Solar for apartments: huge demand expected for 1st round of rebates

Applications have opened for the first round of a $16 million joint state and federal government program offering thousands of dollars off the cost of installing rooftop solar on apartment buildings in Victoria.

Solar for Apartments, launched by the federal and Victorian Labor governments on Tuesday, aims to help around 5,000 apartment owners and renters to install rooftop solar by addressing two key barriers to uptake: cost and complexity.

On the cost front, successful applicants will receive rebates of up to $2,800 per apartment, or up to $140,000 per building for up to 50 apartments to install solar systems.

Victorian energy minister Lily D’Ambrosio says the Solar for Apartments program will also help to reduce the complexity of installing solar on apartment buildings – including navigating bodies corporate and different tenant requirements – by streamlining the installation process.

Rebates will be available to apartment buildings up to eight storeys with between 5 to 50 apartments and owners corporations will have the choice to install either multiple individual solar PV systems, a single large solar PV system coupled with solar sharing technology, or a combination of both.

The program, which will be delivered by Solar Victoria, is said to have already attracted 500 registrations of interest from owners corporations, apartment residents including owner-occupiers and renters, and rental providers, demonstrating “huge demand” for equitable access to rooftop solar.

“This is all about making it easier for Victorians that live in apartments to install solar – so they can slash their power bills by $500 and help us cut emissions,” said D’Ambrosio on Tuesday.

“We have worked with organisations across local government, property and technology sectors and apartment residents to deliver a program that meets the renewable energy needs of apartment households.”

Federal energy and minister Chris Bowen says boosting access to solar is fundamental to cutting household costs.

“We want to make it cheaper and easier for apartment residents to install solar on their rooftop so they too can take advantage of cleaner, cheaper solar to provide cost-of-living relief.”

“In the past it’s been difficult for apartment residents to reap the benefits of cleaner, cheaper solar- this program will help overcome those barriers and power more Australian homes with renewables.”

The launch of the Victorian rebate, following the announcement of similar schemes in the ACT and New South Wales, will be welcome news for local outfit Alllume Energy, which installed the first of its ground-breaking SolShare systems on a mixed residential and retail building in a Melbourne suburb in 2018.

Allume’s “world first” hardware and software solution works within an apartment block or shared commercial building’s existing metering infrastructure, or “behind the meter,” to allow solar to be distributed and billed to individual customers under the one roof. It is being used to smash the solar ceiling around Australia and around the world.

Cameron Knox, Allume co-founder and CEO, says the Victorian rebates are expected to deliver “huge benefits, including covering well over 50% of the cost of installing solar for apartments using the SolShare technology.

“We expect that it will dramatically reduce the barrier for [apartment owners] to push it through these corporations, which has been one of the key hurdles for a lot of these people to get access to solar.

“So we do think it’s going to deliver a dramatic change to the amount of buildings that go for solar systems, given the level of interest that we’ve received.”

Knox says that in the three months since the rebate was first flagged, Allume has had more than 4000 units [single apartments] reach out to the company, which has been working through getting them all set up to apply for the grant.

“We’ve certainly seen surging demand since the rebates were initially announced… [and] we’ve got a really big backlog ready to go, which we’re super excited about.

“This first tranche [of the Victoria rebate] is 5000 units, so we’ve got a big chunk of that already sitting there ready to go, which Yeah, it’s really exciting for us really exciting for them, and hopefully exciting for some of Victoria as well. We think it’s successful program.”

Knox credits Solar Victoria for doing “a lot of due diligence” and engagement with industry to design a program that ensures the resident genuinely sees the benefit of the rooftop solar.

“The fact that it requires direct behind-the-meter connection to solar … is a really important design feature but also the fact that it’s it’s got to go out quickly,” he told RenewEconomy, referring to the short period for applications for the first round (see dates below).

“I think is is creating urgency in the industry, certainly urgency for us and our customers, and I think we’ll make sure that it’s successful.

“So I like the way that they’ve structured it into these chunks. And the first time being 5000 units, it will mean that impacts will be created pretty quickly. And the fact that it’s been well designed to focus on getting it directly connected to the apartments means it’s going to have a strong impact.”

Knox says that, discounting the time required for the rebate application and approval process, which is as-yet unclear, the process of installing solar for apartments can be very quick.

“We submit an interconnection application with the [distribution network service provider] and then in a few weeks we can have the installation scheduled and ready tee up.

“The rebate timeline – how long it takes to get approved – is a bit unknown, but we do know that Solar Victoria is keen to create impact as soon as possible. So we are quietly confident that it will be a quick process.”

The Solar for Apartments grants will be funded through an equal contribution of $8.05 million from the Victorian government and $8.05 million from the Albanese government’s Community Solar Banks program.

Round 1 applications are open until April 15. For more information visit solar.vic.gov.au.

This article was first published in RenewEconomy. You can read it here.

Author
Sophie Vorrath
Editor, One Step Off the Grid
April 18, 2024
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