Victoria is fast becoming Australia’s solar capital

State of progress

Victoria is fast becoming Australia’s solar capital, with the state government investing more than $1.3 billion in the Solar Homes scheme to enable hundreds of thousands of households to install solar panels and  solar hot water and also – in the latest announcement – battery storage systems.

The election sweetener will impact up to 700,000 households and puts a re-elected state Labor Government at the forefront of smart energy technology while plugging emissions in line with responsible state targets.

The most recent announcement came last week: half price solar batteries for 10,000 Victorian households that already have solar panels, with eligible homeowners saving up to $4,838 on an average 11kW battery and around $650 a year on their electricity bills.

Under the scheme, homeowners get a 50 per cent rebate for installation of a battery storage unit, capped at $4,838 in the first year and tapering down to $3,714 by 2026 as the price of batteries comes down.

With 10,000 households expected to take part, the package will cost an estimated $40 million.

This latest scheme comes on top of the household solar panels scheme that will deliver half price solar panels to 650,0000 homes in a $1.2 billion subsidies scheme and $1000 contribution toward the installation of solar hot water systems in a $60 million scheme.

In the three weeks since it was announced there have been 9000 registrations of interest in its subsidised solar program.

Smart Energy Council chief executive John Grimes who congratulated the Andrews Government on its “extraordinary smart energy leadership” said “While renewable energy policy is being attacked by the federal government, it is fantastic to see the Victorian Government getting on with building a smart energy future.

“Renewable energy is quick to build, is the cheapest form of new generation, creates jobs and investment and pushes prices down for all consumers.”

Labor’s Solar Homes program is expected to bring the number of homes in Victoria with solar panels to one million within ten years. It will also save Victorians more than $500 million a year on their electricity bills once the program is complete and generate 12.5 per cent of Victoria’s target to generate 40 per cent renewable energy by 2025.

Premier Daniel Andrews who faces an election in late November said “This is a game changer for Victorian families fed up with big corporations that have been price gouging and ripping consumers off [since electricity was privatised].

In further moves announced early this week, Victoria’s first renewable energy auction as part of the Victorian Renewable Energy Targets (VRET) will generate more than 900MW of new clean energy, enough to power 650,000 households.

The auction was initially expected to deliver at least 650MW of renewable energy but the goal has been smashed, with the auction instead delivering 928MW of renewable energy – almost 45 percent more power than originally anticipated.

The six plants will be built by private companies.

The Premier and his Minister for Energy, Lily D’Ambrosio, visited the Ararat Wind Farm to announce the six successful projects, which are:

  • Berrybank Wind Farm west of Geelong, which will produce 180MW
  • Cawarp Solar Farm south of Mildura, which will produce 121.6MW
  • Cohuna Solar Farm north-west of Echuca, which will produce 34.2MW
  • Dundonnell Wind Farm north-east of Warrnambool, which will produce 336MW
  • Mortlake South Wind Farm south of Mortlake, which will produce 157.5MW
  • Winton Solar Farm near Benalla, which will produce 98.8MW

The 928MW of power produced by these projects is expected to drive a 16 per cent reduction in Victoria’s electricity sector greenhouse gas emissions by 2034/35.

Together, these projects are expected to generate $1.1 billion of economic investment in regional Victoria and create more than 900 jobs, including 270 apprenticeships and traineeships.

The VRET will ensure that 25 per cent of Victoria’s electricity generation comes from renewable sources by 2020, and 40 per cent by 2025. It is expected the targets will drive around $9 billion of investment and create more than 11,000 jobs over the life of the scheme.

Premier Daniel Andrews said “It’s simple – greater supply of renewable energy means lower power prices and more jobs for Victorian families. We’re making Victoria the capital of renewable energy and supporting the thousands of local jobs it creates.”

Energy Minister Lily D’Ambrosio added “Renewable energy creates jobs, drives growth, and protects our environment – and most importantly, helps drive down power prices for Victorian households and businesses … we’re backing renewable investment and renewable jobs.”

The state opposition led by Matthew Guy has committed to scrap the VRET if voted into power in November.

In related moves, Victoria is also ushering in the largest Virtual Power Plant as part of a major investment in microgrid technology across Victoria.

Minister D’Ambrosio – who last week announced that $4.5 million would be provided to Origin Energy to develop a $20 million cloud-based project that will distribute power from up to 650 customers with solar PV and batteries during peak periods – expects the Origin Energy Virtual Power Plant (VPP) to boost grid stability by discharging power from solar PV and batteries located at homes and commercial and industrial sites to reduce their power bills.

Selected customers will receive discounted batteries, demonstrating opportunities for coordinating solar PV, batteries and flexible demand across Victoria.

The VPP also provides benefits to the electricity network and will help Victoria reach its ambitious renewable energy targets of 25 per cent by 2020 and 40 per cent by 2025.

The Microgrid Demonstration Initiative is providing $10 million to support eight microgrid projects as part of the Labor Government’s $146 million Renewable Energy Action Plan.

“We’re investing in new technologies that will help create jobs, attract investment in renewable energy and bring down power prices,” she said.

“We’re ensuring Victoria’s energy system is affordable, resilient and secure, as we transition to the next generation of energy technologies.”

Homeowners with rooftop solar can also anticipate a change in planning regulations that will protect their systems overshadowing by neighbouring developments.

The changes in planning provisions being steered by the Andrews Government mean overshadowing of existing home solar panels and solar hot water systems must be considered in planning decisions, ensuring the capacity of an existing rooftop solar facility on a neighbouring property in most areas is not unreasonably reduced.

Minister for Planning Richard Wynne approved the amendment to the Victoria Planning Provisions that will take effect from late September.

The amendment also introduces criteria for solar panels in heritage areas including guidance on appropriate siting, colour and design in a bid to safeguard the aesthetic value of the area.

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