Power to the People: Wolli Creek community energised by reducing power bills and exploring renewable energy options - Solar Citizens

Power to the People: Wolli Creek community energised by reducing power bills and exploring renewable energy options

A small and enthusiastic group of Wolli Creek residents attended the Voices for Power
energy literacy workshop at St Magdalene’s Chapel in Wolli Creek on Tuesday 22 May.

The event was hosted by Electrify Wolli Creek, in partnership with Solar Citizens, and delivered by Sydney Community Forum, who came together to help community members better understand and read their current energy bill. The community event also provided participants with information on renewable energy solutions, energy efficiency and the benefits of getting off gas.

Workshop participant Stefanie had recently noticed a substantial increase in her gas bill and raised concerns that her hot water heater was pushing up prices. She was also concerned with being unable to get off gas and switch to induction cooking and an electric heat pump hot water, due to her situation as a renter in a strata-titled high-rise apartment building. She was seeking advice from Sydney Community Forum and Solar Citizens on ways to electrify and improve energy efficiency to bring down bills.

An international student and renter Jason wanted to find out more about his electricity bill. Asha said Jason’s situation was unjust and not uncommon. There is a lack of transparency with electricity bills and renters, with some renters notified a certain dollar amount of their rent ‘covers’ electricity, without sufficient proof, she told the meeting. Asha also pointed out that as a tenant, if the property you rent is not individually metered then you cannot be charged for your component of the electricity bill.

Event facilitator, Lina Chen Pan, is fluent in Mandarin to accommodate for the cultural and linguistic diversity of Wolli Creek’s residents. She shared very practical information on how community members can reduce their energy consumption and save on power bills.

For example, shorter shower times can save people water and the cost of gas or electric water heating. Lina has two young daughters at home and she’s given them a three-song limit to take a shower and reduce household water and energy use.

Another handy tip was turning appliances off at the power point if they’re not in use and unplugging appliances (if practical) when you are away from home for more than a couple of days. Stand-by power on appliances can consume about $100 per year, according to Sydney Community Forum.

The ‘how to read your power bill’ session was also among the most popular among participants.

“If people don’t understand the energy system in Australia, they won’t have the knowledge, tools or language to negotiate the best energy deal for their household and they will struggle to advocate for their household to have access to renewables, regardless of their status in the housing system,” said Asha Ramzan, Executive Officer of Sydney Community Forum.

Electrify Wolli Creek provided an update to fellow residents that there is a viable rooftop solar proposal for one of the thirteen high-rise towers at Discovery Point, which they’re hopeful will get approved by their strata committee in the next few months.

“Many people in Wolli Creek live in high-rise apartments and whether you’re an owner or renter we are currently cut off from accessing the benefit of solar energy and on-site storage,” said Electrify Wolli Creek member Carolin Wenzel.

“It is particularly important for renters to have access to information on how to access their bills so they can better understand their bills and reduce their energy costs,” she said.

“Through Electrify Wolli Creek, and with the support of Solar Citizens, we are identifying barriers to increasing energy efficiency and accessing renewable energy and we hope to galvanise the community to make the changes we can and advocate for the policies and funding needed to support other changes required.

“This includes the community asking the NSW Government to increase the capacity of electricity generation to high-rise apartments so for example we can convert our electric cooktops to induction cooktops.”

Heidi Lee Douglas, CEO of Solar Citizens said, “For Solar Citizens, the goal of supporting Electrify Wolli Creek is to create a blueprint that can be used nationally for removing the barriers to electrification retrofits for high-rise apartments, including installing rooftop solar, electric vehicle charging, induction stoves, and heat pumps. To our knowledge, it’s the first project of its kind and will therefore have positive, solutions-focused implications for the 14% of Australians who live in an apartment.

“Rooftop solar provides cheaper, clean energy and saves households money on power bills, delivers cost-of-living relief, and provides a healthier environment through reduced carbon pollution, especially when rolled out alongside electrification upgrades.”