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DWS Investors

Households win right to fight for sunlight on their solar panels

By Adam Carey & Benjamin Preiss / The Age / 11 September 2018

Homeowners with rooftop solar systems will be protected from neighbouring property developments overshadowing their roofs under changes to planning rules the Andrews government has introduced.

The new residential planning rules, to be brought in later this month, will mean that overshadowing of existing solar panels and hot water systems will have to be considered in residential planning decisions.

While the new planning regulations will not give homeowners any automatic veto over high-density developments next door, it will increase protections for the solar panels just as the Victorian government promises large subsidies for uptake of the technology.

A number of rulings from the state planning tribunal have called for a Victoria-wide law for overshadowing of panels, as up until now access to solar power has been largely decided on an ad hoc basis.

There will also be new guidelines for solar panels installed in heritage listed neighbourhoods, specifying appropriate colours, positioning and design.

The Andrews government has made household solar power a central part of its re-election pitch, offering half-price solar panels for 650,000 households at an overall cost of $1.2 billion if it wins the November election.

On Tuesday the government announced it would put an additional $40 million towards batteries for 10,000 households that already have solar panels.

Planning Minister Richard Wynne said the government was getting the planning right to “protect residents against inappropriate development, tackle climate change and cut the cost of living for Victorian households”.

Susannah Powell has an eight kilowatt solar system on the rooftop of her house in Coburg, which she estimates saves her family $600 a year on her power bills.

They no longer pay anything for their energy usage in the summer months because the solar system exports energy back into the grid.

Ms Powell, an energy researcher at the University of Melbourne, said she believed it was “common sense” to improve planning protection for people with existing solar panels.

“I think it’s consistent with being able to object for shading on windows, or shading on back yards or blocking out a view,” she said.

Households with a combined income of less than $180,000 with houses worth less than $3 million will be eligible for the rooftop solar or battery schemes.


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