renewable electricity and delivering lower power bills.

ACT households and businesses continued to have among the lowest cost and most reliable electricity supplies in the country, he said.

According to the Environment, Planning and Sustainable Development Directorate, more than 20,000 ACT homes and businesses have solar panels.

Many households will also want to support their solar systems with battery storage.

The ACT has adopted an aggressive approach to reducing greenhouse emissions and in 2018 committed to reaching zero net greenhouse gas emissions by 2045, instead of 2050.

This year it reached its target of 100 per cent of electricity sourced from renewable energy generation.

The government has already been subsidising the uptake of batteries by households and businesses with its $25 million Next Generation Energy Storage Program.

It is also encouraging households to switch from gas heating to other forms of climate control, such as electric-powered heat pumps and air conditioners.

But there is also a growing energy efficiency divide, with many renters missing out on the benefits unless landlords upgrade their properties.

The ACT goes to the polls on 17 October.

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Capital Retro9:23 am 24 Feb 21

ACT Labor government backs another dud scheme with our money:


HiddenDragon6:31 pm 04 Aug 20

“… rooftop solar panels, household battery storage and hot water heat pumps.”

I suppose it’s too much to hope that some of this stuff will be manufactured (not just assembled from imported components) in Australia?

Solar panels are no longer economically attractive because the feed-in tariff was reduced from 1 July. A reduction in the feed-in tariff means less credit on your electricity account, in effect a higher electricity bill and a longer time to pay off the cost of the panel outlay.
What Barr is doing is giving with one hand and taking away (more) with the other.

The FiT is not government provided, and the government doesn’t have a controlling share of ActewAGL (i.e. both parties own 50%). And there are other providers. The fact is, the FiT is getting to a level where it actually reflects the value to the network from the power at that point.

However, that doesn’t mean they are no longer financially attractive – if done right they are. And if paired with batteries, for the right circumstances, they could be well worth it. Though I think its still a bit premature for that as such at this point, but the point is coming the ability to ‘shift the output’ to use it more effectively at other times of the day will make it very attractive.

To add to this, if you use the electricity at home (which is more likely due to people working from home during COVID19) then it is a straight saving – every kWh you produce is a kWh you don’t have to buy from the grid.

Capital Retro10:34 am 03 Aug 20

“Mr Barr said that an average ACT household could expect to save more than $10,000 over 10 years when installing solar panels, battery storage and a heat pump.”

At which time the $10,000 claimed to be saved plus a lot more will be required to replace all the items mentioned. Virtue signalling comes at a considerable cost.

Except that’s not remotely true.

Modern solar panels should last 20yrs+ without significant degradation of performance and payback periods are less than 10 years.

There are definitely cheaper ways to deliver the same sorts of benefits and power at the grid level but your claims about these systems being “virtue signalling” just don’t stack up.

If you actually cared about your finances, you’d be mad not to at least investigate whether your house could accommodate these types of systems.

One might even think your opposition was more about “virtue signalling” than reality.

So you own products then CR that never have to be replaced ever? Every product needs replacing at some time….

Capital Retro8:52 am 04 Aug 20

I have investigated it – several times over the past 10 years and I have canvassed people who have installed it. The only people who are “happy” are the ones that locked into the long term 0.45c kWh export deal + RECS which of course was (and still is) subsidised by all of us that didn’t. This was an investors “gift” and had nothing to do with “saving the planet”. The current export rate is about 0.7c and while there are higher rates on offer, the amounts are “capped” and then the rate is zero. Also, there are now limitations on the size of system one can install.

I accept that the quality of the panels appears to have improved (time will be the jury on this point) but they have to be regularly cleaned and inspected to optimize performance, something that the sellers often “forget” to tell you about. The purchase and acquisition/installation price has fallen but the gains there are cancelled out by the net export rate falling way too far. Don’t get me going on batteries either as these are incredibly expensive and have very limited applications. I nearly bought one with a system I was considering 5 years ago. I was told the battery would have to installed in my garage and because of ACT regulations I would have to forego on of my two parking spaces to “protect” the battery from motor vehicle damage. Oh, and the battery only works for some circuits, not the entire house. The only thing that is missing is “the steak knives”.

