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Sunday, January 17, 2021

No-interest loans for solar panels under ACT Labor election promise

ACT Labor has announced it will implement zero interest loans for rooftop solar panels if re-elected in October.

The policy would see $150 million of loans of between $2,000 and $15,000 available to help with upfront costs for rooftop solar panels, household battery storage and hot water heat pumps.

Households with an unimproved land value of up to $600,000 will be eligible for the scheme, with the Government to wear the interest and administrative costs of the loans. ACT Chief Minister Andrew Barr said around 85% of ACT households could be eligible.

“One of the barriers for many households in taking up this new technology and reducing their costs and their greenhouse gas emissions has been the upfront cost of purchasing the panels, the batteries and the heat pumps,” he said.  

Mr Barr said households would be able to use part of the energy cost savings to cover the costs of repaying the loan over a 10-year, or shorter, period. He said the scheme could also support and generate up to 1,200 jobs in the industry in a “measured” expansion of the workforce.

“It has the added advantage of being an important contributor to our city’s overall greenhouse gas reduction targets, and this is an industry that for every million dollars that’s invested, will return about eight jobs to our economy,” he said.

A spokesperson for the Canberra Liberals criticised the announcement, saying rebates are already available for solar panels and battery storage, and expressed concern vulnerable households could accrue debts.

They said the focus needs to be on easing cost of living burdens for families during the pandemic.  

Labor’s scheme would see households subjected to a credit check to confirm their ability to pay back the loan, and Mr Barr said the scheme would assist households in reducing their energy bills with the potential to save “more than $1,000 a year”.

The ACT Greens have labelled the commitment “a good start”, and ACT Greens Leader Shane Rattenbury said the climate crisis demands the same “boldness, decisiveness and agency” as the response to the COVID-19 crisis.

 Mr Barr said it was clear Canberrans wanted their governments to “do more” on climate change.

“They certainly want government now to step in and provide economic stimulus, and households definitely want government to be a partner in reducing costs of living. And that’s exactly what this policy does”.

He said ACT Labor, if re-elected in October, hopes to have the scheme ready for applications by the first quarter of 2021, with a gradual rollout of loans to occur over 2021, 2022 “and beyond”.

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