Wednesday, 6 March 2013

Tens of thousands yet to install solar power after sign-up frenzy
18 Feb 2013

MORE than 42,000 Queenslanders who scrambled to secure generous government solar incentives are yet to follow through with their green dream. The industry is baffled by the poor uptake, given the frenzied lead-up to the end of the 44¢/kW feed-in tariff. To access the outgoing rate, customers had to register interest by July 9 last year.

Systems must be installed and meter upgrades organised with Energex by June 30 to qualify for the higher tariff. After this, the benefit earned by households exporting power to the electricity grid will drop to 8¢/kW. Solar firms are unsure whether customers are leaving it until the last minute, or simply do not have the cash to pursue installations.

They say those who leave it much longer risk missing out on massive long-term gains. Energex's latest report to the industry hails the success of approvals sparked by the 44¢ Solar Bonus Scheme. However it reveals that of 75,000 applications lodged prior to July 2012, more than 42,000 were "unactioned" as of last month.

About 26,000 agreements sent to customers had not been signed and returned, and 16,000 of those that had been filled out and received were yet to lead to installations. Ron Flynn, of Sunshine Coast-based SolarOn, said business had slowed despite the massive rush of applications mid-last year.

"For some reason people are sitting on their hands. Perhaps they will realise in coming weeks and there will be a rush leading up to the cut-off date", Mr Flynn said. "The 44¢ feed-in tariff is a gift, and it will go to waste if those who are eligible don't follow through".

Mr Flynn said some customers also may not be confident in their original solar company, and may be unaware they can transfer to another. As of last October, there were more than 175,000 properties in southeast Queensland with solar power-up from 148,300 in June, and the fewer than 1000 in late 2008 when incentive programs were launched.

Energex is advising solar companies to ensure their customer has signed and returned the agreement prior to installation commencing. Although existing owners will retain the higher rebate until 2028, anyone who sells their house will lose the 44¢/kW rebate and new owners will get the lower rate.