A Sting In The Tail Of QLD’s No-Interest Solar And Battery Loans Program

The upcoming Queensland Government’s “no-interest” solar and battery loans program holds an unpleasant surprise for some installers looking forward to a bit of extra work – and it will limit consumer choice.

In October last year, we reported Queenslanders will be able to apply for a no-interest loan for solar panels and battery storage under a Palaszczuk Government initiative; part of its Affordable Energy Plan. Another scheme will offer grants/rebates  for purchases of systems with batteries.

The initiative isn’t just about helping Queenslanders slash power bills as solar-only would provide better bang for buck at this point and for more households, but it also aims to kickstart the growth of the battery industry in the state.

While there doesn’t appear to be a firm start date on the initiative as yet1, yesterday it became apparent that only a select group of installers will be involved.

According to the CEC, only Clean Energy Council Approved Solar Retailers that are based in Queensland or have an office in that state will be able to participate. A similar requirement will be associated with a solar power for rental properties trial.

While there are thousands of CEC members and accredited installers across Australia, the “Approved Solar Retailer” is an elite category. You can learn more about the difference between members, approved retailers and accredited installers here.

Some Good Installers Will Miss Out

There are currently just 28 Approved Solar Retailers operating in Queensland, most of those being larger companies – and not all are based or have an office in the state, excluding them from participating.

Gaining “Approved Solar Retailer” status is by no means an easy, quick or cheap task and compliance activities are ongoing. Aside from the cost aspect, this is good in many ways as it helps to preserve the credibility of the program.

However, the nature of the program also provides a barrier to some installers, particularly small operators, who may be so focused on delivering a top-notch service to their customers they simply don’t have the time or inclination to pursue and maintain the status.

That the Queensland Government wants to ensure good quality systems are supplied and installed professionally is another very good thing – in principle. In the past, some support schemes have encouraged solar cowboys, only to see them disappear when the quality of their work became apparent.

While using an Approved Solar Retailer *should* mean a great installation result (even the best companies make mistakes) – not using one doesn’t mean the quality won’t be equal. Solar energy system buyers just need to perform some due diligence when selecting a provider – Approved Solar Retailer or not.

It’s unfortunate that many good installation businesses may miss out on some extra work that could be provided by this program unless they become Approved Solar Retailers and then are also successful in the tender. Time for the former may be running out with regard to this scheme and details of the latter are yet to be made available.

The approach could also be less than ideal for consumers.

Potential Impacts On Solar Buyers

Queensland is a big state and some companies understandably tend to focus their efforts in Brisbane and other large population areas. Many of the well-run small independent operations operating in the back of beyond (and even not so remote) won’t be able to offer this no-interest option, unless they come under the wing of a larger company that is an Approved Solar Retailer, which may not be desirable or viable.

The principles of supply and demand could also come into play – if the demand is great and supply (approved retailers successful in tender) is too low, this may impact on pricing and install times could blow out. The issue of demand to be serviced may not turn out to be such a problem though as this isn’t an open-ended program – $21 million has been earmarked for loan and rebate initiative.

Another potential issue is that if only a handful of retailers are able to work under the program, system choices may be limited – and may be limited anyway by the yet-to-be-announced terms of the scheme.

A possible outcome from all this is that perhaps the scheme won’t be as popular as hoped, instead leading to significant disappointment and frustration for the Government, potential solar + storage buyers and installers alike.

Other Solar Finance Options

For some Queenslanders keen on installing solar + storage but without the capital to do so, the Government scheme could be a great initiative. But it isn’t the only show in town, nor do Queenslanders have to be limited with regard to installers and component choices. Learn more about options for financing solar power.

Footnotes

  1. The announcement in October mentioned the scheme would kick off in March. The QLD Government web site now states “during 2018“. A question we sent to the department about a start date took weeks get a reply – and then the response didn’t answer the question
About Michael Bloch

Michael caught the solar power bug after purchasing components to cobble together a small off-grid PV system in 2008. He's been reporting on Australian and international solar energy news ever since.

Comments

  1. We had a similar scheme here in Tasmania with our State Government and from memory was limited to those Tasmanian-based installers who had been here a few years.

    Whilst it doesn’t guarantee that the installer you choose is reputable unless you utilise this site, at least it keeps the fly-in fly-out shonks out. We saw what happened when they opened up the insulation business to anyone and everyone.

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