14 Sep 2020

How to get solar if you are renting

Installing solar panels on your roof may seem like a pipedream if you are among the one third of Australians who rent their home.

And it may seem near impossible if you are like 2 million others in an apartment, without your own roof for panels.

But Alison Rowe from the Australian Energy Foundation says there is a way.

"Rooftop solar is booming," she told 7.30.

"There's a massive opportunity to target renters and get solar on the roof."

Private rentals

The first method is to get in touch with your landlord directly and ask them to install panels, perhaps in exchange for paying extra rent.

There are government rebate schemes landlords can access, depending on where the property is.

Ian Stanley owns a property in Bundaberg, Queensland and accessed a rebate through the state government's trial program Solar for Renters.

"I thought it'd be an advantage with resale and an advantage with getting a tenant to rent the house with solar rather than without," he told 7.30.

"This one ended up costing me around $2,100 to get the whole solar installed, which is pretty good.

"The government's said we have to put the rent up by a reasonable amount, so $10 a week we felt was a reasonable amount."

But the scheme has not been hugely successful: there were 1,000 rebates on offer before it closed in June, but only 670 applications.

Queensland Energy Minister Anthony Lynham thinks it may not have been enticing enough for landlords.

Apartment dwellers

Sydney renter Liang Liang thought solar panels were out of the question until he found an apartment in The Burcham complex, which included them from the time it was built.

"When we realised we'd benefit as renters … that was a really pleasant surprise and definitely a huge factor that helped us make our decision," he told 7.30.

The complex has an embedded electricity network, which is essentially a small energy company. It buys power at wholesale prices and sells excess solar energy to the grid.

It then sends a bill to each apartment for the power used.

Any profits first power the building's base energy costs, then go back to the body corporate to lower strata fees.

"It's a significant cost putting this system in," developer Ed Horton said.

"[But] it is something we think a lot more developers should look at because I think increasingly the market is going to be demanding sustainable initiatives and lower energy costs."

And Mr Liang does not mind paying a little more in rent.

"The rent here is slightly higher, but looking at the benefits of the energy, it's something in the order of 20 per cent savings compared to what we'd pay retail," he said.

"For us, it was a no-brainer, it worked out better."

Public housing

Jen Jewel Brown's home in Melbourne's north is owned by the Victorian Government but managed by a resident-run cooperative.

The cooperative took out interest-free loans from the local council to pay for solar panels.

"As tenants, we pay an extra 2 per cent rent," Ms Brown told 7.30.

"Everyone was able to opt in if they wanted to or opt out … so 41 out of our 43 houses have solar panels on the roof.

"We've managed to save roughly 15 per cent off our power bills in that time."

Should you pay more rent?

That depends.

Most models do require tenants to pay a little more and one way of working out what's fair is by quantifying how much you'll save on your bill.

Solar Analytics provides monitoring devices and a calculator for landlords and tenants.

They analysed their data for 7.30 and found residents with solar panels save an average of $1,531 a year.

But Ms Rowe from the Australian Energy Foundation said solar power should not necessarily mean tenants pay more.

"I don't think there does need to be a change in rent," Ms Rowe said.

"I think the value of solar in terms of property valuation … with the right tax incentives and rebates, will facilitate a massive uptake without penalising any tenants."

SOURCE: https://www.abc.net.au/news/2020-08-20/how-to-get-solar-if-you-are-renting/12556276

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