With our long summers, sunny weather and vast tracts of open land, Australia is one of the best places to install a solar energy system for your home or business. Solar (PV) systems provide limitless free energy from the sun’s radiation and are undoubtedly the best small-scale renewable energy source for Aussie households. Unfortunately, solar systems are expensive to buy and install, which is where the Australian Government’s rebates come into play.
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What is a solar rebate?
Solar rebates are a financial initiative set up by the government to reward solar customers for generating their own energy. They were originally introduced as an incentive to encourage households and businesses to purchase solar panels, as the large up-front costs can be discouraging to bill-payers. Solar panel rebates then, assist Aussies in paying off these systems more efficiently, making them more desirable for homeowners to install, which in turn helps solar expansion across the energy grid in Australia.
While rebates have since been reduced in size and variety, there are still a few incentives available for households and businesses looking to install solar.
How does a solar rebate work?
In Australia, solar rebates essentially run as a discount scheme for households that install a renewable energy system, or a sustainably-powered hot water system. Though technically classed as more of a financial incentive than a rebate, this system works similar to a voucher system where customers will receive a certain number of vouchers based on the size of their system and geographical location of their home, to which they can exchange or sell in order to reduce the upfront cost of their solar system installation. This is run under a program known as the Small-scale Renewable Energy Scheme.
What are the government solar rebate initiatives available in Australia?
There are currently two national government solar rebate initiatives available in Australia; the small-scale renewable energy scheme and solar feed-in tariffs.
Small-scale renewable energy scheme
The biggest and most obvious monetary incentive run by the government is the Small-scale Renewable Energy Scheme. Under this scheme, customers who install an eligible small-scale renewable energy system, such as rooftop solar panel systems under 100 kilowatt hours (kW), can earn what is known as a small-scale technology certificate (STCs).
What are STCs?
These certificates are calculated based on the amount of renewable energy the system will generate through its life up to 15 years. Generally, these certificates are awarded to consumers once their system is purchased and approved and can be sold on their behalf by their solar installer to recoup a portion of the installation costs.
Electricity retailers must purchase an annual quota of these certificates by law, meaning solar customers may also sell them for cash on an open market. Alternatively, if you like, you can also place STCs with the STC clearing house where you will receive a flat return of $40 per certificate.
The value of a STC will vary depending on the climate of the area you reside and install your solar in. As shown on the map pictured to the right, climate zones for STCs are broken up into three regions. It is important to note that while this is a government run scheme, it does not play any part in setting the price of these certificates, nor does it pay back the money earnt from STCs to consumers. For more information on small-scale energy certificates, it’s best to visit the Clean Energy Regulator’s website.
The second major incentive (although perhaps more of a subsidy) is the government’s ‘feed-in’ tariffs. This is a small rebate of a few cents for each kilowatt hour (kWh) of unused electricity generated by your solar system that is exported into the electricity grid. Some states have mandated feed-in tariff rates, but retailers are usually free to set their own rate so long as it’s above any set minimums. As feed in tariffs are a matter of state policy, rates will therefore differ depending on where you live. For a full list of solar feed-in tariffs in Australia, visit our best solar tariff page, or check out our state-based pages below.
How do I sign-up to a solar rebate?
To receive small-scale energy certificates, you will generally need to have a discussion with your solar installer prior to the installation process in order to determine the costs and number of certificates applicable in your circumstance.
Some states and territories, however, also run specific rebate schemes for households that purchase and install certain renewable energy technologies, such as solar batteries or solar hot water systems. To apply for these, you’ll generally need to go through your government’s website.
As for feed-in tariffs, these are generally applied once connected to the grid, but you can get access to a higher tariff by comparing plans from different electricity providers. Keep in mind though, while some electricity plans have higher feed-in tariffs than others, it could come along with higher usage costs for general electricity too so be sure to always read the fine print.
Solar Plans in Australia
Here are some solar specific energy plans currently available in Australia. To find your state’s plans, click on the correct tab at the top of the table.
Here are some of the cheapest solar-specific deals from the retailers on our database. These costs are based on the Ausgrid network in Sydney but prices will vary depending on your circumstances. We show one product per retailer, listed in order of lowest price first. Annual price estimates assume general energy usage of 3911kWh/year for a residential customer on a single rate tariff. Price estimates exclude solar feed-in tariff credits. These are products from referral partners†. Our database may not cover all deals in your area, and please check retailer websites for up to date information.
