Solar savings on power bills

There’s a cost to installing a solar system, but it should eventually save you money.

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?



    To make a comment, please register or login
    Star Trekker
    17th Apr 2020
    I had Solar installed last October. Bills have gone done from $1000 to $250 after concessions and pay on time discounts.
    17th Apr 2020
    Good news.
    17th Apr 2020
    Our bill went from around $800-850 (after pension discount) to just around connection costs of about $130. Not bad.
    17th Apr 2020
    ONE BIG ADVERTISMENT for one solar company.......
    17th Apr 2020
    Don't bother to install them in Tasmania unless you intend to go to the battery option.
    17th Apr 2020
    Always my option.
    17th Apr 2020
    "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."

    Yes, well - global economies have some merits at times, though a mixed bag.

    Already got the 6.6kw system and working perfectly - $3k from a firm run by Indians, and all fitted by homeboy tradies.
    17th Apr 2020
    At about $500 a quarter less, that's less than two years to pay off. Now with corona, look like having extra in the granny flat for keeps - for a while keeps anyway - and the system will be a godsend.
    17th Apr 2020
    Reading such things as these pages, is so confusing, it is like finding someone to help with a problem, from government of course, being the worst and never finding anything remotely to do with one’s problem; we have had a new solar 6.6kWh system fitted with so many promises, especially from Energy Australia! If Energy Australia kept to the contract signed, we would have had our system payed off in about two and a half years, then not long into our second quarter, they changed our feedback from 16 cents kWh to 11.5 kWh, thus, instead of being paid for in the above time, it will now take 5 years to pay the system off, but by then, it will have dropped to 6 cents per kWh, it was a lie knowingly from the beginning!

    We are of course, old age pensioners, not that that it means anything to any power company, their bottom line of profitability is more important; my hopes was to leave this world leaving my wife with nothing to pay for except the monthly fees in the village, food, clothing, and a holiday or two per year, a comfortable life by present standards, to live worry free.

    Having signed the power company’s contract, they wasted little time in cutting their rebate even though they only pay us for 5 kWh anything above they get for nothing and on sell for 1.6 cents kWh for approximately $500 per quarter and approximately $300+ per quarter on sell during the day, all into their pockets and us, nothing; it’s not rocket science to realise out of all their customers with a system like ours, how much Energy Australia reap, and, they still charge us for metre reading, supply charge and other charges which in fact is not costing them anything!

    Sad to say, Queensland Government seems to sanction such actions, making it double the sin!
    17th Apr 2020
    We have had a 10kW system since July 2019 and on monthly billing so that I can monitor the savings. With AGL in Melbourne and over Summer we experienced negative bills. We have installed a Powerwall 2 battery in March 2020 because we didn't want blackouts. My wife has to cook her own food because of food allergies. Ironically we haven't had a blackout in 6 months..

    Because we are part pensioners the Battery cost is part of the house and the increase in Pension because of the purchase was equal to 7.8% return on funds. Comparing the abysmal bank interest of 1.45%.

    In the Autumn weather, and keeping 40% in reserve for backup on the battery we have been running the house off the Solar and battery for 14 hours a day. That cuts in at about 7am Solar and recharging the battery, then all day Solar and finally battery use until 9pm.. The battery is recharged with 3 hours.

    Very good for us, because we have a musician son who lives with us and he cooks in the middle of the night. We only have gas for hot water. Our first bill with battery is due in a couple of days and because I'm well in credit with AGL it will be well covered because we have been heating the house with our Aircons during the sudden snap of cold weather...

    While I'm typing this at around midday the house is running off Solar, no visible sun, some feed in to AGL @ 12c and the battery is fully charged.. We are allowed 10kW feedin..

    AS an incentive for my wife I setup a Bonus Savings account with the bank and in 8 months that account has $2,685. Purchasing the Solar system was another boost in the Pension. For those contemplating Solar, make sure you include it in your house insurance..

