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Solar panels, also called solar photovoltaic (PV) systems, use sunlight to generate electricity. 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. Some systems can be expensive and any problems with installation or repairs can add significant extra cost. You should also consider how rebates and feed-in tariffs will contribute to the return on your investment.
Carefully research company names, products and potential rebates before signing a contract for a solar energy system.
A typical 4kW (kilowatt) solar panel system can help an average household make significant savings on their annual electricity bill. This will reduce your electricity use but you will still need to draw the rest of your electricity from the state electricity grid.
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.
Before you buy a solar energy system
Do some reading
- Decide what type of solar panel system you want and what system would suit your home.
- Get quotes from several Clean Energy Council-accredited installers. To check if an installer is accredited, visit the Find an installer page on the Clean Energy Council website.
- Read online reviews and feedback about the retailer.
- Ensure you are comparing quotes for the same type of solar panel system and features.
- Talk to your energy retailer - particularly about the rates for electricity drawn from and fed back into the grid.
Before signing a contract
- If you expect to claim a Solar Homes package rebate, confirm your eligibility via the Solar Victoria website.
- Check that 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 10 per cent).
Solar certificates ('rebates')
Small-scale technology certificates, commonly called 'solar credits' or 'solar rebates', are tradeable certificates provided by the Commonwealth Government as an incentive to install renewable energy products, such as solar panel systems.
The most common way to get these certificates is through a registered agent, such as a solar panel company. The company gives you an up-front discount off the cost of the system, or an equivalent cash payment, and then seeks reimbursement of the discount from the Government. Alternatively, you can create and trade these certificates yourself.
The number of credits and the discount or cash payment amount you receive will depend on the installation location and the amount of electricity in megawatt hours (MWh) the system will generate over 15 years or by 2030 - whichever comes first. One certificate is equivalent to one megawatt-hour of electricity production over that period. The solar panel installer should give you this information before you sign the contract.
For more information on solar certificates, visit the Claiming small-scale technology certificates page on the Clean Energy Regulator website.
Solar Homes package rebates
Eligible households can apply for their choice of either a Solar Panel Rebate or a Solar Hot Water Rebate from the Victorian Government.
For more information and to check your eligibility, visit the Solar Victoria website.
Do not rely on any statements that you will receive the rebate, unless confirmed by Solar Victoria.
Beware of scammers claiming to be from the Victorian Government or Solar Victoria and requesting bank account details, or pressuring you to pay a deposit over the phone. For more information, view our Rebate scam page.
Research the name and reputation of the business and confirm eligibility to apply for a rebate before signing a contract or paying a deposit. If you paid by credit card and can no longer contact the business, consider asking the card provider for a chargeback. For more information, view our Chargeback page.
A solar feed-in tariff is a payment you receive via your electricity retailer as a credit on your bill for the excess electricity that your solar energy system produces and feeds back into the state's electricity grid.
For example, at certain times of the day your solar panels may be producing more electricity than your household is using. If it is a bright sunny day (the system will be generating electricity), but no one is at home (so energy consumption is low), your system may be producing excess electricity. By feeding this excess electricity back into the grid, you can gain financial returns through feed-in tariffs.
The feed-in tariff is a rate that is set per kilowatt hour (kWh).
All electricity retailers with more than 5,000 customers must offer consumers the option of a single rate tariff, which is set at a minimum rate of 9.9 cents per kWh for 2018-19.
They may also offer different packages and terms and conditions, such as a 'time varying' tariff. Customers who choose this option will be credited between 7.1 cents and 29 cents per kWh, depending on the time of day.
For information on the tariffs, visit the Minimum feed-in tariff page on the Essential Services Commission website.
Problems with a solar product or installation
If you have a problem with a solar product, such as a faulty inverter, view our Problems with a product section.
If you have a problem with the installation of your solar product, or with other services, view our Problems with a service page.
For advice on dealing with a business that has become insolvent, view our Insolvency page.
Problems with your energy retailer or distributor
If you have been unable to resolve a problem or complaint with an energy retailer or distributor, or feed-in tariffs are not being applied to a bill, visit the Energy and Water Ombudsman (EWOV) website or call 1800 500 509.
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