ACT Pensioner Rebates For Solar, Ditching Gas: How To Apply

If you’re an ACT pensioner interested in getting solar panels installed; provided you live in your own home, I have good news.  To help meet their target of zero net emissions by 2045, the ACT Government is offering a rebate of up to $2,500.

But this isn’t the only good news I have. If you’re in the market for any of the following:

  • A reverse cycle air-conditioning
  • A heat pump hot water system
  • An electric stovetop

Then the ACT government provides another rebate of up to $2,500. 

Both these rebates will pay for half the installed cost up to a maximum of $2,500.  ACT pensioner homeowners can receive up to $5,000 in rebates if both are taken. 

The bad news is, they haven’t made applying for these rebates straightforward.  The ACT Government has zero respect for your time, and you must spend hours on preparation and paperwork to get each one. 

To help you out and hopefully save you time, I’ll provide step-by-step instructions on how to get each rebate.   Then I’ll briefly complain about how goddam difficult they’ve made it.  I’ll also give some advice on the most effective way to use these rebates. 

But first, I’ll mention a couple of other financial incentives available in the ACT. 

Zero Interest Loans & Wood Heater Replacement

If you receive one of the rebates for pensioners, you can also get a $10,000 zero-interest loan that can be used for a range of environmentally beneficial purchases.  If you don’t get any rebates, you can apply for a $15,000 zero-interest loan, but the subsidy is a lot better, so aim to get that if you can.  I wrote about the zero-interest loan scheme in the past, but it has been expanded to include new and used electric cars, so I’ll publish an up-to-date article on it soon. 

I won’t go into the zero-interest loan scheme in this article, but you can use it to cover the cost of items you receive a rebate for.  You’ll need a good credit score and enough income to get a zero-interest loan.

Another scheme that will be of use to a small number of people is the Wood Heater Replacement Program.  This will provide a rebate of up to $1,250 to get rid of a wood heater and replace it with reverse-cycle air-conditioning.  

Pensioner Rebate Eligibility

The name of the pensioner rebate scheme is:

Home Energy Support:  Rebates For Homeowners

If you click on the link above you’ll get information straight from the horses’ mouths.  But I’ll try to be a little more succinct than these horses.

To be eligible for the rebates you must meet two criteria:

  1. Have an Australian Pensioners Concession Card or a Veteran Affairs Gold Card.
  2. Own a home in the ACT that you live in.

If you’re a landlord who owns housing in the ACT you don’t live in, you can’t use the rebates to improve your investment properties.

Rebates Limited By Household

There is a limit of one of each rebate per household.  If your living arrangements are unusual — for example, you live in shared housing or are part of a pensioner pollycule (a group of people united by their love of parrots) and think your group deserves more than one rebate, you can cross your fingers and ask the ACT government to consider your request on a case-by-case basis. 

How To Apply

The ACT Government hasn’t made the application process easy.  I suspect you have to be a retiree to have enough time to fill in all the forms and jump through all the hoops.  I’ll begin by explaining how to apply for the solar rebate first and then the rebate for energy-saving home improvements. 

Applying For The Solar Rebate

The rebate for solar power is also called a Category A rebate.  Getting it is a five-step process:

  1. Take part in an hour-long “online workshop”.
  2. Get a quote from one of more than 30 solar installers taking part in the scheme.
  3. Fill in the rebate application form.
  4. Get solar installed.
  5. You and the installer fill in another form to get the rebate.

This is a lot more complex than any rebate system I’d design.  The only reason I can think it’s so complicated is that it was designed in Canberra and they’re trying to live up to their reputation. 

I’ll go through the five steps below.

1. Online Workshop For Solar

The first thing you will need to do to get the rebate is attend an “online workshop”.  If you don’t know what this is, don’t worry.  It basically means “listen to someone talk on the internet for an hour”.  If you click on the “chat” feature, you’ll also be able to type in questions.  Don’t worry if you think your question may be stupid.  The people running the workshop are literally paid to answer stupid questions.

To sign up for the online workshop you will need to:

  1. Go to this Events / News page and click on “Understanding solar for your home.  Online workshop.”
  2. Click on “Register here”.
  3. Enter your name and email.

You will then receive an email with a link to click on when it’s time for the online workshop. 

They only appear to have these sessions once a month, so if you’re considering applying for a rebate, sign up for the earliest one to get it out of the way. 

