If you’re living in Victoria, and you’re remotely interested in renewable energy, then your news feed earlier this month was probably filled with anguish over the Solar Victoria rebate scheme, particularly the rebates for owner-occupied PV installations. To bring everyone up to speed, each month there are 3,333 rebates of up to $2,225 or a maximum 50% and interest-free loans up to the maximum value of the rebate offered. The July rebates were gone in 60 hours, and sales reps in the industry were quick to warn consumers that the August allocation would probably go even faster.
It opened at 9am and was gone by 11am.
The process for applying for a rebate has been streamlined. Compared to the previous application process, it is definitely faster to get a determination – my parents were waiting for months after their system was installed to get a response. That said, I also don’t recall Dad needing a stiff cup of tea and a good lie down while he worked through it.
We were one of the lucky households to secure a rebate this month. There were 3,767 rebates on offer, which I suspect was 3,333 for the month plus an additional 434 rebates from people who didn’t complete the application process in time during July. Since we were almost in that camp this month, I’m going to take you through the process pain points in detail.
Step 1 – Find your quote online
With the new application process, your solar installer needs to upload the quote before you can do anything in the system, and it apparently needs to be uploaded during the allocation month. Even though our sales rep told us that he would have the quote uploaded by 9:30am, he had a “technical issue” and the upload “must not have worked for some reason”. You’ll get an email from Solar Victoria confirming that a quote has been uploaded, so if you don’t have that email get on the phone to your sales rep straight away.
Once the quote has been uploaded, you’ll need to know the name of the company, the quote number and the dollar value before any rebates or subsidies are applied. You’re going to want to have a copy of this open and accessible by 8:59am, because until you get past this step you don’t have a place in the queue.
Upload your council rates notice
In order to be eligible for the rebate, you must own your property and it must be valued at less than $3 million; your council rates notice is what the system uses to establish this. You’re going to need to take a photo of it, meaning a scanned or electronic copy won’t satisfy the test. I’ll say it now and just assume I am repeating this sentiment for every step – the system is finicky.
Because we only bought our property in April, we didn’t have a rates notice at the time of application from the council. However, I was able to contact them, and they sent through a Summary of Rates & Charges. I printed it, photographed it, and after the system rejected the photo twice I was able to manually input the data.
In order to be eligible for the rebate, the homeowners need a combined income of less than $180,000 per year. There are a few ways to establish this, and we used our Notice of Assessment from the ATO. If you don’t have your assessment for the 2018/2019 year, the previous years assessment was fine for August. Not only do you have to upload photos of this – meaning print a perfectly good electronic file and fuss around – but you also have to redact the TFN. I tried with a Sharpie – didn’t work – and ended up just cutting out a small strip of dark paper to obscure the numbers with.
After this step, you’ll need to select a single homeowner for the ID checks and other paperwork tied to a single individual. Once I selected myself and continued, we were presented with our offer and the option to accept an interest-free loan as well as the rebate.
You’ll need to tick the two accept buttons (assuming you do, of course). Once you’ve done that, you’ll need to set up a direct debit request, so you’ll need the bank account details of your preferred account. Credit cards aren’t an option – it wants BSB and account numbers.
Step 2 – Your Identity
If you’ve been a bit stressed with getting the process to work up until this point, then you’re going to be giddy with joy over the next step. It’s going to work one of two ways – either you’ll get it to do what it’s supposed to do, or it will kick you out and you’ll get to start all over again. On 1 August I spent almost an hour on trying to get this step to work before it kicked me out and I had to start the application from scratch. You see, it tells you that it has saved your application at the end of step 1, but it doesn’t send you a recovery link in case you get into trouble. Even if you save and exit, the emailed link can only be used once, so if it kicks you out you’re back to the start. Muahahaha, brilliant.
You can get this step done offline, and it’s so painful I would suggest you do that if you have an older phone, but lets persevere with the online version for now because I borrowed a new phone to complete the ID check.
Once you key in your mobile number, it will send you an SMS link. Eventually. Once it arrives and determines your phone is compatible, you can select an ID from: Australian passport, foreign passport, Australian birth certificate, or an ImmiCard. I chose the Australian Passport. I took a photo of the passport and then went into the facial recognition step. You put your face in the oval, it will tell you to smile, and then you have to turn your head to the right. It directs you with voice prompts.
After completing that check, I also needed to take a photo of the front and back of my drivers licence. Once that was complete and I confirmed the details, I was redirected back to my laptop to complete the process. You can remember the ID check for next time, which I chose to do.
Step 3 – Review
This is fairly simple. You just need to check over everything and tick all of the consent boxes (assuming of course that it’s all correct and you agree to the terms).
Step 4 – Done
Because our council document was rejected by the system, our application needed to be reviewed. We received an email saying they would be in touch within 5 business days with any requests for more information, and that we would have 5 business days to respond. In practice this took around 4 hours on 9 August and we weren’t required to provide additional paperwork. I suspect that it wouldn’t have been so fast if I’ve been able to complete the forms 1 or 2 August.
Where to from here
For our family, getting this rebate and the loan is the difference between getting solar now and getting solar in 5-10 years. We need to pay for a lot more work on the house to accommodate the panels than we had anticipated, so it could be months before we manage to get the installation complete, but we’ve made it over the first hurdle. We now need to finalise the contract with our installers, get that necessary work carried out, and then get the panels installed. After that comes a round of safety checks and getting our electricity plan converted to a solar plan. Assuming that we don’t hit any unexpected delays, the system should be live in time for summer.
If you’re playing along at home…
…then good luck. Please share in the comments below if you would still get solar panels installed if you couldn’t access the rebate and/or loan.