More Free Solar Systems Under NSW’s Energy Bill Buster

NSW Energy Bill Buster program

A pilot program offering low income households a “free” solar power system is being expanded across New South Wales.

Back in 2018, the then-Berejiklian Government’s Solar for Low Income Households Trial was announced. The initiative involved eligible households in selected regions being able to swap their Low Income Household Rebate for ten years for a solar power system. One year later, the program launched with a slightly re-jiggered offer – fewer spots, but a larger system (3kW instead of 2.5kW).

NSW Premier Dominic Perrottet and Treasurer Matt Kean have announced an expansion of the program and other changes under a new name – Energy Bill Buster. The $128 million program will enable up to 30,000 NSW households to swap their Low Income Household Rebate for ten years for a 3kW solar system or home energy efficiency upgrades.

The energy efficiency upgrades, worth up to $4,000, are targeted towards those who aren’t able to install solar panels; such as apartment dwellers or renters. However, Land and Housing Corporation tenants will be eligible to have solar panels installed on suitable premises.

How Much Can Be Saved With A 3kW System?

The NSW Government says participants could save up to $600 a year on their electricity bills. The Low Income Household Rebate is worth $285 annually, so it seems a pretty good swap. After the 10 years, participants get to keep the system. Assuming a good quality installation, it should have at least another 15 years of service left in it; but an inverter replacement will likely be necessary during that timeframe.

Using the SolarQuotes solar calculator with its default settings to check on the savings claim, it showed $837 in savings in the first year for a 3kW solar installation in Sydney. While savings will vary depending on individual circumstances, it appears the NSW government isn’t exaggerating.

Participants can also choose to have a larger system installed (up to 6 kilowatts); but they will need to pay the difference.

Further information on the Energy Bill Buster program can be found here. Just bear in mind some of the solar information linked to from that page hadn’t been updated at the time of writing in terms of eligibility expanding state-wide.

SA Premier Malinauskas Take Note

It’s interesting New South Wales has decided to go gangbusters with this program when over the border in South Australia a similar program is being axed. But judging by comments from SA Energy Minister Tom Koutsantonis on ABC Radio when justifying the decision, he really didn’t understand how it worked.

A state Labor government dumping renewables for low income households and a Liberal government really embracing them? It seems we’re now living in the Upside Down in SA. Still, Stranger Things have been known to happen.

In this episode, Eleven peers from the Upside Down SA into NSW.

NSW Empowering Homes Battery Program Ending

Speaking of axed programs, something NSW and SA have in common is both states are axing home battery initiatives. We reported in May the Berejiklian-era Empowering Homes program that was to provide interest-free loans for the purchase of home batteries and solar + battery systems to “up to 300,000 households”, turned out to be a fizzer.

Following an evaluation of the program, applications for the NSW Empowering Homes pilot will close on 31 July 2022. But at least in New South Wales the State Government is turning its attention to support for home solar for low income households with Energy Bill Buster. That cupboard will be bare in South Australia.

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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