Installers say a rebate scheme meant to encourage solar panel purchases has instead cratered the industry but Victoria’s energy minister insists it is “highly successful”.
Lily D’Ambrosio was grilled in state parliament on Tuesday and faces more questions on Wednesday as angry solar installers say they’re being forced to sack staff.
The government’s Solar Homes program offers half-price panels for 650,000 households and takes $1000 off the cost of solar hot water for 60,000 homes.
But the government chose to limit the number of subsidies issued each month to 3333 once the scheme proved highly popular. August’s allocation was exhausted in minutes, leaving some installers with no work as customers wait for the next round of subsidies.
“This is a highly successful program delivering record numbers of installations,” Ms D’Ambrosio told parliament.
“There are far more installations in the system that are occurring right now, which equals work, than there were certainly two financial years ago.”
But a Smart Energy Council survey of more than 60 solar installers found three quarters of them have sacked staff, or expect to do so soon.
It also found an overwhelming 88 per cent of them said the capped monthly rebate had been a negative for their business.
“Since the start of July we have completed zero installs. We have customers waiting until they can claim the rebate and our solar stock is sitting on the shelves ready to install,” one installer told the survey.
Another said they were trading well before the rebate was introduced but now new installations have stopped.
“The government has ruined my business that I have built up for six years and I will put six people out of a job next week if work doesn’t come in,” a third installer said.
Installers reported losses ranging in the hundreds of thousands of dollars since the Victorian government scheme started, while multiple installers said their mental health was deteriorating as they were forced to lay off workers and go deeper into debt.
“I wont be able to stay open for much longer. I have been installing solar for eight years, with no problem before all this,” one installer said.
The survey showed 41 per cent of installers had made staff redundant, while a further 33 per cent expected to do so soon.
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