 If you have trouble connecting or would prefer to attend in real life, you can contact Sustainable Home Advice and arrange to attend a live session in person.  Their contact details are:

Sustainable Home Advice
Email: [email protected]
Phone: 1300 141 777

You may wonder, “Do I have to attend a workshop?” The answer to that question is yes, because you must tick a box on the application form saying that you attended.

This is what the online workshop will be about:

The ACT rooftop solar online workshop covers system size, payback time, and increasing your solar savings.

I attended one of these workshops, and I thought it was pitched at a level that was too advanced for most beginners.  The presenter was also a little hard to understand.  While I didn’t have a problem, some people probably will.  The advice given was good but a little different from what I would provide. 

One thing they said was the average solar system size in Canberra was around 6.6 kilowatts (kW), but going smaller or larger than that was okay.  This is interesting because, when you fill in the rebate application form, it encourages people to install a system from 5.5 to 6.69kW.  I have my own opinion on system size, but I’ll save it until near the end of this article. 

If you have any questions after attending the workshop, you can email them to Sustainable Home Advice.  But if you want to read up on rooftop solar power, either before or after the workshop, I think we do a pretty good job explaining the basics in our Solar 101 Guide.

2. Get A Quote

Next, you’ll need to get a quote from an installer participating in the scheme.  You can find a list of them by following these steps:

  1. Go to this page.
  2. Under “Pick a category”, click on “Solar system” and then enter your postcode or suburb.
  3. Click on “Find Suppliers” and it will take you to a page listing all the installers in the rebate scheme.

There are currently 31 installers listed in the ACT.  You could choose one from the list but I recommend getting quotes through us.  My boss, Finn, personally vets every installer in our network and we back them up with our Good Installer Guarantee.  This way, you can be confident you’ll get a high-quality installation. 

To get quotes through us, click here and enter your postcode.  Then answer the questions that come up as best you can.  When it asks the question, “Anything else you’d like to tell us?”  Click “Yes” and write that you want to receive the ACT $2,500 solar rebate for pensioners.

3. Solar Rebate Application Form

The next challenge is to fill out the rebate application form.  You can find the form here.  Note this form is just for the rebate.  If you also want to apply for a zero-interest loan, you’ll need a different form.

On the form, you’ll have to enter the proposed solar system size.  This isn’t too surprising, but if the system is less than 5.5kW or more than 6.69kW they want you to explain why:

ACT solar rebate application section.

This is very odd.  For one thing, the 6.69kW figure is probably a typo and meant to be 6.66kW.  This is the standard maximum panel capacity installed with a 5kW inverter.

The usual reasons for installing a solar power system less than 5.5kW are:

  • “My roof is small.”
  • “I’m broke and this is all I can afford.”
  • “I’m a minimalist.”

While common reasons for installing more than 6.6kW are:

  • “I want enough solar energy, even through winter”
  • “I want to increase my savings and lower my electricity bills even further.”
  • “I want to future-proof my home, so I’ll be ready for when I get an EV or home battery.”
  • “I want the greater environmental benefit a larger system will provide.”
  • “I want to help my community achieve zero emissions.”

I can understand the ACT Government wants to ensure people aren’t wasting solar rebate money by getting tiny solar systems.  But if they are trying to discourage systems over 6.6kW that’s nuts.  A 5.5 to 6.6kW system will receive the $2,500 maximum rebate.  If a household gets a larger system, the expense is coming out of their pockets while reducing emissions and helping lower electricity prices for others.  Even if the ACT reaches its zero emissions target, the more clean energy it exports to NSW, the more it will lower that state’s emissions.  Greenhouse gases don’t stop at territory borders.

There’s one more strange question:

ACT solar rebate application question.  is the solar system connected to a 5kW inverter?

If the answer is “no” you have to give the proposed inverter size and explain why it’s not 5kW.  There are two reasonable answers to this:

  • The solar panel capacity is low so an inverter smaller than 5kW was used to reduce the cost of the system.
  • The system’s panel capacity is larger than 6.66kW so an inverter larger than 5kW was used.

This question is unnecessary, and it’s not reasonable to expect homeowners to answer.  It’s the sort of thing most people would have to ask their installer.

