NSW Empowering Homes Solar Battery Program Update

Empowering Homes - New South Wales

Many New South Wales households eager to take advantage of the State Government’s Empowering Homes program are going to need to wait quite a while longer.

The Empowering Homes initiative is a commitment made by the Berejiklian Government in the lead-up to the NSW State election earlier this year. It will offer interest-free loans of up to $14,000 for a solar + battery system or up to $9,000 for adding home battery storage to an existing solar power system to eligible owner-occupiers with an annual household income of $180,000 or less.

In an update in June and up until a couple of days ago, the Empowering Homes website noted it was expecting the first battery or solar-battery systems would be installed during this summer – but the design of the program has changed.

Empowering Homes is to now kick off as a pilot in the first quarter of next year and only be available to eligible residents in the following Hunter region local government areas:

  • Cessnock
  • Dungog
  • Lake Macquarie
  • Maitland
  • Mid-Coast
  • Muswellbrook
  • Port Stephens
  • Singleton
  • Upper Hunter

Newcastle misses out and it’s not clear yet if all postcodes in the LGAs mentioned above will be eligible.

Why The Change?

Energy NSW states the decision to switch to a pilot was made after extensive consultation with the community and industry. It’s a bit of a mystery what form the community consultation took.

The State Government believes the limited pilot is the best way to proceed.

“This pilot will test the program’s design, including risk mitigation strategies, and ensure we deliver an effective program that benefits participants and the people of NSW.”

The pilot will run for 12 months – so those outside the yet-to-be-announced eligible postcodes may not be able to participate until well into 2021. Looking on the bright side, perhaps by 2021 batteries would have come down enough in price to make storage a worthwhile investment.

A much better approach may have been to run Empowering Homes as a solar-only program given its stated aim of unlocking clean energy investment, the popularity of PV and the excellent payback of solar power. For example, the simple payback for a 6.5kW solar system installed in Sydney was around 4.6 years as at June this year. Adding storage extends payback time considerably.

However, the Berejiklian Government is also keen to start building significant distributed energy storage in the state, with Empowering Homes forecast to add up to 3,000 megawatt hours of storage capacity when complete ten years down the track.

Waiting Locks In Higher Electricity Bills For Longer

For New South Wales households keen to install PV + storage but who have held off due to the lure of an interest-free loan, it’s worthwhile taking another look at solar power and forgetting about batteries for the time being. Solar-only provides the best bang for buck and quite a few details of the Empowering Homes program remain unknown. When the interest-free loans for batteries are available, the economics of storage can then be reassessed and any devil in the program’s detail examined.

The cost of solar has continued to drop and regardless of what some advertising in the last couple of months has indicated, Australia’s major solar subsidy (aka the solar panel rebate) isn’t ending, making it a very good time to install a PV system.

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.


  1. It all sounds like the proverbial YABEP striking again -Yet Another Broken Election Promise.

    It is unfortunate that government members are not personally liable, under consumer protection law, for compensating voters individually, for Broken Election promises.

    In the photograph at the top of the report, in the bottom left corner; the house with the white car parked diagonally in its yard – is that really a paddling pool, or, a Scalextric race track, on the roof of the house? I realise that New South Welshmen are indeed a different kind of Welshmen, but I have not seen that kind of thing before.

    • Steve Osborn says

      Could be a DIY heating system for a swimming pool (aka a coiled length of black poly pipe). Looks like a pool near the bottom of the picture.

      • Ronald Brakels says

        A rooftop pool heater does seem like the best explanation, but I am fond of the idea of a rooftop racetrack. (There are systems that look like that.)

  2. Steven McCarthy says

    Yeh for me

    I’ll in the pilot area and have been waiting to see more details on this program

    With very high usage in the evenings it might actually save me money

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