Solar Victoria To Be Based In The Latrobe Valley – Maybe

Solar Victoria

Image: Solar Victoria

A new government agency overseeing the Victorian Government’s Solar Homes program, Solar Victoria, may be based in Morwell.

In case you missed the news earlier this week (which may have been difficult to), the Victorian Government announced an ambitious program to support the installation of solar panels on 650,000 more homes throughout the state over ten years.

To kick off, 24,000 eligible Victorian households can get a rebate of up to 50% or $2,225 (whichever is the lesser) on a solar power system up until June 30 next year – and it appears there will be no shortage of takers. This rebate is in addition to Australia’s existing subsidy. Also up for grabs are $1,000 rebates for 6,000 homes that install solar hot water systems before June 30th.

As for the remaining 626,000 homes getting access to the rebate – well, that depends on Labor being returned to government after the election in November. To sweeten the deal, interest-free solar loans will also be available in that scenario.

Also depending on a Labor return is the establishing of the Solar Victoria office in Morwell, which will create up to 50 new jobs in the Latrobe Valley.

“A re-elected Labor Government will locate Solar Victoria at Morwell’s new $25 million GovHub building,” states a government press release “Construction of the GovHub building at 65 Church Street will start later this year, creating 100 construction jobs and housing up to 300 workers when it is completed in 2020.”

Where Solar Victoria is or will be operating from until that time isn’t clear. Solar Victoria already exists in a fashion – virtually – as a web site providing information to consumers and industry on the Victorian government’s rebate.

Should the Solar Victoria office in Morwell go ahead, those 50 people will likely be kept very busy, even after the initial rush has passed.

Just on that point, early indications are that funding for the Solar Homes rebate allocated to June 30 next year could run out before that date. However, while some solar buyers may feel the pressure is on, they should still look before they leap into the VIC solar rebate.

Morwell, 150 kilometres east of Melbourne, is the largest city in the Latrobe Valley. It’s had a long and strong association with coal, with its brown coal deposits feeding local electricity generators including the ravenous, emissions belching (and now closed) Hazelwood and Morwell Power Stations. Power generation accounts for almost all air pollution in the Latrobe Valley.

But perhaps there’s something else in the air now in Morwell and the Latrobe Valley – a bit more optimism as it moves towards a low-emissions economy capitalising on its extensive electricity infrastructure and renewable energy resources.

On a related note, also announced for the Latrobe Valley region earlier this week was a new $3 million grant program to support the development of microgrids based on renewables.

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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