Government support needed to unlock untapped solar potential and shore up affordable energy in NSW
12 September 2023: The rooftop solar potential of social housing in NSW could reach up to 650 Megawatts (MW), according to new research commissioned by Solar Citizens, showing the untapped potential of rooftop solar capacity of social housing in NSW.
The modelling produced by the Australian PV Institute and the University of New South Wales shows that rooftop solar for social housing would provide energy bill relief for some of the state's most vulnerable energy users, with an average saving of $860 per year per household, whilst securing the state’s electricity supply.
“This is the low-hanging fruit – the Government can decide to roll-out solar for social housing from tomorrow as they own much of the stock themselves, and have willing partners in the not-for-profit community housing sector,” National Director of Solar Citizens, Heidi Lee Douglas, said.
The NSW government recently released its long awaited energy review which highlighted the need for more clean and cheap renewable energy for NSW in the face of coal-fired power stations such as Eraring coming to the end of their economic life. The review highlighted the role rooftop solar has to play in unlocking affordable energy, as it can be rolled out rapidly and the cost benefits go directly to households, rather than big businesses.
The modelling has been backed by community housing organisation BaptistCare NSW & ACT and Sydney independent MP Alex Greenwich.
“Rolling out solar on social housing would save low-income households and average $860 per year, whilst contributing cheap clean energy back to the grid, and providing additional grid security benefits if backed by batteries networked through a Virtual Power Plant,” Douglas said.
“The Government should be maintaining its own assets and taking responsibility for the thermal comfort and the cost-of-living faced by their tenants. Low-income households would be saving around $860 each year”
“This is yet more evidence that household solar and batteries will provide clean, cheap energy and provide the energy security needed to close old, dirty coal plants like Eraring, saving the NSW government hundreds of millions of dollars each year.”
In April, the Federal Government offered states and territories $300 million nationally for energy upgrades to social housing (including residential solar and batteries) if they co-contribute, both Queensland and the Victorian Governments have committed to making co-contributions to tap into the fund. Several organisations across housing and climate will be looking to the NSW Government to make an announcement at the state budget on Tuesday 19 September.
- A social housing rooftop solar roll-out could generate 769 Gigawatt-hours (GWh) of electricity annually, constituting roughly 1.1% of the total annual generation within the National Electricity Market.
- A social housing rooftop solar roll-out could offset approximately 10.6 Megatonnes of greenhouse gas emissions over its 20-year operational life.
- Rooftop solar for social housing would provide energy bill relief for some of the state's most vulnerable energy users. Average savings of $860 per year per household.
- A program to meet the solar potential of social housing in NSW would create 619 job opportunities for a period of 5 years.
- Around 150,000 households would save an average of $860 each year.
- An initial investment of $532 million would be matched by bill savings within 4.2 years, with average payback periods for individual systems of less than four years for separate houses, 3.5 years for semi-detached houses, and 5.5 years for apartments. Solar installations would continue to generate clean, cheap energy beyond the payback period, for the estimated 20 year lifespan of the asset.
- Mount Druitt, Liverpool, Fairfield, Campbeltown and Granville are the five State Electoral Divisions with the highest solar potential for social housing in NSW. Realising the solar potential of social housing would have particular impacts in areas of Western Sydney that are also affected by trapped heat and thermal discomfort.
Robyn Evans, BaptistCare Community Services & Housing General Manager, said:
"As a community housing provider, BaptistCare NSW & ACT sees firsthand that families and individuals living in social and affordable housing are amongst the most vulnerable in our community to the impacts of climate change and the rising cost of living.
Solar deployment for tenants in BaptistCare’s 709 households across NSW could reduce electricity bills, enhance climate resilience, and support a just shift to net zero.
With limited funding or access to household energy upgrade mechanisms, BaptistCare can’t push forward with installing solar on any of our existing 14 housing sites. We encourage the NSW Government to move promptly and commit to contributing to the Federal Government’s energy upgrades program to ensure community housing providers are not locked out of these essential upgrades.
Social and affordable housing tenants rely on community housing providers who manage more than 54,000 social and affordable housing properties in NSW to give them access to solar and renewable energy to reduce electricity bills.
The longer we wait, the more expensive this will become. Retrofitting suitable properties now rather than in many years' time is cost-effective for Governments and will see immediate results, including saving our tenants up to $860 annually.”
Sydney independent MP Alex Greenwich, said:
"This report shows we can future proof the energy efficiency of social housing, reduce power bills and create jobs. This is a win win."
Jemimah Taylor, 0478 924 425 or [email protected]
Joel Pringle, 0406 435 290 or [email protected]
In NSW, 274,766 people (3.4% of the population) live in 160,628 dwellings owned by social and community housing providers.
As of July 2023, 6,700 of these households had access to rooftop solar, largely through the NSW Land and Housing Corporation (LAHC)’s solar programme which has installed solar on 7% of LAHC’s dwellings.
The recently released Land and Housing Corporation Sustainability Strategy set the priority of increasing solar installations to 30% of housing stock, from the current 7%. This will require government investment to achieve.
The Commonwealth Government has required that States and Territories co-contribute to access $300 million nationally for energy upgrades to social housing (including residential solar and batteries) under the Household Energy Upgrades Fund. So far the Queensland and Victorian Governments have committed to making co-contributions. The NSW Government has not made a public statement.
The lights will stay on report by Climate Energy Finance highlighted an accelerated roll-out of rooftop solar and battery storage - including for social housing, as part of the alternative to paying between $200-400 million per year to keep the coal-fired Eraring Power Plant open beyond its economic life.