Toilet paper, pasta and now solar panels: The newest ‘essential’ homeowners want for lockdown

As Featured in the Sydney Morning Herald and Domain


Home-owners worried about their finances in the coronavirus downturn are inquiring about installing solar panels and batteries in record numbers.

In NSW’s Hunter and Newcastle region, where the state government has announced a pilot project trialling interest-free loans to pay for solar systems, the number of calls asking for more information has soared by 1500 per cent.

In Sydney generally, approaches to Australia’s largest solar and battery installer Natural Solar have risen by as much as 15 per cent.

“We’ve seen this before with dips in the economy for various reasons,” said company founder and chief executive Chris Williams. “At times like this, obviously households aren’t spending as much money on holidays and they start thinking about the essentials, like electricity and electricity bills.

“Also, we see a lot more people working from home, or self-isolating or losing work and spending more time at home, so they’re using more electricity, and worrying how much their bills are going to be.”

The cost of installing solar panels can be about $14,000 for the panels and a battery together – depending on the size and position of the home – and $9000 for the battery alone. The battery stores energy generated by the panels that can be used at times such as in the evening when the sun has gone down, but families typically want to use the most electricity.

A recent four-year study of the first person in the world, a Sydneysider, to have had a Tesla Powerwall battery installed in his home by Natural Solar, found his quarterly bills had dropped 92 per cent, from $575 to $45.

Now, the NSW government is offering interest-free loans of up to $14,000 for the panels and battery under its NSW Empowering Homes Program for people in the Hunter and Newcastle.

The offer, with Natural Solar the approved supplier, will be rolled out across the rest of NSW later this year to an overall total of 300,000 households in the next 10 years.

The first family to take up the loan and have the system installed is Jan and Colin Wells and their son Steve at their duplex in Lake Macquarie.

Colin and Jan Wells, the first family to take up an interest-free loans of up to $14,000 from the NSW government for the panels and battery. Photo: Supplied

“We’d wanted to do this for a while but when my son found out about the government loan available, I thought, ‘How good is that!’ and we decided to go for it,” said retired nurse Jan, 72.

“What’s happening now with coronavirus makes you think about the future and we’ve done so much damage to the planet, you want to start pulling together and try to fix things. And, I thought that, rather than saving up to get it done later, let’s take the loan and get it done now.”

Regularly quarterly bills were $890 for the two dual-key houses, one with three beds and the other with two that sit side by side, with Jan and Colin, 70, a former typewriter technician, living in the smaller house, and bank manager Steve, 35, in the larger one.

They installed some solar panels before, and the bills went down to about $420. It’s expected that, with the latest installation, they might now go down between another $200 and $250 a quarter.

“They give us seven to eight years to pay back the loan, but I think we’ll pay it off before then,” said Jan.

Mr Williams says most electricity bills would be expected to be reduced by between 30 per cent and 50 per cent. “It’s an excellent return on investment,” he said. “And, now with this government program, people will save money and will make up the outlay in six to seven years, without having to part with a cent up front.

“We look forward to expanding the project to the rest of NSW in what I’d imagine will be six to nine months.”

Natural Solar is honoured to be an Approved Supplier of the NSW Government’s Empowering Homes Program.

The program aims to deliver solar and batteries to 300,000 Households in NSW across 10 years through interest free solar and battery loans for eligible households. The initial Pilot is being rolled out in the Hunter Region with a wider NSW Rollout expected to follow.

Enquire about the NSW Government’s Empowering Homes Program.

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About Natural Solar

Natural Solar is the leading and largest Australian installer of battery power, and a true authority on Australia’s renewable energy industry.

Founded in 2012 by CEO Chris Williams, Natural Solar has installed some of the most high profile solar and battery installations worldwide including Australia’s first Tesla Powerwall and first sonnenFlat solution. Natural Solar has a reputation and expertise in developing bespoke energy storage solutions to suit the residential, commercial and development markets and is proud to work with State and Federal Government bodies to deliver solar and battery solutions to the Australian public.

Natural Solar has focused on targeting Australian markets with a desire to adopt this new technology, as well as an inherent need, with high power prices and low export tariffs.

Natural Solar is committed to forging global partnerships with premium products on the market. A strength for launching new products to Australians, Natural Solar use their expertise and authority to properly educate the Australian public on the opportunities available in the energy storage sphere. The growth of Natural Solar as both a company and industry leader has been publicly recognised, with Natural Solar awarded the Bridgepoint Award for Australia’s Fastest Growing company (2018), achieving #15 on the AFR Fast 100 for two consecutive years (2017 & 2018), rated Top Solar Supplier in Australia twice on ProductReview (2018 & 2020) and shortlisted for a Telstra Business Award (2018 & 2019).

By ChrisWilliams | April 2nd, 2020 | Categories: News

These costs are based on the SA Power network in Adelaide but prices may vary depending on your circumstances. This comparison assumes a general energy usage of 4000kWh/year for a residential customer on Energy Locals Time of Use Tariff – (TOU – Peak, Off-Peak & Solar Sponge).

The reference price is set by the Australian Energy Regulator (AER) for a financial year in relation to electricity supply to residential customers in the distribution region and is based on an assumed annual usage amount. Any difference between the reference price and the unconditional price of a plan is expressed as a percentage more or less than the reference price. The terms of any conditional discounts are shown, along with any further difference between the reference price and the discount applied if a condition is met, expressed as a percentage more or less than the reference price.