Complaint to federal government re ineligible for solar hot water rebate

Hi,

I received a letter today stating that we are ineligible for the solar hot water rebate because our application was submitted more than 2 months after the installation date. I am so angry about this, but I will try to keep calm and hope we can sort it out.

Firstly. We participated in the Queensland Government Solar Hot Water Program (now closed). We heard about it in 2009 and I posted in our application form on 19 October 2009. Lucky I kept a note about that.

We had an inspection and paid out $500 plus some extra fees (for piping and council I believe) to the retailer assigned us: Conergy. This was around Feb 2010. Sorry my records are flaky in this instance.

On the 14th of May I sent this tweet to the Qld Premier (Anna Bligh) asking why we had any action on our solar hot water installation. Here is the tweet: http://twitter.com/#!/bboyle/status/13969408212

I didn’t expect much from this but Anna replied personally and we had Conergy ring us on 18 May and send Coastal Solar to install the system on Wednesday 26 May 2010.

Let us pause for a moment, and note how long it took for that to happen. The wheels turn slowly don’t they?

I wanted to send the application to you immediately. We had to approve a direct debit request with Queensland Government who can take $1600 any time should we not get the federal rebate. In fact we are only allowed 7 days to contact them from after you contacted us to advise them. I have already had to put them off once (called them on 20 December) to let them know I was waiting on a response from you! Let us pause again to note the time we are allowed here. It’s not much is it? You guys (governments!) sure expect a lot from the people, but don’t give much in return!! Back to the story…

I read the documentation carefully. We have the “Energy Efficient Homes Package Solar Hot Water Rebate Guidelines and application form” from the Australian Government. It was issued on 2 November 2009 and “applicable” until 30 June 2012 according to the inside cover. I can scan a copy for you if required. It states that we have six months to submit the application including proof of purchase to you, NOT two months as stated in your recent letter. It does state the Australian Government reserves the right to “change the rebate amount or any other aspect of the guidelines”—which I gather must have happened at some point. Please inform me when, why, and how this information was made available to customers likely to be affected. Did you inform the Queensland Government and expect them to inform us in turn?

Regardless, it is likely we missed the six months because we were waiting on a council inspection. It is also an eligibility requirement of your program that the hot water system is installed to relevant building standards, which includes the council inspection. If I had posted the application in at that time you could have claimed it was not eligible on those grounds.

In June/July, the council claimed not to have the necessary paperwork and I was unsuccessful in two attempts to follow this up with Moreton Bay Regional Council, Conergy and Coastal Solar. I do have an email from the council dated 29 June 2010 advising me that a council inspection was necessary. It was after that I had to call everyone to try to get that to happen. Since this occurred on the phone, I do not have accurate records. Conergy claimed Coastal Solar should have done the inspection, Coastal Solar said I needed a special number from the council before they did anything, and the council claimed they had no requests nor records of any plumbing work at our residence whatsoever. What can a person do in a situation like this I ask you?

On 31 October we noticed the hot water tank on the roof was leaking. We had Coastal Solar come back to repair it and asked about the inspection when their plumber was on site. This would have been early/mid November 2010. I can’t find any paperwork from that but I know we posted the application to you around that time—possibly you have my paperwork.

These are all my reasons why our application was delayed. It is extremely unfair that we should be left to foot a $1600 bill as a result. Our application was sent in as soon as we had the inspection sorted. Please contact me as soon as possible to discuss—I would very much like you to reconsider your stance on the eligibility of my application.

regards
Ben Boyle

Update 2 February 2011

No reply from the federal government yet, but I called the Queensland Government and they knew all about this situation. Have given me an address to post information to—fingers crossed that works out. (Of course, atm, we’re all crossing our fingers that Cyclone Yasi does not do too much damage when it crosses the coast in the next couple of hours!)

I also found a few key dates in my iPhone SMS history:

25–26 May 2010
Our hot water system was installed over 2 days.
25 October 2010
We first noticed the pipes on the roof were leaking—and fixed them. We found them leaking again on 31 October and got help.
2 November 2010
Plumber fixed leak and did inspection—“He said he will send in a form saying he has done an inspection to the cab council. All we have to do is send in the white forms with proof of purchase to the fed govt.”

Update 7 Feb 2011

Got my reply from the Australian Government today. It is decidedly not plain-English, but the gist is “no” and “contact the Queensland Government”―so it’s a good thing I already did that. Very disappointed to see them acting like a monopoly in this manner, and hoping the Queensland Government behave differently.

Dear Mr Boyle

Thank you for your query regarding the Australian Government’s Renewable Energy Bonus Scheme – Solar Hot Water Rebate (REBS).

On 19 February 2010 the Australian Government announced the new Renewable Energy Bonus Scheme (REBS). This new Scheme replaced the Solar Hot Water Rebate which was discontinued as of close of business 19 February 2010.

As indicated in the program guidelines the Government reserves the right to make changes to the program at any time. However arrangements were put in place for people who installed, paid for or ordered their hot water systems prior to 20 February 2010. Eligible solar or heat pump hot water systems installed prior to 20 February 2010 may have been assessed as eligible for a $1,600 rebate for solar hot water or $1,000 for a heat pump hot water system, if proof of purchase and installation prior to 20 February 2010 was included with the application.

Applications under these arrangements – including any supporting documentation – must have been received by the Department of Climate Change and Energy Efficiency by Friday, 14 May 2010.

Under the new REBS – Solar Hot Water Rebate applicants have two months (62 days) from installation to apply for the rebate.

As your rebate application was received after 14 May 2010 it was not eligible for the former Solar Hot Water Rebate. It was also received after the two month (62 day) timeframe for submission of an application for REBS – Solar Hot Water Rebate.

Therefore as advised previously your application has been deemed ineligible for a rebate.

However the Government also provides an incentive to all households to install climate friendly hot water systems in the form of Renewable Energy Certificates (RECs). RECs are assigned by the Office of the Renewable Energy Regulator as part of the Renewable Energy Target scheme and reflect the deemed value of equivalent renewable energy generation over a ten year period. Solar and heat pump hot water systems are assigned a number of RECs and these are commonly bought back by the retailer through a discount of around $1,000 off the upfront cost of the system.

In addition to the environmental benefits of a solar or heat pump hot water system, households may also receive ongoing economic benefits through installation of such a system. Users of a solar or heat pump hot water system may reduce their energy bills by hundreds of dollars per year in comparison to using an electric storage hot water system. This saving is dependent on local climate and household hot water use patterns.

Please contact the Queensland Government’s Office of Clean Energy to discuss your contractual arrangements and any provisions available for people who have been affected by delayed receipts under the Queensland Solar Hot Water Program.

www.cleanenergy.qld.gov.au/… or by phone: 13 25 23.

Regards

Household Water Rebates Section
Department of Climate Change and Energy Efficiency
GPO Box 854
CANBERRA ACT 2601

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