New modelling by the Australian PV Institute and University of NSW indicates that retrofitting solar onto social and affordable housing properties could save the families who live in them a collective $129 million each year.
The study reveals an investment of $532 million into rooftop solar for the 54,000 social housing properties in NSW could generate as much as 650MW (769GWh) of energy – 1.1 per cent of the National Electricity Market.
This solar uptake could create annual savings of $860 per year for 150,000 families. The average payback periods of solar systems would be less than four years for standalone houses, three-and-a-half years for semi-detached houses, and five-and-a-half years for apartments.
“This is the low-hanging fruit,” says Heidi Lee Douglas, national director of Solar Citizens. “The government can decide to roll out solar for social housing from tomorrow as they own much of the stock and have willing partners in the not-for-profit community housing sector.”
The NSW Government’s recently released Land and Housing Corporation Sustainability Strategy sets the priority of increasing solar installations at 30 per cent of housing stock by 2026, up from the current seven per cent.
The government is prioritising properties in far west NSW and regional areas of the state.
The Federal Government is also prioritising rooftop solar for social housing, offering $300 million to state and territory governments to co-fund energy upgrades for the sector. So far, Queensland and Victoria have committed to co-contributing to the fund.
Expanding rooftop solar on government-owned properties could also have benefits for grid stability and mitigating heat-island effects, which are created by large numbers of houses built with dark roofs, plus vast areas of tarmac absorbing heat – an issue in western Sydney.
Community housing provider BaptistCare NSW & ACT endorses the move towards rooftop solar for social housing.
“We see firsthand that families and individuals living in social and affordable housing are among the most vulnerable in our community to the impacts of climate change and the rising cost of living,” says BaptistCare Community Services & Housing general manager Robyn Evans.
“Solar deployment for tenants in BaptistCare’s 709 households across NSW could reduce electricity bills, enhance climate resilience and support a shift to net zero.”