Households would get low-interest loans up to $15,000 for solar panels under a new Greens policy.
A key feature of the new policy is that the debt would be attached to a house, not a person.
A low-interest loan would be added to a home’s rates bill, and the next person to buy the property will be lumbered with the debt.
The loans will be for a term of 15 years and at the Crown’s low sovereign interest rate, which is currently 4.1%, the party says.
The party claims the scheme would be cost-neutral to the Crown, with an estimated administration cost to Energy Efficiency and Conservation Authority (EECA) of less than a million dollars a year.
A typical $10,000, 3 kilowatts (kW) solar array, generating approximately 3,500 kilowatt hours (kWh) of electricity per year, produces $1000 of electricity a year at current prices, and will cost $900 a year over 15 years to pay off under the Greens’ proposed scheme, the party says.
However, a qualifier to “current prices” would have to be that Labour and the Greens plan to introduce a single, Crown-owned electricity buyer if elected – a policy they claim will drive down power prices from the national grid – presumably making solar less attractive in the process (although experts have disputed that there would be any price drop from the Labour-Greens policy).
Once the loan was paid off, the home could sell any surplus power back to the grid.
According to the Green’s figures, a $10,000 solar panel installation will save a home owner $28,000 over its 25-year life span.
There are currently around 2000 homes with solar power. The Greens say they would target 30,000 installations in the scheme’s first three years.
The party claims it will create 1000 new jobs across various green energy initiatives.
National’s Steven Joyce said the Green scheme meant taxpayers would be subsidising people to move to a more expensive form of power generation.
ACT was also on the front foot.
“The Greens’ Energy Policy announced today shows how dangerous they are to the New Zealand economy,” leader-elect Jamie Whyte says.
“Cheap loans for solar panels are actually a dishonest subsidy. The subsidy is hidden in the terms of the loan. It would be more honest would be to simply subsidise the panels, but in that harsh light people would see the policy for what it is – an election bribe ultimately funded by the taxpayer,” Mr Whyte says.
Policies of subsidising biofuels have failed around the world – economically and environmentally. There is no reason to think that subsidising solar panels will be any more successful, the ACT leader says.
“Solar energy is either viable or not viable. If it’s viable it needn’t be subsidised – people would be installing it anyway. If residential solar panels are not yet viable, we shouldn’t be wasting taxpayer money on them – and the Greens have conveniently skipped saying what the cost of this loan guarantee will be.
“Technology is the key to a greener future, but by trying to play venture capitalist Norman is actually distorting the future potential to invest and innovate in the best possible technology at the best possible time,” Mr Whyte says.
“What New Zealand needs to improve investment in energy is investor confidence. That requires a stable regulatory environment where the government sets stable rules rather than interrupting the market.”