To find the right solar panel, you can’t beat thorough research
THE rebate for residential solar panels has changed, yet again. From the start of July, the cash back available from the federal government will be cut by between $2000 and $2500.
Solar retailers and installers are experiencing a rush of demand before the fall. Many are already booked up until the new financial year, and those that aren’t yet are warning customers to get in quickly.
So if you’re considering purchasing a solar photovoltaic system, it’s worthwhile investigating your options now. But if you miss the deadline, all is not lost – prices may not rise too much.
The federal rebate is based on the trading value of ‘small-scale technology certificates’ (formerly known as RECs), which are created when solar hot water and solar electricity systems are installed. Presently, householders receive a credit of five times the certificate price, but the recent glut of installations has meant that the price – and therefore, the rebate – is lower than usual.
The multiplier will be cut to three from mid-year, and progressively reduced until 2013.
Russell Marsh, policy director at the Clean Energy Council, says the strong Australian dollar and falling costs in the industry mean that despite a smaller rebate, the price of a system won’t increase significantly in the second half of the year.
“Costs are coming down quicker than most people expected. The market is booming – there could be nearly 300,000 houses with systems on their roofs before the end of this year. We suspect [the rebate change] will have a small impact on price,” he says.
Mr Marsh says a good quality, 1.5-kilowatt system will set you back about $4000, out of pocket, depending on installation costs. For an average household, the payback period is around seven years.
If your head isn’t spinning already, you also need to consider the state rebates, known as ‘feed-in tariffs’. In Victoria, power retailers credit panel-owners 60 cents per kilowatt-hour for any surplus energy they feed into the grid (for the next fifteen years).
But new owners may soon miss out. “That premium tariff has a limit and we expect it to be reached within the next six months, or sooner,” Mr Marsh says.
Of course, there’s much more to consider than prices and rebates. To help, the Clean Energy Council has produced a detailed guide to buying solar panels. It covers basic information about the technology and its suitability for your home, together with a checklist for installation and comprehensive lists of questions to ask retailers and tradespeople.
For even more information, try the articles and podcasts put together by Choice.
Ingrid Just, from the consumer advocate, says a 1.5-kilowatt system produces about a third of the energy used by an average household.
“Firstly, get into the habit of reducing your energy consumption,” she says. “Australians tend to use a lot of electricity, so you should look at how much panel capacity you actually need.”
Before you buy anything, be sure to research thoroughly: ask your energy retailer about the tariffs it offers panel-owners and get quotes from a number of retailers and installers.
“Make sure you’re using an accredited installer and that any panel you consider meets Australian Standards,” she says. “Look for a warranty of 25 years from a company you trust.”