Growing incentives to go solar


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Over the past three years Australians have put more than 100,000 solar panel units on their rooftops and installed 135,000 new solar hot water systems, according to Penny Wong, minister for climate change and energy efficiency.

The federal government has promised that 20% of Australia's electricity will come from renewable sources by 2020 and Australia's greenhouse emissions will be cut by around 380 million tonnes.

There have been changes to rebates over the past year but don't be put off. There are still energy or water efficient products that meet the criteria such as lighting, solar hot water, solar panels, showerheads, toilets, washing machines, water tanks and greywater systems.

solar power

Where to start? To see what federal and state rebates are available check out Read the fine print to see if you are eligible.

In some cases there are different rebates for small businesses, pensioners, low-income earners and other groups too. For example, a surf life saving club can qualify for a rebate of up to $10,000 to install rainwater tanks.

The generous $1600 rebate towards ceiling insulation or solar hot water has ended. But there is a $1000 rebate for solar hot water systems that replace electric water heaters. With power bills sharply rising it is a good idea to weigh up the costs, and the electricity savings, of installing a solar hot water system.

Water heating is the biggest single source of greenhouse gas emission from the average Australian home, 23% of household emissions. Installing a solar hot water system can save a family hundreds of dollars off their energy bills every year.

Australians have installed 800,000 solar hot water systems, according to Stephen Cranch, national sales and marketing manager of Solahart.

There are solar hot water systems to suit all sorts of homes, ranging from systems mounted on the roof to ones with the panels on the roof and the tank on the ground. For homes with not enough sunlight you can install a heat pump tank that extracts the heat from the air.

Earlier you could earn a $8000 rebate towards the cost of installing solar panels to generate electricity, but that has been replaced by two incentives.

Under the federal government's solar credits scheme you receive renewable energy certificates (RECs) which you can trade and get a discount that equates to around $5500 on a 1.5kw system.

State and territory incentives called feed-in tariffs pay money to anyone putting power back into the main electricity grid. The rates vary, Victoria and NSW paying the highest at 60c per kilowatt hour down to 20c in Tasmania.

Only the ACT and NSW offer the generous gross payment for all the energy produced via a solar energy system. The other states pay net or only for excess electricity you produce, so that your system has to produce enough for your own needs before you are paid for any extra.

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