Renters and low-income households feel the heat more than others - Solar Citizens

Renters and low-income households feel the heat more than others

On Sunday western Sydney baked. When I checked my phone at 2pm it was 43 degrees in my area – a heat so intense that my Opal card melted when it was left in the car. Turning on the air-conditioning unit is a luxury that I seldom enjoy because of the spiralling cost of power prices. In the nearly intolerable Sunday heat I made an exception, but I know not everyone can afford to make that choice.

With many more summer scorchers to come, it's unacceptable that many of the most vulnerable people in our community will suffer the heat more harshly than others because of the barriers to accessing cost-cutting technology, such as rooftop solar.

As someone in their mid 20s, owning a house in Sydney is an impossibility in the short-term, and as a renter, I don't have the option of using the sunny roof of my share house to generate cheap power.

Renters, apartment dwellers and low-income households should have the option to take control of their power bills by having access to rooftop solar and storage. In NSW not nearly enough households are taking advantage of our abundant sunshine, likely because many people are renters.

The numbers tell us how far NSW is lagging: Queensland has nearly 150,000 more solar rooftops compared to NSW despite having a population almost 40 per cent smaller. The Berejiklian government needs to get serious about making cost-cutting solar and storage accessible to everyone.

Initiatives that give landlords an incentive to invest in solar and help other households where solar is out of reach will be good for individuals struggling to pay their bills and the hip-pocket of the whole of NSW.

The Solar Savings report commissioned by the community group I work for, Solar Citizens, found that in just one year rooftop solar saved at least $2.2 billion from the wholesale price of power by lessening peak demand.

Everyday people are outbidding expensive generators with clean, affordable power, and in the process helping keep the lights on by reducing demand during our summer heatwaves.

While there are some options for renters, such as Matter Solar's model that helps landlords install solar as an investment so tenants then reap the rewards of cheaper power, more can be done.

The ACT government recently announced a program to support low-income households to go solar, and it's initiatives such as this the NSW government needs to implement for a fair, bright future for all – not just those who can afford the upfront costs.

There are plenty of hot days to come this summer, but will the state government help all energy consumers take control of their power bills by going solar? After this past weekend's extreme heatwave, I can only hope.

Stephanie Gray is the Digital Campaigner for Solar Citizens. 

*First published in the Sydney Morning Herald, January 9 2018.