Capital Retro9:18 am 04 Aug 20

Exactly the point that I am making is that “investing” in a home solar power system doesn’t generate any “savings” as the proponent is claiming.

I also see he is suggesting a “heat pump” should be part of the system. I am assuming he means a heat pump HWS which he obviously has never had otherwise he would realize (like i did) that they are good for 5 years when the sacrificial anodes need to be replaced – another expensive ongoing cost that the suppliers always “forget” to tell purchasers about. Then they fill with goo and clap out with no warranty to back them up. Getting a much more expensive stainless steel unit does not solve this problem either. Read up on the internet what an expensive failure these “virtue signalling symbols” are.

“This was an investors “gift” and had nothing to do with “saving the planet””

This is exactly what I’m talking about, schemes like these interest free loans and others like the Next Gen scheme can make them extremely attractive from an investment point of view.

You’re right that the older feed in tariffs were far more generous and the current rates (8c/kwhr) mean that to maximise benefit requires either a storage system or being able to use the electricity in your house when it’s generated. But that isn’t a showstopper.

You’ve also exaggerated the cleaning and inspection requirement for solar panels.

Cleaning them is easily done every few months with a hose and a light broom/brush. And inspection is only required every 5 years for safety.

The panels I have are more than 10 years old already with no discernable reduction in performance whatsoever (and I log and track it for accuracy).

As I said, there are better and cheaper ways to deliver these types of benefits and power to the grid but for a lot of people these offers are extremely financially attractive. It obviously won’t suit everyone’s circumstances but there are many who will benefit immensely.

The amount that is subsidised by other taxpayers is another matter entirely.

It sounds like they intend on providing access to a range of options to suit different households. No one is holding guns to the heads of households and forcing them to sign up CR…. if the business case doesn’t stack up, it doesn’t stack up.

Like it won’t for batteries by themselves if that is offered, bar for a few households here and there.

Capital Retro4:40 pm 04 Aug 20

On the subject of batteries, the lithium-ion battery waste problem is already huge. According to the American Chemical Society, it’s estimated China alone has produced 500,000 tonnes of used li-ion batteries already, and 2 million tonnes will be generated globally per year by 2030 and waste load will reach 8 million tonnes by 2040.

This will rival disposable nappies and flat pack furniture as the items most discarded in land fill.

Capital Retro4:52 pm 04 Aug 20

But the’re not supposed to be only attractive investment packages for the wealthy, chewy14. Actually, Barr’s selling points makes the scheme sound Ruddesqe with a dash of pink bats and we all know how that ended don’t we.

I can’t believe that you suggest getting on the roof to self-clean your much revered solar panels is a way to save money.

Please read this: https://www.safeworkaustralia.gov.au/system/files/documents/1702/safe-work-roofs-information-sheet.pdf

Capital Retro,
I know the way the government is selling these programs but that’s a crock. They’re more akin to Howardesque middle class welfare.

And the way my panels are positioned, there is no fall risk when cleaning them due to a vaulted roof. But if someone was so worried, a harness, anchor point or fall arrest system is not expensive and I would recommend one. Most people have to go up on their roof to clean the gutters anyway and safety is important.

I just had solar panels installed (before this loan program was announced!) The panels have a 25 year warranty. Note also that solar panels generally don’t “fail” and drop to 0% output at the end of their life – the output just drops by a few percent, so they still produce useful power.

Solar panels are pretty rugged too – while I’m sure a few were damaged in January’s hailstorm, they fared a lot better than the rooftop skylights!

Capital Retro10:27 pm 06 Aug 20

Warranty wouldn’t cover hail damage anyway.

Warranty wouldn’t, but your home insurance sure would.

Capital Retro10:28 am 07 Aug 20

Solar panels can be covered by a home and contents insurance policy, but you’ll need to increase your coverage and your insurance premium will likely increase as a result.

Some insurers offer additional optional coverage in case your panels are damaged.

Regarding warranty, there are generally two types being one which guarantees a certain level of efficiency as the output from the panels degrades over time. Some of these warranties are now 25 years.

The other warranty is the product warranty (covering defects and component failure) which last time I got a quote was 10 years maximum but generally 5 years. Of course having a fantastic warranty is all academic if the supplier/installer goes out of business as indeed a lot have in this industry. Thanks to the current COVID 19 pandemic a lot more will fail.

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