Solar Savers – removing barriers to renewable energy
Solar Savers is a pioneering approach by Victorian councils and four Victorian Greenhouse Alliances to support pensioner households install quality, affordable solar systems with no upfront costs.
Scaling up the City of Darebin’s successful program, Solar Savers is being progressively rolled out across 20 Victorian municipalities through to June 2019.
The pilot project, led by the Central Victorian Greenhouse Alliance (CVGA); the Eastern Alliance for Greenhouse Action (EAGA); the Northern Alliance for Greenhouse Action (NAGA) and the South East Councils Climate Change Alliance (SECCCA), aims to remove the barriers faced by low income pensioner households wanting to install solar.
One of the major barriers faced by these households is access to affordable loans. In one pilot, Solar Savers will test the use of council special rates charges to fund the installations at zero percent interest, with households paying off the cost of their solar system through their rates notice. The second pilot will offer households a special low interest loan provided by a private sector finance provider.
Through both pilots, the affordability of solar is improved for low income households by extending the loan term to a 10-year period. The result is that each Solar Saver participant will receive a solar system that pays for itself in electricity savings from the very first day.
The Municipal Association of Victoria is also lending its support to the project; managing the procurement to contract a solar supplier and installer for the project. This group procurement process not only ensures the project secures a solar provider with the appropriate experience, qualifications and capacity but will also secure competitive prices, which again improve the affordability of solar for the low income target group.
New energy jobs fund
In June 2016, EAGA and its partners secured a $760,000 grant through the Victorian Government’s New Energy Jobs Fund. The Fund is designed to support Victorian-based projects that create long-term sustainable jobs, increase the uptake of renewable energy generation, reduce greenhouse gas emissions and drive innovation in new energy technologies. Maroondah City Council led the funding application on behalf of Victorian councils and the four greenhouse alliances.
The successful grant was the culmination of two detailed business case studies that sought to understand the best mechanisms to effectively scale up the City of Darebin’s solar project and identify groups that would benefit the most from the installation solar.
The grant provides operational funding for Solar Savers for two and a half years. During this time, Solar Savers will deliver solar installations for low income households on behalf of councils using a shared services approach. The shared services approach creates efficiencies in the administration and delivery of the project – eliminating duplication, providing a consistent entry point for households into the program and provides the opportunity to evaluate the project at scale.
Local governments have been at the forefront of renewable energy innovation and have an important role to play in combating climate change. Solar Savers extends the benefits of solar to support pensioner households save money, take control of their bills and reduce emissions through the installation of up to 900 solar systems.
The two Solar Savers business cases showed that pensioners are an important group to target. The studies found that pensioners:
- use most of their energy during the daytime (peak energy generation for solar panels)
- have high homeownership rates
- spend a higher proportion of their income on energy costs
- benefit from reduced cooling costs
- are interested and support solar energy
Drawing on the expertise of Victorian Councils, the Municipal Association of Victoria, the Alternative Technology Association and four Victorian alliances for greenhouse action, Solar Savers will select an installer and components giving pensioners confidence that they will receive a quality, reliable and PV system for their home.
- Ararat Rural City Council
- City of Ballarat Council
- Buloke Shire Council
- Central Goldfields Shire Council
- City of Darebin
- Ganawarra Shire Council
- Hepburn Shire Council
- Macedon Ranges Shire Council
- Mount Alexander Shire Council
- Pyrenees Shire Council
- Indigo Shire Council
- Knox City Council
- Maroondah City Council
- Whitehorse City Council
- Yarra Ranges Council
- Manningham City Council
- Brimbank City Council
- Bayside City Council
- Cardinia Shire Council
To find out more, check out the Solar Savers website: www.solarsavers.org.au