    The best decision we have made..
    17th Apr 2020
    This is what I would call a good news story, and congratulations on having the common sense on setting up your battery system. We did look at getting a battery system with advice we would need 2 batteries, but the cost was sadly beyond us and our pension; it was disappointing, but they told us that we can add the batteries onto our system as it is capable of such a thing without any extra costs other than buying the batteries.

    It is not gone and forgotten, it will be on the back burner until some good financial input comes our way; we are however happy for you and hope that your wife somehow improves, good to hear a positive story!
    Star Trekker
    17th Apr 2020
    I have been putting the money I used to put towards the Electricity bill in a savings account. Hopefully it will cover the cost in about 18 months.
    17th Apr 2020
    I installed my first solar in 2010 under the old rebate scheme. I had both water and power.
    I never paid an electricity bill for 5 years. When the rebates changed, I was offered a chance to try a new type of storage battery as part of a test of the new technology. I paid half price. I only have seven panels but, since installing the battery in late 2018, my power bills have been around $50 per quarter. Go Solar.
    17th Apr 2020
    Had solar panels on the roof for 9 years. Have $1300 in credit sitting waiting for the contract to run out then have to pay for power.
    The last power account I had to pay was in the first month of solar power. The Account was for $11 only. Yes $11 account in 9 years.
    Have a 8 panel system of 3Kva and our usage is approx 4.5 units/day and we make a total of approx 12units/day. Paid for the 7.5 units into the grid.
    We have to pay a set fee for taking out of the grid at night and also pay to put power into the grid to help out the Government.
    Keep that sun shinning 24hrs a day
    17th Apr 2020
    Had solar from the start and we are getting 21cents feed in, only way to go really. As they say privatise and perish.We had pink batts installed under the Rudd scheme as well and the combination worked really great.I wonder where the money from the power sell off or should i say give away went perhaps into the Future Fund?
    17th Apr 2020
    Makes me feel out of touch, I have not heard of any power giveaway, but like all things, I think it depends what State you are in. Queensland still own the physical side of power, but the LNP leased the rest out, I think that's it; another government blunder, selling off the assets is stupid to say the least; all assets like power, water, gas, telephone, should be owned by the people (taxpayer).

    To privatize our essentials brings the roof down on our heads and rips the money out of our pockets; in my opinion, we should take everything back through compulsory acquisition, we need people power back.

    We should leave the coal underground and use alternative power given to us by nature, more solar farms and wind farms owned by the people.
    17th Apr 2020
    Be warned if you are in South Aust be prepared to wait after your system is installed to have S.A. Power networks come and connect you to the grid and install a new meter. Have been waiting three weeks now for a connection and have been told could be a further three weeks away. Great system just not working at saving us any money.
    17th Apr 2020
    Be warned if you are in South Aust be prepared to wait after your system is installed to have S.A. Power networks come and connect you to the grid and install a new meter. Have been waiting three weeks now for a connection and have been told could be a further three weeks away. Great system just not working at saving us any money.
    19th Apr 2020
    A claimed 2 to 3 year return on investment on a $5000 battery sounds like rubbish to me. For a $5000 battery the best capacity I could find online was 3.5KWH. Let's assume that the full 3.5KWH stored by the battery is consumed each day and assume that the cost of electricity from the grid is $0.25 per KWH then the savings in 3 years would be 3.5 x 365 x 0.25 x 3 = $967. Put another way to pay back in 3 years the capacity of the battery would have to be approximately 18KWH. Good luck finding a battery this size for $5000.

    Batteries will make economic sense some time in the future but not now. However, solar panels are viable now. In our case, a 2 person household with ducted air conditioning, we installed a 6.6KWH system that will pay back within less than 5 years. This is based on $0.25 per KWH from the grid, $0.15 feed in tariff, and $1.24 daily charge. Best advice is to choose a reputable company that use equipment with excellent warranties (minimum 10 years for the inverter and 15 years on panels) and will be around to honour warranties down the track.

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