Solar Homes rebate scheme: Smart Energy Council survey reveals depth of despair and loss

On the last day of July The Smart Energy Council asked Victorian businesses: What has been the total cost to your business of the Solar Homes rebate scheme? Responses to the survey have been alarming; 88 per cent stated the rebate scheme has been negative on business. As many as 78 per cent are facing closure. In one case: “We have lost millions of dollars”, another “No calls. None”. One person reported: “[This is] Complete devastation. I'm looking to close the business and get a full time job elsewhere.”

 Insight into the scale of loss and suffering is presented though comments below which are just a small sample of the hundreds of responses that flowed in to the Smart Energy Council:

“We have reduced our workforce and our takings have decreased by 40 per cent.”

“We have lost hundreds of thousands and possibly millions as we missed out on signing the world’s biggest distributor because of it.”

“Work has completely gone for grid connect jobs.         

 “Sales volumes are down by 33 per cent.”

“It’s just a total disaster to me, my business and my family, how the hell will we survive?”

“I have kids, a mortgage other living expense, who is responsible for this? Let us run our business.”

And a chilling comment: “If I don’t get any jobs through tomorrow I will be closing the doors and putting myself and five employees out of work.”

“We have lost two employees.”

“I have put off three staff and the cost is in the tens of thousands of dollars this month.”

 “Solar Victoria and Victoria’s Labor government should be ashamed of how this has turned out. Complete disaster.

"I like others were going along fine until Solar Victoria stuck its nose in.

“I didn't get any jobs last month.”

“It’s killing me.”                 

Smart Energy Council chief executive John Grimes – who is alarmed by the findings and more determined than ever to fight for a workable solution – says the industry has never faced such a disastrous situation.

“The fact that this catastrophe has been caused by our elected politicians is unforgivable,” he said.

“The Victorian Premier and Energy Minister have to listen to the stories of devastation that are emerging. It is not good enough that they continue to defend and even laud a scheme that is causing an industry wipe-out.

“Taking no action is unforgivable.”

He says Daniel Andrews and Lily D’Ambrosio, their staff and advisors need to fully digest the findings of the Smart Energy Council’s survey.

“These are real people facing extraordinarily tough circumstances, yet the solutions are simple,” he said.

“All government has to do is abolish the red tape, and massively increase the number of rebates, and let the industry get back to business.  Overnight this could be fixed..”

Some more responses to the survey:

“This morning I submitted six quotes at 9am, my last customer tried to accept her quote at 9.23am but the scheme was already closed. So no work this month.”

“I won’t be able to stay open for much longer.”

“I have been installing solar for 8 years , with no problem before all this.."        

“We will need to let off anyone associated with the solar side of the business.”                

“So much for supporting local industry and local innovation!”

“So few people are eligible for the rebate it only served to seriously confuse , anger and limit the actual market. If it had never been introduced we would have sold more batteries and not had to spend an enormous effort in explaining the actual chances of getting a subsidy (usually nil) to the public."

“I have many elderly customers who cannot work out the application. It’s nearly getting to the point where I will need to send staff around to customers houses at 9am on the first day of every month just so I can have work for the month.

“We were doing 10-12 jobs a month, we got just four last month and are unsure how many we will get in August as there are 20,000 quotes uploaded. It’s possible I may get none.”

"We are small company of two staff only but we got one job for last month and have moved to maintenance of systems. We think that we will sell up and move to another state at end of year.

“The rebate has crippled the renewable energy finance industry as this operates adjacent to the sale and install of Solar PV for homes. Our company operates on acting as the finance arm for legitimate retailers and installers for their end customers. We provide affordable finance to consumers so that they can substitute their electricity bill for a less costly finance repayment that their electricity savings outweighs greatly. However, no one is looking to proceed with a sale, finance or any other action once the rebate closes.”       

"Several of our customers indicated didn't fully understand all the changes to the rebate or said to be annoyed with the difficulty in applying. We've done our best to explain everything, but despite that, we still had customers get cold feet. Most of them said they would look into it again later, when ‘the government has things sorted’.”

“Since the start of July we have completed no – zero - installs. We have customers waiting until they can claim the rebate and our solar stock is sitting on the shelves ready to install, if or when the time comes.

“The Vic solar rebate is a joke from start to finish. Process is hard, customers are turning their back on solar which is harder than getting a home loan. Also having a cap on rebates per month is creating boom and bust. We are busy one week dead the next.

“Something has to change or my business will close!

“My workers are friends and family, it's their lives also that are on the line that make sleepless nights colder."              

“The rebate has great intentions but was executed terribly. To cap the rebate at 3,000 is handcuffing every small business in the industry and removing the quality installers and people that keep this industry afloat. Scrap it or raise the cap to 10,000 per month!”               

"I have never been so afraid for my livelihood! 

 One installer simply commented:

“I’m lost for words.”    

We asked businesses to quantify their losses as a result of the Solar Homes Scheme. Clearly amounts vary – but the picture is staggering.

Among the losses: $300,000 and up; $10,000 in one month alone; $20,000;  $500,000; so far $10, 000;  $120,000; $13,000, $250,000; over $100,000; $800,000 in July alone; $8000/month (paying the bills but nil revenue from my solar business) $45,000 … the list goes on … approximately $144,000 lost revenue; for the month of July lost about $6000; $400,000 so far; $60,000; $40,000; $90,000, $180,000; $100,000; more than $500,000.

The numbers speak for themselves – and the losses are unsustainable.

The survey found that on average five staff per business have been laid off. Skills and talent have been lost and will have a lasting impact on the industry.

And

More than 78 per cent are concerned they may have to close their business as a direct result of the scheme.

Note: this survey was conducted prior to August 1, when the rebate closed after just 90 minutes.

That’s Less. Than. Two. Hours.

Businesses have some timely advice to the Victorian government:

‘The scheme has been poorly run and caused far too much confusion in the industry. The Government needs to seriously restructure the entire program or scrap it completely                 

"It’s only going to get worse, please reduce the rebates in half to 1112 and allow 6666 rebates per month. This will save jobs and businesses.

“It’s wrong that government is scanning customers faces for face recognition. Where will this data be stored?"           

"The rebate should be open to 40,000 applicants throughout the year and not restricted to a monthly number.

“It should be reduced to households earning less than $90,000.”

“This scheme should be either stopped or [you need to] change the criteria.”  

“Why not even one of the many options to recover the industry hasn't been made is well beyond me.

“We don’t want the Solar home rebate scheme at all, we were better off without the scheme.”                 

Want to add your experience to the results?

 Please fill in this very quick, confidential survey, https://www.surveymonkey.com/r/GKYFKF9 as it will give us the information we need to put in front of the state government, to urge them to change course.

 The Smart Energy Council will soon announce the next steps for this important campaign.