Yes, and No – depending on who you speak to!
When you install a solar system that has up to 99kW of solar panels you may be eligible to receive a financial incentive through the government’s Small-scale Renewable Energy Scheme (SRES).
This is variously known as the “rebate” “government incentives”, “up front discount” and “Small-scale Technology Certificate (or STC) discount”.
Except for “rebate”, all of these names are accurate. The organisation that oversees all of this, the Clean Energy Regulator (CER) prefers the term “financial incentive”, so let’s stick with that.
The money you are going to receive doesn’t actually come from the government, they just administer the scheme. This is how it works:
- You install a solar system.
- The system is eligible for a certain number of Small-scale Technology Certificates (STC’s). The number of STC’s you get is based on the size of the solar panel array (in kW), where in Australia it is installed, and the deeming period (the number of years remaining before the scheme ends in 2030).
- The buying and selling of STC’s is an industry all of its own and solar installers work with STC trading companies. You assign your STC’s to a trader through your solar installer. The trader pays your installer for the STC’s and the installer takes their value off their invoice to you (you should see this as discount in their quote).
- The trader then sells the STC’s to large polluters who have to buy a certain number of them based on their carbon emissions and surrender them to the government. The idea is that they don’t want this cost, so they reduce their emissions to lower the number of certificates they have to buy.
- The value of STC’s is market driven and it can and does change.
- On the first of January every year the number of STC’s a system is eligible for goes down, so your discount will be less. The criteria for this is the date that a system is capable of producing electricity.
- The STC reduction each year isn’t something that will stop you installing a solar system, it’s just going to cost a bit more.
This is a pretty simplified explanation of how the financial incentives work. There are many other parts to the story, like the STC clearing house and the Large-scale Renewable Energy Target (LRET), but let’s just keep it simple for now.
There are many rules around the creation of STC’s including:
- Solar panels must be new, not used.
- If you are replacing solar panels, you can only claim STC’s if you are replacing the whole system (defined as the solar panels and inverter).
- The solar panels and inverter must be on the Clean Energy Council (CEC) approved list.
- Solar systems must be installed by CEC accredited installers who install systems in accordance withal relevant Australian Standards and the CEC Install Guidelines.
As the solar system owner, you will be asked to confirm that the system was actually installed at your home or business. In the past this meant signing a form, but just about everyone does it electronically now.
At this point things get a little odd. Recently, the Clean Energy Regulator introduced a requirement that installers submit “selfies” of themselves at the beginning, middle and end of each job (admittedly, the whole idea does stem from the Clean Energy Council though). This is to ensure that the Clean Energy Council accredited person is there. While it is great the regulator is clamping down on dodgy installers, I struggle to think of anyone else in the country that has to provide three photos to prove they were at work!
So, if you see a hot and sweaty electrician taking photos of themselves while looking very cranky and swearing at their phone, you’ll know what that’s all about.