Do you have a Pensioner Concession Card?
Do you own a home in the ACT?
Does the roof of that home lack solar panels?
If you can answer yes to these questions then you can receive up to $2,500 off the cost of a solar system. The ACT Government will pay for half up to that maximum as part of their Solar For Low Income Households Program — provided they decide your home is suitable.
This subsidy is available now and there’s no set date to end the program. As Labor remains in power after winning last week’s ACT election, I expect it will be available for a considerable time.
It’s A Good Deal
While it will depend on the exact circumstances, our Solar & Battery Calculator says conventional solar in Canberra can pay for itself inside 4 years. As this program can potentially cut that time in half, it makes rooftop solar power an insanely good investment. With a large enough system and perhaps a little effort put into shifting electricity use to the daytime, many pensioners would end up with electricity bills that either average zero dollars a year or provide an overall credit.
Solar Subsidy Eligibility
It doesn’t matter what kind of pensioner you are, as long as you hold an Australian Government Pensioner Concession Card and own a home without solar panels you can apply. Here’s information on who can get the card.
While the program is open to all with the concession card, Aged Pensioners have the highest home ownership.
The internet page for the Solar For Low Income Households Program says there are other eligibility requirements households will be assessed on. While there may be more, the three they mention are:
- Roof orientation
- Roof size
- Roof shading
My guess is they don’t want the subsidy going towards systems that will have below-average production as they’ll get less bang for their subsidy buck. This means roofs that are difficult to install on may be rejected.
While I think it’s unlikely, they may also take grid management issues into account and favour solar systems that face west to help meet summer air conditioner demand and/or face east to help power heating on cold winter mornings. Peak demand occurs during summer heatwaves, but the ACT’s cold winters make it the season the greatest amount of energy is consumed.
If you use a wood heater to stay warm in winter there’s another ACT program that will pay you to replace it.
How To Apply
Applying for the solar subsidy is pretty straight forward:
- You call Access Canberra on 13 22 81 or send them an email at [email protected] . Note there’s a capital letter at the start of that. It probably doesn’t matter whether or not it’s capitalized, but best not to risk it. After all, it is the Australian Capital Territory.
- After they receive your details one solar installer will contact you and, provided your home meets the requirements and you want to go ahead, they will provide you with a quote that will include the subsidy.
If you don’t like the quote you are given or you simply change your mind, you don’t have to accept it. You’re free to say no and it won’t cost you anything.
I will warn you the people at Access Canberra can only give very general information about the scheme, so don’t bother trying to pump them for information. Trust me, I know it won’t work.
No Choice Of Solar Installers
If you apply you’ll only be put in touch with one solar installer and offered one quote. This may make you concerned they’ll take advantage of their privileged position to bump up the price so you won’t get the full benefit of the subsidy. But the only sensible way I can see for this scheme to work is if the ACT government contracted with some reputable solar installers to provide quality systems at reasonable prices, so price gouging shouldn’t occur if the government in the ACT is at all competent.
But if you are concerned you can get a second quote or you could just ask me in the comments if I think you’ve been offered a reasonable deal.
Extra Information Doesn’t Come Easy
I didn’t want to just rehash what’s on the Solar for Low Income Households Program page, so I decided to call up Canberra and ask someone in the know the following questions:
- When is the program likely to end?
- How do roof orientation, size, and shading affect application acceptance?
- What other factors affect the chances of getting the subsidy?
- If the home used to have solar power but it has been removed can the subsidy be received?
- How are the installers chosen?
- Is it safe for me to return to Canberra or does my old girlfriend still live there? Everyone in Canberra knows her, so I can ask anyone this.
Unfortunately, this didn’t work out well for me and I suffered the following three failures:
- On Wednesday I called and after being put on hold for around 15 minutes I was asked to leave a voicemail for someone who could help me, but they never got back to me.
- On Thursday morning I called and after being put on hold for exactly 15 minutes I was given the phone number of someone who could help me. When I called an electronic voice said that number was no longer in service.
- Early on Thursday afternoon I called and got an answer after just one minute. The shock nearly killed me. I was told the number I was given at the end of call number 2 was completely wrong and they’d transfer me to someone who could help. The person who could help took my details and said I would be contacted before the day was out. I wasn’t.
On Friday I decided to bang my head against that wall one more time and called them yet again:
Time Call Made: 10:28 am
Length of Time on Hold: 22 minutes
Result: Given another number to call. Also told I could send an email.
As I’d received no luck calling so far, I decided to give the new phone number a miss, but I did send an email. If they get around to responding I’ll update this article.