The other questions on the form are relatively straightforward, but you’ll need to provide copies of…

  • Your Pensioner Concession Card or DVA Gold Card.
  • The full quote you accepted for the solar power system.  This must include the panel layout, shade analysis, and projected monthly electricity generation.
  • Evidence of home ownership, such as a rates notice.
  • Evidence of home occupancy, such as an electricity bill.

Their preference is for you to email the document, along with scans or photographs of the documents to:

[email protected]

Alternatively, you can print out the form and mail it to them along with printouts or photocopies of the documents.

4. Get Solar Installed

Hopefully, you’ll have chosen a good installer and the installation will go ahead without a hitch.  But make sure you have organized the paperwork with the installer for the final step. 

5. Fill Out The Solar Rebate Claim Form

The form you filled in previously was just to apply for the rebate.  After you get solar installed, you have to fill in the rebate claim form.  It requires information from both you and the installer.  While the solar installer has to provide many details, what you have to fill in isn’t too complex.  But they do ask you to tick this box:

Is the system working as intended?

I’m afraid most people will have to take their installer’s word on this. 

After you’ve filled in and sent off this form, the process is complete.  All you have to do is wait for your rebate to arrive.

How To Apply For Air-Con, Heat Pump Hot Water Or Stovetop Rebate

In addition to a rebate for solar power systems, the ACT Government also offers a rebate to home-owning pensioners for:

  • A reverse-cycle air conditioner
  • A heat pump hot water system
  • An electric stove top

The rebate can be put towards one, two, or potentially all three items.  The amount is the same as for solar — 50% of the installed cost, up to a maximum rebate of $2,500.  This is referred to as a Category B rebate, while solar is Category A. 

Getting the rebate is a six-step process:

  1. Take part in an hour-long “online workshop”.
  2. Choose what you want.
  3. Get a quote from a supplier taking part in the rebate scheme.
  4. Fill out the rebate application form.
  5. Get the item installed.
  6. You and the installer fill out another form to get the rebate.

1. Online Workshop For Going Off Gas

After you’ve decided what to use the rebate for, the next step is to attend a workshop.  This can be done either online or in person.  It is different from the workshop for solar power, so if you want both rebates, you’ll have to attend both.  It’s called “Transitioning your home from gas to all-electric” because reducing gas consumption is the main reason the ACT offers the rebate. 

To attend, either online or in person, you’ll need to:

  1. Go to this Events / News page and click “Transitioning your home from gas to all-electric.”  Chose “online” or “in person”.
  2. Click on “Register here”.
  3. Enter your name and email.

They appear to have both online and in-person workshops every two weeks, so you shouldn’t have to wait too long to attend one.

Note: When you click on the link in the email it will download a program called “Webex”. It will take up around 500 megabytes of space after it installs itself. I used it to join the online seminar and immediately deleted it afterwards because I like keeping my laptop tidy.

2. Decide What You Want

After attending the workshop — or more likely before — you’ll need to decide what you are going to use the rebate for.  Here’s a quick overview of the three categories:

Reverse Cycle Air Conditioner:  This is an air conditioner that can be used for heating and cooling.  An efficient one can provide over four times as much heat per kilowatt-hour of electricity than conventional heaters.  

Heat Pump Hot Water System:  This is a hot water system that uses a heat pump to provide hot water.  In practice, they generally use around one-third as much electricity as a conventional hot water system, but a good quality one may do better than this.  Be wary of systems with a decent warranty length for some components but only 12 months for others.  Those will be the parts most likely to wear out.  I recommend paying extra for a system with a reasonable warranty length for all components. 

Electric Stovetop:  Electric stoves are more energy efficient than gas ones.  Induction stovetops are the most efficient, but only slightly more than conventional electric stoves.  Despite this, I recommend induction stovetops because they cook your food faster.  Some people say they don’t want one because they won’t be able to use their aluminium pots, but I say if cooking food faster would make your life a little better, then don’t let your pots tell you what to do. 

Any of the above items can reduce your energy bills, but often you can get the greatest savings if you use the rebate to go off gas entirely.  This is because you’ll no longer have to pay the daily supply charge to remain connected to the grid.  This is usually at least $220 a year before you are charged for any gas.  Note that going off gas won’t affect any ACT Utilities Concession you may receive. 

