(First published June 2008, updated June 2010)
While prices on solar installations and other forms of green power options have dropped substantially in recent years, renewable energy technology is still out of the reach for most of us – or is it?
When I priced a small system for the little place I had in the outback in 2003, it was around $USD 3,000 – that was just enough to run my notebook 12 hours a day, basic lighting and a few peripheral items. To power our house was in the region of $USD 30,000 – $40,000.
Prices steadily decreased and I was able to get together a mobile solar rig for my outback adventures for around the $USD $1,400 mark, but one for the house was still out of reach without some sort of substantial assistance.
It’s been encouraging to see many governments becoming increasingly aware that as part of the battle against rising greenhouse gas emissions and climate change, they need to plough some very serious cash into renewable energy – including rebates, grants and other financial incentives to householders, businesses and community groups.
Renewable energy options such as wind and solar power
might now be in your reach thanks to government rebates!
(Image courtesy of Energy Matters)
While the rebates still won’t make the initial purchase of green power hardware attainable for some, it will open the renewable energy door for others and hopefully with increased demand; technology and production efficiencies; we’ll see pricing drop further across the board on items such as solar panels and wind turbines.
Feed in tariffs
I thought I would make special mention of feed in tariffs as they are becoming increasingly popular around the world and many people are confused about how they work.
While not a rebate, feed in tariffs do offer a powerful ongoing incentive for installing solar power. Feed in tariffs pay a premium rate for some or all of the electricity generated by grid connected solar power systems. The rate paid is usually far higher than the market rate for electricity and is guaranteed for X years. This allows potential solar power system purchasers to calculate how long it will take to recoup their investment.
For example, in one Australian state the average market rate for “normal” electricity is around AUD 16c per kilowatt hour. Solar power system owners in that state are paid 60c per kilowatt hour for all the electricity their systems generate! On top of other rebates available in Australia, this means the payback period for a system is just 4 or 5 years in that region – and then after that, it’s truly free power. Given the lifespan of a solar power system, the owners will “make” thousands of dollars on the system over its serviceable life through electricity savings; plus the system will also add value to their home. Of course, there’s also the warm and fuzzy feeling of helping in the battle to slash greenhouse gas emissions as well!
But not all feed in tariffs are created equal. For example, the two most popular models are net and gross feed in tariffs. A gross feed in tariff scheme pays the premium rate on all electricity generated, whereas a net feed in tariff only pays the higher rate on electricity generated surplus to the consumption of the premises on which the system is installed. From a financial viewpoint, in most cases the gross feed in tariff is the better model; particularly in the case of where large amounts of electricity are consumed during daylight hours.
There are other factors involved in determining how good a deal a feed in tariff is, so it’s important to research these sorts of incentives carefully.
And just on that point..
Finding current information on renewable energy rebates and incentives such as feed in tariffs can be a bit of a hassle, so I thought it might be useful to attempt to list some of the various rebate resources available online. I’d really welcome feedback so I can expand on the list (particularly additional countries) and to help me keep it up to date!
USA rebates and incentives
President Obama has made renewable energy a priority and all sorts of rebates and incentives are available at both a federal and state level.
The Database of State Incentives For Renewables and Efficiency is a comprehensive source of information on state, local, utility, and federal incentives and rebates that promote renewable energy. It was amazing to see how much financial assistance is available in the USA.
Green Made Simple is a free online service that allows you to find local residential energy efficiency rebates by just entering your zip code.
Office of Energy Efficiency Grants and Incentives
– Government site listing all current rebates and incentives for renewable energy and energy efficiency.
Solar credits program
– offers up to $6,300 in rebates on off grid and grid connect systems for home, business and community groups.
Solar Hot Water Rebates
– helping Australian households install greenhouse friendly hot water technologies
Feed in tariffs
– State by state summary of programs that pay owners of solar power system owners a premium for the electricity they produce.
The Low Carbon Buildings Programme provides grants for renewable energy technologies to householders, schools, the public, non-profits and private businesses. Currently, householders can apply for grants of up to £2,500 per property towards the cost of installing a certified product by a certified installer. A feed in tariff program has also recently launched in the UK.
If you know of other rebate schemes for renewable energy related equipment in these or other countries, please add a comment below, even if it’s just a link. I’ll look into it and add it to this article! Thanks in advance!
By the way, if self-generated renewable energy is just totally out of your reach for now, consider green tags as a way of providing cleaner power for your home or check with your utility about green power options. There’s also some links to articles on saving electricity below. Reducing electricity consumption is an important part of lessening your energy related environmental impact – and you’ll save cash too!