TLDR : You’ll save more money if you go to the effort of buying your own, bigger solar power system rather than surrendering your roof’s profits to Energy Australia.
Energy Australia — the nation’s third-largest electricity retailer — has a Virtual Power Plant scheme (VPP) called the Solar Plus Plan. If you meet the requirements and live in the right areas of NSW, Energy Australia will install 5.6 kilowatts of solar and a Tesla Powerwall 2 battery.
If you take Energy Australia up on their offer you will:
- Owe Energy Australia $15,350
- Forgo your solar feed-in tariff for 7 years
- Forfeit any free electricity from the solar power system or the Tesla Powerwall 2 battery for 7 years
- Surrender the freedom to change your electricity plan for 7 years
Which makes it sound as appealing as a romantic evening with Barnaby Joyce.
But the scheme’s selling point is this: you don’t pay the $15,350 upfront.
Instead, you must pay up if you leave the scheme or no longer meet EA’s requirements. The $15,350 is reduced by one-seventh for every full year you remain in the scheme. After seven years, the rooftop solar system and battery become yours and you are set free to do as you will.
As it involves no money down, joining this VPP may appeal to some people, but my advice is to steer clear. By my estimates, you will be better off just buying a solar power system (without a battery) the old fashioned way. By giving the installer some money in exchange for a solar system. Or getting a low rate green loan.
If you want a battery, you can buy one when they come down in price or a different VPP makes a better offer.
Some devious people might be reading this and thinking $15,350 is a pretty good price at the moment for a solar system plus Tesla Powerwall 2. They may consider signing up for the Solar Plus Plan and immediately buying their way out. But there are three reasons why this may not work out:
- It will take 3-5 months to get the solar & battery systems installed, and by then battery prices may have dropped.
- The Powerwall 2 won’t have backup capability configured.
- The 5.6 kilowatt solar power system is smaller than optimal for most homes– especially ones planning to get a home battery.
Unless you want to end up with an inadequately sized solar system and a backup-less battery system at a so-so price, I don’t suggest diving in and then buying out. I don’t suggest diving in at all.
New South Wales Locations
The Solar Plus Plan VPP is only available in certain NSW postcodes. But Energy Australia doesn’t provide a list. What they do instead is let you enter your address on this page and then tell you if it’s available. After entering a dozen or so random NSW addresses, I was told it was available in these postcodes:
As far as I can tell from my random quizzing, it appears fairly widely available. One of the addresses accepted is in Newcastle, so it’s not just a Sydney thing.
Interestingly, one thing they take into account is whether or not you are near saltwater, so if you live close to the beach, you may be rejected.
To join the scheme, your home has to meet the following criteria:
- Private residence only and you must have lived there for at least six months
- If you move out, you must pay your way out of the scheme
- You can’t already have solar power or a battery
- You must average at least 10 kilowatt-hours of electricity consumption a day or 12 kilowatt-hours If you have a controlled load1
- You must remain on the required electricity plan
- No one at the address can be on life support
- You can’t have a concession card
- You must pass a credit check
No-Go For Rental Properties
As the Solar Plus Plan is only for private residences, it’s no use to landlords who may want to get a solar & battery system for their property at no cost to themselves. Even if you continue to own the home, if you rent it out Energy Australia says you have to pay the exit fee and leave the scheme.Read More