On the negative side, the fee for permanently removing your gas connection is around $750.  It seems strange households have to bear the full cost of this while the ACT is handing out rebates to reduce gas use.  You’d think they could charge a little more for gas and use that money to allow people to disconnect for free.

3. Get A Quote

The next step is to get a quote from a supplier participating in the rebate scheme.  You can find a list of them by doing the following:

  1. Go to this page.
  2. Under “Pick a category”, click on “Efficient Electric Stove Tops”, “Electric Heating & Cooling Systems (Reverse Cycle)”, or “Hot Water Heat Pumps (HWHP)”, depending on what you want and then enter your postcode or suburb.
  3. Click on “Find Suppliers” and it will take you to a page listing all the suppliers for that product in the rebate scheme.

4. Fill In The Application Form

After you have a quote, you’ll need to apply for the rebate using this form.  It’s not too difficult to fill in, but you will need to include copies of:

  • The quote.
  • Your Pensioner Concession Card or DVA Gold Card.
  • Evidence of home ownership, such as a rates notice.
  • Evidence of home occupancy, such as an electricity bill.

5. Have The Item Installed

The next step is to get the item installed.  Be sure your installer doesn’t forget about the paperwork required for you to submit the rebate claim form.

6. Fill Out The Rebate Claim Form

The final step is to fill out the form to get the actual rebate.  It can be found here.  It’s not difficult to fill in, but the installer will need to provide some information.

My Size Advice For Solar Power Systems

When people ask me how much solar they should install, I give this advice:

Provided it won’t cause financial hardship, install as much solar as you reasonably can, given your roof space and what the local connection rules allow. 

The first part is important.  Solar panels will save you money, but there is no point in starving to death while waiting for your electricity bill savings to arrive.  If you can only afford a small system, the good news is — so long as your roof isn’t heavily shaded — any solar is better than no solar.  Especially if the ACT is paying for half of it. 

But if you can afford a larger system, I recommend filling your roof with solar panels.  This is because it will normally pay for itself, and you’ll be prepared for the future if you get an electric car or home battery.  While a 6.6kW system is a good size, I recommend considering a larger system of 8kW or more. 

Most homes have single-phase power, and in the ACT they are only allowed to export a maximum of 5kW.  This can cause some solar generation to be lost, but for a typical home with an 8kW solar power system, it’s likely to be around 2% of generation or less.  If an effort is made to shift electricity consumption to the middle of the day, then the losses can be next to nothing.  This lack of losses makes me more optimistic about larger systems than the presenter in the online workshop.

Panel Cleaning — Often Not Economically Worthwhile

At the online workshop, they recommended occasional panel cleaning, but I’ve found for most systems, it’s not economically worthwhile.  The slight increase in output isn’t worth the cost of having them cleaned.  There are exceptions to this — often due to the location of trees and the behaviour of birds — and some panels can build up enough dirt to make professional cleaning worthwhile.

Solar Provides The Most Savings

Unless your roof is heavily shaded, solar will normally provide the most savings, so it makes sense to get that rebate first.  The other rebate items will usually save Canberra homes the most money on energy bills in the following order:

  1. Reverse cycle air conditioning when it replaces conventional electric or gas heating.
  2. Heat pump hot water when it replaces conventional electric hot water or gas hot water.
  3. Electric stove tops when it replaces a gas cooker.

The above order is just a general guide.  For example, if getting an electric stove top allows a home to get rid of gas entirely, that may result in greater long-term savings than the other items.

It’s Too Damn Complex!

If I was making a solar rebate program for the ACT, it would be a hell of a lot simpler than this.  There would only be one form and no workshop — whether online or in person.  This would reduce the amount of time spent applying for rebates and processing them.  Because time is money, this would also reduce the overall cost of the rebates and allow more money to be spent on providing solar and energy saving items and less on shuffling paper or clicking files. 

I understand why it’s so complex.  The ACT Government wants to educate people and help protect them against shonky installers.  But I say they should make the rebate system simpler and use a portion of the money saved to go directly after shonks.  If they focus on making the rebate system low-cost and simple to use and separately focus on eliminating bad installers, they’ll probably do both jobs better than if they try to make the rebate system do it all. 

But I don’t even live in the ACT, so there’s not much I can do about it.  I’ve done the best I can, which is write this guide that will hopefully convince you to get the rebates if you’re eligible and save you time when it comes to applying.

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