Solar savings explained

Unless you’ve been living under a rock, you could not be unaware of the policy shambles that has been the federal government’s energy policy over at least the last 10 years. Taking a somewhat longer perspective, and at the risk of provoking a full-blown macro-economic and philosophical barney, one could mount a persuasive case that the die was cast with the rush to privatise long-established state-owned electricity and gas authorities.

And, as many of us will recall, the justification for these hasty sell-offs of publicly owned energy generation and distribution assets was that the resulting competition between the new, private players would drive down prices while improving services. Sounds risible now. The reality has been the precise opposite. Clearly, these champions of ‘small government’ had never heard of ‘natural monopolies’ and ‘essential services’ despite the fact that first-year economics undergraduates have!

However, we all grew up with Donald Horne’s The Lucky Country and never was this sage title more apt when we consider the forces currently reshaping the Australian energy market. Even the entrenched and formidable fossil fuel industry and its powerful Canberra lobbyists have not been able to stop, or slow down, the global march of renewables technology.

Australia, having surrendered the opportunity to lead the world in the development and successful commercialisation of the new energy, has been fortunate enough to benefit from the rapidly improving efficiency and plummeting cost resulting from overseas developments. And now this rapid and continuing evolution in renewable capacity coincides with the Australian states and territories stepping into the vacuum created by the federal government.

The unceremonious dumping of the National Energy Guarantee (NEG), the most recent attempt by Canberra to put an energy framework in place and thus provide the certainty for businesses and investors, has seen the Morrison government admit that it has no policies in this essential sector.

And it’s against this macro context that the policies recently announced by some states and territories seek to encourage significant initiatives from individual companies.

One such company is Sunbank Solar, which has headquarters in Melbourne but services most of the country. What makes this company of such interest to YourLifeChoices members is its focus on the 50-plus demographic.

Leon Siebel, head of marketing and communications, is passionate about the opportunities for older Australians to escape (once and for all) the unprecedented, steep and sustained increases in power bills.

But he emphasises the need for a highly professional approach. He stresses that every household’s needs are different and hence the importance of the thorough preparation that long-established companies, such as Sunbank Solar, should undertake before recommending a solar system to prospective customers.

This preparation takes the form of consultation with the homeowner, careful examination of previous power bills, the number and age of the residents and even the life changes they may be prepared to make. In addition, all installations are modular, so if more solar panels are needed or a storage battery has to be installed on what Mr Siebel calls a ‘journey to zero’, these enhancements can be readily made. He describes the company’s relationship with customers as a partnership, which is perhaps best demonstrated by the follow-up in three months after the first post-installation power bill is received, and every six months thereafter.

And it would appear this close liaison with potential and existing customers produces a win-win result. Clearly, the householders benefit from the company’s more than 30 years in the industry, while the company is constantly updating its research on the evolving attitudes of Australian households to renewables.

Returning to the over-50 demographic, Mr Siebel emphasises the importance of specifying and installing only quality components, so that a payback on the investment can be expected in two to three years on a $5000 storage battery, and in five to eight years on a $7000 storage battery.

With the ‘pink batts’ debacle still fresh in our memories, it’s inevitable that opportunistic and unscrupulous installers, sensing a quick and easy dollar to be had from the combination of potential government subsidies and unsuspecting householders, will hop on the solar bandwagon.

So, don’t rush in, do your homework and, above all, deal with a long-established, professional solar specialists who can refer you to their genuinely satisfied customers,

Get more solar advice here.

Have you installed solar panels? Has the experience been financially beneficial?

Written by David Fallick

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