Call for rebates to help apartment dwellers go green

Jennifer Dudley-Nicholson |

Australian apartment dwellers are 10 times less likely to have solar than those living in houses.
Australian apartment dwellers are 10 times less likely to have solar than those living in houses.

Millions of Australians missing out on the benefits of renewable energy because they live in apartments should get financial assistance to go green, a conference has heard.

The Owners Corporation Network hosted event also heard landlords should get greater tax incentives to improve renewable energy options for their tenants and that Australia should have an advisory body to help people adopt energy-saving solutions. 

The calls on Thursday came days after a Solar Citizens study found households could save $1390 a year by investing in solar panels, and after two solar energy investments announced by the federal government. 

Independent federal MP Allegra Spender told the online conference that even though many households had solar panels there was a significant divide between those in freestanding homes and apartment complexes.

Independent member for Wentworth Allegra Spender
Allegra Spender spoke at the Owners Corporation Network conference, which was held online. (Lukas Coch/AAP PHOTOS)

“Australia has one of the highest penetrations of solar power in the world, but about half of Australia’s households are locked out,” she said.

“Renters are much more likely to have a zero-star (home) energy rating and they’re six times less likely to have solar than home owners, and apartment dwellers are 10 less likely to have solar.”

Ms Spender, who represents the seat of Wentworth in Sydney’s east, plans to push the federal government on changes to address the disparity.

This included accelerated depreciation for landlords who invest in energy-efficient appliances and a national advisory service to help apartment owners navigate solar power installation.

“For families and households who want to do this, both … to reduce their costs permanently but also for climate action, it’s unnecessarily complicated,” she said.

“We’re pushing the government to provide a one-stop shop for people on how to practically to do this.”

But Owners Corporation Network chair Fred Tuckwell said apartment owners and residents also needed financial help to level the playing field with those living in standalone homes. 

Apartment residents face higher installation prices for a long list of energy-saving technologies, including solar panels, heat pumps, water heaters, insulation and household batteries.

“The cost of an electric vehicle charger in a standalone home is about $2000,” Mr Tuckwell added.

“An apartment owner has to pay the same $2000 for the connection to the building’s infrastructure but also for the additional costs through the owners’ corporation.”

Construction workers at residential apartment block.
Apartment residents face higher prices for a long list of energy-saving technologies. (David Gray/AAP PHOTOS)

Mr Tuckwell said financial assistance could take the form of rebates, short-term grants for owners corporations, or low or no-interest loans to cover initial feasibility studies for apartment buildings. 

The recent Solar Citizens report found households could save $9.3 billion on electricity bills each year by installing solar panels on residential roofs, or an average of $1390 per home. 

The federal government also recently announced financial support for energy-efficient products under a Future Made in Australia Act, and the Solar SunShot program to build solar panels in Australia.