Here are some of the cheapest solar-specific deals from the retailers on our database. These costs are based on the Citipower network in Melbourne but prices will vary depending on your circumstances. We show one product per retailer, listed in order of lowest price first. Annual price estimates assume general energy usage of 4000kWh/year for a residential customer on a single rate tariff. Price estimates exclude solar feed-in tariff credits. These are products from referral partners†. Our database may not cover all deals in your area, and please check retailer websites for up to date information.
Here are some of the cheapest solar-specific deals from the retailers on our database. These costs are based on the Energex network in Brisbane but prices will vary depending on your circumstances. We show one product per retailer, listed in order of lowest price first. Annual price estimates assume general energy usage of 4613kWh/year for a residential customer on a single rate tariff. Price estimates exclude solar feed-in tariff credits. These are products from referral partners†. Our database may not cover all deals in your area, and please check retailer websites for up to date information.
Here are some of the cheapest solar-specific deals from the retailers on our database. These costs are based on SA Power network in Adelaide but prices will vary depending on your circumstances. We show one product per retailer, listed in order of lowest price first. Annual price estimates assume general energy usage of 4011kWh/year for a residential customer on a single rate tariff. Price estimates exclude solar feed-in tariff credits. These are products from referral partners†. Our database may not cover all deals in your area, and please check retailer websites for up to date information.
State-by-State Solar Rebates
There are further rebates for sustainable electricity use that aren’t limited to solar. Different states offer incentives for things such as energy-efficient appliances, running your pool filter at off-peak times, efficient air conditioning systems and many more – all can be found on the Government’s energy savings website. Keep in mind that rebates aren’t restricted to solar panels – you can also get a rebate on small-scale wind turbines, solar and heat-pump hot water, or even hydro power systems.
NSW Solar Rebates
Despite New South Wales original Solar Bonus Scheme ending in December 2016, the state still offers some financial incentives to households who contribute to renewable energy generation, in addition to competitive feed-in tariffs. The current rebate available in NSW is the Solar for Low-Income Households program.
Solar for Low-Income Households
This program provides low-income households in NSW with a free 3kWh solar energy system. If you’re a resident on the low-income household rebate you may just be eligible for a free solar system from the NSW government. Keep in mind however, residents must own their home and be comfortable enough to forgo their low-income household rebate for 10 years in exchange for the system.
If you receive the low-income household rebate but are ineligible for the state government’s solar offers, you may be able to forgo your rebate in exchange for $4,000 worth of energy efficiency upgrades in the home instead.
For a full list of terms and conditions on this program, its best to check the NSW energy saver website.
VIC Solar Rebates
Victoria also has a selection of solar rebates available to households, the most notable ones being the Solar PV Panel Rebate, Solar Battery Loan and Solar Hot Water Rebate. Feed-in tariffs in Victoria are also regulated by the government, with providers required to offer a minimum tariff of 4.9c/kWh.
Solar PV Panel Rebate
This program offers a rebate of $1,400 on the installation of solar PV panels for homeowners and rental properties. An interest-free loan equivalent to their rebate amount is also available to Victorians through this program. This loan however, must be paid off within four years. To be eligible, Victorian residents must own their home, not have an existing solar system installed after November 1, 2009 and have an annual combined household income of less than $180,000. Properties valued at over $3 million are not eligible for this rebate.
Solar Battery Loan
The government also offers an interest-free loan up to $8,800 on the installation of a solar battery for homeowners. To be eligible, VIC residents must own their home, have an existing solar system equal to or greater than 5kWh, have an annual combined household income of less than $180,000 and not have received a rebate or previously received a solar battery rebate. The energy storage system purchased must also be listed on Solar Victoria’s Approved Battery List and have a capacity equal to or greater than 6kWh to be eligible for the discount. Properties that already have an existing battery system in place cannot use this loan on the purchase of an additional battery. Households have four years to pay off this loan.
Solar Hot Water Rebate
There is also a rebate of up to $1,000 available to Victorian residents who wish to install a solar hot water or heat pump hot water systems on their property. To be eligible, residents must own their home, have a combine household income no greater than $180,000, not have a received a rebate as part of the PV panel or solar battery scheme, have a hot water system that is at least three years old and occupy a property under the value of $3 million.
In addition to these solar-specific rebates, the state government also offers subsidies for electric vehicle owners and low-income and vulnerable households looking to improve their home heating and cooling. To check your eligibility for any of these rebates, please visit the Solar VIC government website.
