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Tuesday, 13 May 2008
Page: 1635


Senator Milne asked the Minister representing the Minster for the Environment, Heritage and the Arts, upon notice, on 12 February 2008:

(1)   Since the Photovoltaic Rebate Program started: (a) how many applications for the rebate have been received by the Australian Greenhouse Office (AGO); and (b) how many rebates have been granted.

(2)   Since the Solar Hot Water Rebate Program started: (a) how many applications for the rebate have been received by the AGO; and (b) how many rebates have been granted.

(3)   Since the Renewable Remote Power Generation Program started: (a) how many applications under the program have been received by the AGO; and (b) how many applications have been granted.

(4)   Why has there been a delay in the processing and funding of the rebates.


Senator Wong (Minister for Climate Change and Water) —The Minister for the Environment, Heritage and the Arts has provided the following answer to the honourable senator’s question:

(1)   As at 30 January 2008, the Photovoltaic Rebate Program has approved 16,062 rebates of which 11,324 rebates had been paid for completed installations. The difference between these two figures represents systems currently under construction, and stalled and lapsed installations. A further 1,367 applications are in the registration and assessment process, so the total number of application received by the end of January would have been around 17,429. The processing time for the rebates, as per the program guidelines, is up to six weeks. Delays beyond this timeframe are not occurring for correctly completed applications.

(2)   The Solar Hot Water Rebate Program began receiving applications in September 2007. As at 4 February 2008, a total of 6,250 applications had been received with 3,460 rebates having been paid, 259 applications assessed as ineligible and 2,531 applications being processed.

(3)   As at 31 December 2007, the Renewable Remote Power Generation Program (RRPGP) sub-programs for renewable energy power systems and water pumping have approved 6,508 pre-purchase applications of which 5,020 rebates have been paid for completed installations. The difference between these figures is due to withdrawn or lapsed pre-purchase applications and installations under construction. The processing time for the small rebates, as per the RRPGP sub-program guidelines, is up to six weeks. Delays beyond this timeframe are not occurring for applications that have been completed correctly. As at 29 February 2008, the RRPGP Major Project sub-program had received 33 proposals of which 28 have been approved for funding. There are five applications under assessment. As at 29 February 2008, the RRPGP Industry Support sub-program had received 39 proposals of which 37 had been approved for funding. There are 2 proposals under assessment.

(4)   For the Solar Hot Water Rebate program, administrative issues centred around verifying the installation of eligible solar hot water systems, have delayed processing a number of applications beyond the targeted 8 week timeframe. The original design of the program required voluntary third parties, known as Registered Agents, to submit information that is used by the Department to verify that a hot water system that has been installed is eligible for the rebate(confirmation of the tank number, the number of RECs attached to the system and the installation address). Registered Agents are people/companies registered to trade in Renewable Energy Certificates (RECs) created under the Mandatory Renewable Energy Target legislation. All solar hot water systems generate RECs and these are usually sold to a Registered Agent at the time of installation, reducing the up front cost of the system to the household. The Registered Agents participating in the program agreed to submit this information within reasonable timeframes As a voluntary scheme, however, there is little incentive for the Registered Agents to submit correctly and on time. In order to reduce processing delays, the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and the Arts approved interim arrangements that allow departmental staff to use information from the Office of the Renewable Energy Regulator (ORER) to verify applicant tank information where possible. The Department has allocated extra resources to processing the backlog of applications and employed extra staff to process applications. The Minister also instructed the Department to review the original program guidelines and administrative arrangements. This review resulted in revisions to the guidelines which were endorsed by the Minister early in March 2008. In particular, the revised guidelines remove the need for information from Registered Agents to verify hot water system installations. Under the new guidelines, the installing plumber will provide the verification at the time of installation. These revisions to the guidelines will allow the implementation of improved administrative arrangements that will ensure the timely processing of future applications. The new guidelines and administrative arrangements will be adopted in April 2008.