Greenpeace wants the Government to provide interest-free loans for solar panels

Greenpeace wants the Government to provide interest-free loans for solar panels
Photo credit: iStock

Greenpeace is calling on the Government to establish an interest-free loan scheme to help people install solar panels on their homes.

It says the Government currently spends $78 million to $88 million a year on "subsidising" the oil and gas industry, and this money should be redirected to its solar plan.

Homeowners and tenants would avoid the up-front costs of installing solar panels and battery packs through the interest-free loans.

"It's an ambitious plan, but it's also a totally realistic plan - we've run the numbers and we've worked out that the cost in interest to the Government comes out at less than the cost of those subsidies that currently go out to the oil and gas sector," Greenpeace climate and energy campaigner Amanda Larsson says.

"There's money leftover, and we're suggesting that money should be used to provide grants to lower-income households to make this scheme even more accessible."

Greenpeace says at the forecast borrowing rate of 2.3 percent, the plan could see 500,000 homes go solar over the next decade and cost the Government less than $665 million in interest. Over a 20-year payback period, that would cost $33 million a year.

It also wants the Government to provide additional support to 100,000 low-income households by covering at least half the solar panel system costs.

Greenpeace says the loan would be attached to the house that receives the solar panels, rather than the owners or tenants, and could be administered by regional councils and paid back through rates.

Green Party energy and resources spokesperson Gareth Hughes says the party already has a policy to provide low-cost loans for solar installation to be repaid through rates, but would support the loans being interest-free. 

"We support the idea of helping low-income kiwis access solar panels. The idea of loans really makes sense because it's the up-front cost of purchasing the panels, the inverter, the battery - it's really expensive."

Mr Hughes says as the Government is currently reviewing the electricity sector, it may not want to make an imminent decision - but Greenpeace was right to point out that money going to the oil and gas industry should be redirected.

"Currently, there are taxpayer subsidies towards the oil industry and fossil fuels estimated to be more than $70 million a year in direct subsidies and tax breaks.

"The Green Party would definitely prefer that to go the modern, clean energy economy."

In the Confidence and Supply Agreement between Green and Labour, the two parties have committed to investigating installing solar panels in schools.

The agreement also includes a pledge to request the Climate Commission to create a plan for a transition to 100 percent renewable electricity by 2035.

The Petroleum Exploration and Production Association said it does not receive subsidies.

"There are no direct subsidies for the oil and gas industry in New Zealand. Greenpeace have their facts wrong and are talking complete rubbish," said CEO Cameron Madgwick.

"In fact, our industry is a major net contributor to New Zealand. The Government receives 42 percent of all profit from any producing field, with an average of $500 million per year in taxes and royalties going to the Crown."

The Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment has been contacted for comment.