Solar Installers To Rally Outside Premier Andrews’ Office Today

Premier Andrews and Lily D'Ambrosio

Premier Andrews and Minister D’Ambrosio in happier solar days

While Lily isn’t listening, Dan might – and the Victorian Premier will hear more today when solar installers gather outside his office in Melbourne to protest the PV rebate sending them broke.

The nature of the Andrews Labor Government’s botched rebooted Solar Homes rebate for solar power systems is resulting in job losses and businesses shutting their doors. This isn’t just bad for the business owners and workers directly affected, it also means competition is decreasing. That and the administrative burden placed on solar companies by the rebate scheme is adding to the cost of systems, significantly eroding the value of the rebate.

When a solar business goes bust, this also leaves its existing customers in a bad situation in relation to technical and warranty support. Given the scope of the program, everyone – potential solar buyers, existing system owners, solar businesses and the wider community – have a stake in the situation.

As SQ’s Ronald recently detailed, the Victorian Government may have set out with good intentions for solar buyers and the industry, but is instead destroying the Victorian home solar power sector. It shouldn’t be forgotten this is a subsidy the industry didn’t push for – it was doing fine without it.

An initial rally was held on the steps of State Parliament on July 25, but Premier Andrews and Minister for Solar Homes Lily D’Ambrosio were nowhere in sight. At the time they were at the opening of the Penguin Parade Visitor Centre on Phillip Island, engaged in a parade of their own. In an interesting twist, the centre’s rooftop boasts a large solar power system – a fact left out of the Government’s press release extolling the green virtues of the facility; perhaps out of fear of further poking the PV bear.

Lily In La-La Land

Even with all the mounting evidence presented of the damage the rebate is wreaking, Minister D’Ambrosio appears incapable of accepting the government has royally screwed up, furthermore making no apologies for it.

“Minister Lily D’Ambrosio has ignored our concerns and blamed business owners,” says the Smart Energy Council, which has been on the frontline of the battle. “That’s inappropriate blame shifting. If the Minister can’t fix this, we’re taking it to the next level and taking our message to the Premier.”

Minister D’Ambrosio has since gone to ground on the issue.

It’s expected hundreds of installers and other stakeholders will attend the rally outside the Premier’s office, which starts at 11am today. They’ll be calling on the Premier to fix the mess – now – by increasing monthly rebate allocations and changing the application system many solar buyers have found to be difficult, sometimes impossible, to navigate. Increasing monthly allocations doesn’t necessarily mean a more costly program as rebates could be reduced to accommodate the extra volume.

Some Sunlight At The End Of The Tunnel?

There has been some hope in the last couple of days Premier Andrews will make the necessary changes to the Solar Homes program. In comments reported by The Age on Wednesday, Premier Andrews stated:

“I’m happy to look at expanding the amount of installs each month,” he said. “But I will only do that if I can be completely confident that high quality will be observed and safety will be observed.”

As has been pointed out, sending good installers broke certainly isn’t a good way to ensure ongoing high quality and safety – and that is exactly what’s happening.

It’s hoped Premier Andrews will address the crowd that will gather at his office today. We’ll update this post with news from the rally as it becomes available.

UPDATE 12.30PM: There’s been a strong turnout for the rally and Smart Energy Council CEO John Grimes was all fired up.

Solar rally

“This affects the entire supply chain. This affects the people of Victoria. This affects all of us as an industry,” said Mr. Grimes. “And that’s why I say this my friends, this is just the beginning. You ain’t seen nothing yet.”

Liberal MP Ryan Smith reportedly stated when the Greens and the Liberals are on the same page, it’s a sign the government’s got it wrong.

UPDATE 7.50PM – One Step Off The Grid reports a survey by the Smart Energy Council of 84 solar companies revealed 226 jobs have been lost so far – and there are around 500 solar companies in the state.

At the time of publishing, the Smart Energy Council had heard nothing further from the Andrews Government.

UPDATE 8.20PM – Minister for Solar Homes Lily D’Ambrosio has popped her head up again to defend the scheme. John Grimes states the minister is “out of touch”.

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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