NSW launches rooftop PV rebate scheme, seeks proposals for latest renewables zone

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Some NSW households may be eligible for a free 3kW solar system. Image: CSIRO.

Around 1 million households in New South Wales (NSW) will soon be eligible to receive a free rooftop solar system under a new rebate scheme, as the Australian state also begins a registration of interest process for its latest renewable energy zone (REZ).

Set to be included in the state government’s upcoming budget, the AU$128 million (US$92 million) Energy Bill Buster programme will allow eligible households to receive the equivalent of up to ten years’ worth of rebates in an upfront lump sum contribution towards a free solar system or home appliance upgrade.

The 2022-23 budget includes funding to initially help up to 30,000 households under the scheme, with further funding to be considered based on uptake. 

The state government said those eligible can apply for a free 3kW solar system, saving them up to AU$600 per year.

“People living in apartments or renting who can’t have solar installed may be eligible to swap their rebate for a suite of energy-saving appliance upgrades, helping to reduce demand on the grid and lower power prices for everyone,” said NSW’s treasurer, Matt Kean said.

These include energy-efficient fridges, dryers, air conditioners and hot water systems, and upgrades such as window shading and draught sealing.

A record 3.3GW of rooftop solar was deployed in Australia in 2021, meaning rooftop PV accounted for 8.1% of the country’s total electricity generation, according to a report from renewables association the Clean Energy Council.

Recent research in the US from Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory found that subsidies could still be an important driving force of solar adoption among low- and moderate-income households given the relatively high up-front cost of installing PV systems.

Registration of interest open for Illawarra REZ

The NSW government has also opened the registration of interest process for its Illawarra REZ, inviting project developers and businesses with large electrical loads to participate.

Information collected will be used to inform the best timing, capacity, design and location of the zone.

Illawarra REZ has two main objectives: to connect multiple renewable energy generators and storage projects to help replace New South Wales’s ageing coal-fired power stations; and to provide cheap, reliable and clean electricity to homes and businesses in the state.

The Illawarra region has “unique features that make it an ideal location for a REZ”, said state government authority EnergyCo.

“The region already hosts major energy, port and transport infrastructure, has a skilled workforce, has the potential to utilise existing dams for pumped hydro, harness significant offshore wind resource and has a strong demand for future hydrogen projects.”

Illawarra is one of five REZs totalling 12GW of capacity that NSW intends to create as part of its Electricity Infrastructure Roadmap. The four other zones are planned for the regions of Central-West and Orana, New England, South-West and Hunter-Central Coast, with each receiving an overwhelming level of interest.

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