Can I Get Free Solar Panels in Queensland?
The Queensland government is committed to ensuring that every Queenslander gets access to solar power to lower the ever-rising cost of electricity. Eligible households and businesses can access the government’s solar rebates and incentives to lower the cost of installing solar panels. But is it possible for Queensland residents to get free solar panels?
No, there is no such thing as free solar panels in Queensland. If you are eligible, you can apply for the Federal Government’s Small-scale Technology Certificates (STCs) to lower the upfront cost of installing your solar system. The Queensland government also offers interest-free loans for solar and battery storage systems.
Essentially you can get solar installed at $0 up front cost, and the repayments will be less than your current power bill.
Currently, the Queensland state government does not offer solar rebates for solar or batteries. Households and businesses across QLD may receive solar incentives through the Federal Government’s Small-scale Technology Certificates Scheme or solar feed-in tariffs.
These schemes make solar power more accessible and affordable to Queenslanders and make it easier to get a good return on investment.
Small-scale Technology Certificates (STC) scheme
The STCs are rebates that homeowners and small businesses can get for installing eligible solar energy systems or other small-scale renewable energy systems. The STCs are a point-of-sale discount for installing a solar power system and have to be claimed within 12 months of installing your system.
The STCs you get will depend on the size of your system, the deeming period, your location, and the current STC value.
For instance, assuming you live in Zone 1 in QLD, your STC rating will be 1.622. The deeming period in years for systems installed in 2023 is 8 years maximum. So, suppose you install a 6 kW solar system, your STCs and rebate will be:
6 x 8 x 1.622 = 78 STCs.
78 x 39.50 = $3,081 rebate
Find out more about QLD solar rebates here.
How to claim solar rebate QLD
To claim the STCs, your solar systems must be installed by a Clean Energy Council-approved installer.
There are two ways you can claim your STCs:
1. Claim and sell the STCs yourself
You can directly claim your STCs from the government and trade them to wholesale electricity buyers. The price per certificate will depend on the current market supply and demand. The trading is usually done online through the Renewable Energy Certificate Registry.
2. Assign your STCs to registered installer
Usually, registered and approved agents or solar retailers will buy your SCTs at market value. They will offer upfront discounts for your solar PV system if you agree to assign your small-scale technology certificates to them. The agent will then claim the STCs and get the discount directly from the government. This is the most popular option because it is easier and faster.
When does the QLD solar rebate end?
The STC rebates in Queensland will end on December 31, 2030. The deeming period reduces by one every year, reducing the number of certificates you can get for an eligible solar power system. So, the longer you wait to install your solar PV system, the less rebate you will get.
Solar feed-in tariffs
Any excess electricity from your solar system that you do not use can be exported to the electricity grid. You can then get credits for the exported electricity in the form of feed-in tariffs. The amount you receive depends on the FiT rate your electricity retailer offers and where you live in QLD.
Market feed-in tariffs for South East Queensland
If you live in South East Queensland (SEQ), you may receive feed-in tariffs directly from your electricity retailer. There is no exact rate for the FiTs. So the rate you get depends on what your retailer is willing to offer depending on the current market rates. Since the FiT rates are competitive, it is wise to shop around to get the best deal.
Solar feed-in tariffs for regional Queensland
People living in regional Queensland get access to the regional solar feed-in tariff. This FiT is a flat rate available to eligible Origin Energy customers and Ergon Energy Retail customers.
To find out if you are eligible for the FiT, contact the electricity distributor you are connected to: Ergon Energy Retail or Origin Energy.
The regional feed-in tariff flat rate for 2022–2023 is 9.3 cents per kilowatt hour. For time-varying rates, you can get 5.796 c/kWh for off-peak electricity exports and 13.73 c/kWh for peak exports (between 3 p.m. and 7 p.m.).
Who is eligible for the regional feed-in tariff?
- Your solar system should have a maximum inverter capacity of no more than 30 kilowatts.
- Your annual electricity consumption should not exceed 100 megawatt hours (MWh).
- You should be a retail customer of either the Ergon Energy Retail or Origin Energy.
- You must be connected to the electricity grid.
- You must have only one solar PV system receiving the FiT per premise.
- You should not have access to any other tariff.
- You should have a network connection agreement with your electricity retailer showing their approval to connect your solar system to the grid.
Solar Bonus Scheme 44c feed-in tariff
The Solar Bonus Scheme (SBS) 44c feed-in tariff is not available to new customers; the scheme was closed in July 2012.
If you are still receiving this FiT rate and maintain your eligibility, you will continue receiving it until its expiration date of July 1, 2028.
This Solar Bonus Scheme PDF guideline details more about the 44c feed-in tariff and how to maintain your eligibility.
Interest-free loans for solar and storage systems
The Queensland government offers interest-free loans and grants for solar PV and battery systems. Three packages are available, and all eligible households or businesses can only apply for one package.
1. Loans for solar PV systems
If you meet the eligibility criteria, you can apply for a zero-interest loan of up to $4,500 to purchase a solar PV system. The loan is payable within 7 years. This loan assists homeowners who cannot afford the upfront cost of solar panels.
Small businesses are not eligible to apply for this loan.
2. Loans and grants for battery storage systems
Eligible homeowners and small businesses can apply for interest-free loans of up to $6,000, payable within 10 years, or grants of $3,000 to purchase a solar battery system.
Households can apply for the loan and grant or the grant only, while small businesses can only apply for the grant.
3. Solar and battery package loans
The zero-interest loans and grants are available to households and small businesses to purchase solar and battery packages. If you are eligible, you can apply for an interest-free loan of up to $10,000, which is repayable within 10 years, or a grant of $3,000.
Households can apply for the loan and grant or the grant only. Small businesses can only apply for the grant.
Further reading: Other rebate programs and incentives in QLD
Author: Ben McInerney is a renewable energy enthusiast with the goal of helping more Australians understand solar systems to make the best choice before they purchase. Having an accredited solar installer in the family helps give Ben access to the correct information, which allows him to break it down and make it easily understandable to the average homeowner.