A win-win for landlords and tenants
In Australia, rooftop solar has been a huge success, and has led to the world’s highest concentration of properties with photovoltaic systems. On the flipside, while fifteen per cent of homes benefit from solar, this shrinks down to one per cent for rental properties. Landlords lack a financial incentive to go solar, given that there is no mechanism to recoup any of the investment, and tenants are put off by a general lack of options for panels that are removable and can be taken to the next dwelling.
Some online discussions over the last few years have focused on the possibility of a solar landlord putting the power bill into his or her name, and arranging a payment agreement with the tenants. This would have become problematic, as it would have legally made the landlord a retailer.
For Australia’s two million or so rental properties, these issues are no longer obstacles due to a solution that has been created by the Melbourne startup Matter. Its Digital Solar initiative gives both parties a financial motivation to go down the solar route. Renters save an average of $300 a year, while landlords receive about $1500 annually.
Designed as a brokerage that facilitates solar deals, Digital Solar could be considered to be part of the peer-to-peer economy alongside Uber and Airbnb. If both parties are willing to go ahead, the landlord arranges installation of the panels, to which are added tiny smart meters for monitoring usage. Tenants receive a discount of up to twenty per cent on their electricity bill, which is paid directly to the landlord via Matter’s processing system. In this way, landlords run their panels like a ‘micro-utility’ that is sophisticated enough to handle feed-in tariffs and storage batteries. Ongoing costs for the landlord are limited to a fee of $9 per property per month, and the expected payback time is four to six years. Tenants also have the opportunity to track their own power usage in real time.
Digital Solar was launched in December 2015, initially in the Cairns area of Far North Queensland. Later in 2016, Matter intends to launch a service for residential blocks, extending its reach to take in another 400,000 dwellings.
Another possibility for long-term renters is to install solar panels on removable frames, in such a way that they can be added one at a time. This option is offered by some Australian solar installers such as Solazone in Melbourne and the Sunshine Coast.
Author Martin Oliver
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