SA Switch For Solar Initiative Switches On

Switch for Solar - South Australia

Over the next year, a thousand South Australian concession holder households are to have free (or almost free) rooftop solar power systems installed by trading in their concession payments.

The “Switch for Solar” pilot, first announced in February, officially kicked off yesterday. It involves participants foregoing their energy concession and Cost of Living Concession (COLC) for 10 years in order to have a system installed.

The deal is being made available to eligible households in 19 locations, primarily in Adelaide’s north but also in the regional areas of Ridgehaven, Goolwa and Hindmarsh Island. Areas were selected based on where systems could be best accommodated by the local network.

Eligible households will be contacted directly by the SA Government. However, concession holders who believe they meet the eligibility criteria can apply for a Switch for Solar Assessment here or by calling the program hotline on (08) 8226 3100.

Currently, eligible ConcessionsSA customers receive up to $215.10 from the Cost of Living Concession and up to $231.41 towards their energy bill per year, totalling up to $446.51.

“Modelling shows a typical household joining Switch for Solar could be $210 to $665 better off every year, compared to the energy concession and Cost of Living Concession they currently receive,” said Minister for Energy and Mining Dan van Holst Pellekaan.

Minister Van Holst Pellekaan says the SA Government is now able to deliver larger solar systems than it originally contemplated. The systems will be 4.4kW and we’ve been told will be comprised of “top-notch gear”.

It appears households may be able to opt for a larger system if they are willing to pay the difference. Some up-front costs that may be borne by a household could include major switchboard or meter upgrades, major wiring upgrades, or asbestos removal where required. If an upfront contribution will be required, these will be explained and agreed to prior to installation.

From the day of installation; participants will legally own their solar power systems and be entitled to all the warranties (and responsibilities) that come with it.

Assuming good quality components, it seems the SA Government scored a reasonable deal for their bulk-buy. The initiative is costed at $4.25 million, meaning the 4.4kW systems work out to be $4,250 each including administration and oversight of the program. This is pretty much in line with average prices for systems (good and not-so-good quality) in the 4kW – 5kW capacity range at the moment in Adelaide.

Switch For Solar A “Win-Win”

South Australian Minister for Human Services Michelle Lensink is urging households that are eligible to sign up for the deal.

“Our new Switch to Solar pilot is a win-win for everyone,” said Minister Lensink. “Not only is the Government injecting money into the economy and supporting vital jobs through the purchase of 1000 new solar PV systems, our concession holders will get big bill savings off their energy bills.

Not Everyone Is Happy

According to an ABC report, SA Opposition energy spokesman Tom Koutsantonis says cutting people’s concessions was “unfair and cruel and they shouldn’t be doing it”.

No further explanation was noted to clarify what was so unfair and cruel about it. As far as I’m aware, no-one is going to be forced to participate in the scheme. As long as participants are suitably screened to determine they will benefit and the arrangement is clearly explained to and understood by potential participants, it sounds like a pretty good deal – particularly for households where someone is usually home during the daytime.

Mr. Koutsantonis believes solar panels could be instead be offered with no strings attached using money diverted from other grant programs seeing limited uptake, such as the $100 million SA Home Battery Scheme. There haven’t been any numbers released recently regarding uptake under that scheme, and it would be interesting to see what’s happening there.

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.

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