Many Victorian property owners are considering solar panels, to generate clean power and help reduce energy bills.
To make the best choice, you need to understand what you are signing up to. Carefully research the products and suppliers before signing a contract.
Some systems can be expensive and any problems with installation or repairs can add significant extra cost.
Basics of solar panel systems
Solar panels, also called solar photovoltaic (PV) systems, use sunlight to generate electricity.
A typical 1.5kW (kilowatt) solar panel system installed in Melbourne will produce about a third of the average household’s daily energy consumption. This will reduce your electricity use but you will still need to draw the rest of your electricity from the state electricity grid.
However, at some times of the day, you may be producing more electricity than you’re using. For example, if it is a bright sunny day (so the system is generating electricity), but no one is at home (so energy consumption is low), your system might be producing excess electricity. You can gain financial returns, or solar credits, for feeding the excess electricity back into the grid through feed-in tariffs.
The amount of electricity solar panels generate depends on several factors, including the climate, the angle and size of the panels, and whether they are installed on a north-facing roof. You should consider all of these factors when you weigh up the costs of a solar panel installation.
Reminder about feed-in tariff arrangements
Any existing solar customers accessing the Transitional Feed-in Tariff who add generating capacity to their solar system after 31 December 2012 will forfeit their access to the scheme. This is based on the generating capacity of the panels, not the inverter’s capacity. This also continues to apply to customers accessing the Premium Feed-in Tariff, which closed in 2011.
Although these restrictions have always existed, legislation will be put in place in 2013 that reinforces and clarifies these eligibility requirements. Customers who wish to upgrade their system’s generating capacity can apply for the new Feed-in Tariff of a minimum of 8 cents per kilowatt hour.
For more information on these changes, visit the Feed-in Tariff Update 09 page on the Department of Primary Industries website.
Further information on feed-in tariff schemes, visit the Victorian Feed-In Tariff Schemes page on the Department of Primary Industries website.
Buying a solar energy system
Before you buy a solar energy system:
Do some reading
Get quotes from several Clean Energy Council-accredited installers. To check that an installer is accredited, visit the Find an installer page on the Clean Energy Council website.
- Talk to your energy retailer - particularly about the rates for electricity drawn from and fed back into the grid.
Before signing a contract
- Check the contract's terms and conditions are the same as any verbal assurances the salesperson gave you
- Check the contract specifies a delivery date and the supplier’s policy if the delivery date is not met
- Read and understand the warranty conditions
- Read and understand the supplier's policy on repairs
- Negotiate the amount required as a deposit (usually about 10 per cent).
Where to go for help
If you have a problem with a solar product or its installation and you cannot resolve it with your installer, contact us on 1300 55 81 81.
For complaints about the action (or inaction) of an energy retailer or distributor, contact the Energy and Water Ombudsman Victoria on 1800 500 509.
Last updated: 22/05/2013