QLD Solar Rebates
Unfortunately, in Queensland, if you installed solar after the solar boom of 2008-2012, then isn’t really any current solar rebates outside the STC’s and feed-in tariffs to help you out. That being said, there is a wide variety of solar feed-in tariffs available in QLD, making it quite a competitive market for the solar owner.
SA Solar Rebates
Like QLD, South Australia has also since ceased its solar rebates in recent years. However, there are still a number of solar feed-in tariffs, specialty solar programs and Virtual Power Plant (VPP) programs in the state.
WA Solar Rebates
Western Australia doesn’t currently offer any additional solar rebates to homeowners outside of those offered nationally. It does, however, run a time of export buyback scheme for those that own solar panels, batteries or an electric vehicle. This scheme is known as the Distributed Energy Buyback Scheme (DEBS) and financially rewards consumers for sending back energy to the grid during peak and off-peak times.
The buyback rate varies for Synergy and Horizon Power customers, but generally households in WA can expect to earn around 10c/kWh at peak times and between 2-3c/kWh at off-peak times for sending renewable energy back into the grid. For more information visit the WA government’s website.
TAS Solar Rebates
Tasmania is another state with limited solar rebates in Australia. But, with a decent feed-in tariff of 10.869c/kWh offered from most retailers and the national STC program, solar lovers down south can still make a small return off their solar investment, without the assistance of rebates.
NT Solar Rebates
Similar to other states, the Northern Territory also runs a solar battery install rebate program. The Home and Business Battery Scheme provides home and business owners in the NT with a rebate of $400 per kilowatt hour of useable battery system capacity, up to a maximum of $5,000, for the purchase and installation of a solar battery to either a new or existing solar panel system. To be eligible for this rebate, you must be a home or business owner in the NT. If you happen to own both a home and business, you can apply for this rebate to both of your properties. Keep in mind, this is a solar battery rebate though, and the concession cannot be used to purchase a solar panel system alone. The chosen solar battery must also be listed on the territory’s government list of approved batteries. For full terms and conditions visit the government’s website.
ACT Solar Rebates
Australia’s capital currently has one interest-free loan option and one solar rebate program available to households – the Sustainable Household Scheme and Home Energy Support program.
Sustainable Household Scheme
With the Sustainable Household Scheme, eligible homeowners in the ACT can borrow between $2,000-$15,000 as part of an interest-free loan to go towards energy-efficient upgrades in the home. Some of the eligible products to be purchased under this program include;
- Rooftop solar panels
- Household battery storage systems
- Electric heating and cooling systems
- Hot water heat pumps
- Electric stove tops
- Electric Vehicles (EVs) and charging infrastructure
Residents can purchase one of more of the following products under this program so long as the total expenditure is under $15,000. This rebate operates in partnership with financial institute Brighte, and residents have 10 years to repay their interest-free loan. In addition to meeting the scheme’s eligibility, ACT residents are also required to attend an hour long live online workshop hosted by Brighte to access this program. The full terms and conditions can be found on the ACT government’s Climate Choices website.
Home Energy Support Program
This program allows eligible concession holders to receive up to $5,000 in rebates for energy-efficient upgrades in the home, including rooftop solar. Residents can access up to $2,500 to help with the installation of solar panels, with a further $2,500 up for grabs if they also install reverse cycle heating and cooling, hot water heat pumps or ceiling insulation. To be eligible, residents must hold a Pensioner Concession Card or DVA Gold Card, own the property they reside in and their property must have an Unimproved Value (UV) at or below $750,000. They’ll also need to attend a free Home Energy Support workshop. This rebate can be redeemed in conjunction with the Sustainable Home Scheme loan.
More information on any of these rebates, including full terms and conditions, can be found on the ACT’s Climate Choices website.
Is it worth getting a solar rebate?
It’s no secret that the variety of solar rebates on offer in each state and territory have dwindled in the past few years. But that being said, there are still some great solar rebate and buyback schemes open to most homes and businesses across Australia. When you take into account the large financial investment required from installing a solar panel system or energy storage unit, any amount, whether it be small or large, that you can get in return will probably be worth looking into.
If you’ve exhausted all your rebate options though, your best bet for making a return on your investment will be ensuring that you are on an energy plan that offers a decent solar feed-in tariff. Some retailers are more renowned than others in the solar feed-in tariff space, offering higher returns and plans more suited to the needs of a solar customer. Click the link below to compare energy providers that are rated best for customers with solar panels.
Image credit: Golden Sikorka/Shutterstock.com, Ricardo Ninin/Shutterstock.com, SewCream/Shutterstock.com.