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Greens unveil plan to put 2kW solar on all Australian public housing

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The more than 800,000 Australians living in low-income housing across Australia would gain access to the benefits of rooftop solar power – including $780 a year savings on electricity bills – under a new Greens policy that would put a 2kW PV system on every available community housing roof.

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The $240 million scheme – announced on Thursday as the latest plank of the party’s plan to achieve 90 per cent renewables and double energy efficiency by 2030 – would also retrofit Australia’s 421,000 community and public dwellings with energy efficient appliances, lighting and other fittings, including screen doors and windows for passive cooling by cross-ventilation.

The four-year policy – which would target the least energy efficient housing first – would also provide residents with advice on energy saving measures and provide a training, employment and education package for those interested in developing skills in clean energy, with the aim of employing at least 5000 tenants over the lifetime of the scheme.

The Greens said on Thursday that the nationwide solar and energy efficiency upgrade of Australia’s 421,000 public and community dwellings by 2030 would cost $2000 per house, but would in turn make the homes cheaper to run and more comfortable to live in.

The Greens estimate that a 2kW rooftop solar PV unit alone would save each household around $780 per year on average.

The CEFC has estimated that annual savings of up to $1075 per household can be made from improving insulation in walls and floors, adding double glazing, LED lighting, induction stoves in place of gas, installing secure screen doors to improve ventilation, and in-home energy monitoring.

Greens Deputy Leader and Senator for Queensland, Larissa Waters, said the Greens’ Renewing Public and Community Housing plan would also level the playing field for the 800,000 people living in public and community housing who didn’t have the upfront capital to install solar or make their homes more energy efficient.

“We have an unequal system where our lowest earners are paying the highest price for power, in ageing houses that are inefficient to run and are hot in summer and freezing in winter,” Senator Waters said.

“Under this plan, public and community housing renters such as single parents, seniors and young people could save as much as $1075 per household per year, while reducing their carbon footprint.”



Greens Senator for SA, Robert Simms, said the scheme would also provide a welcome boost to his state’s economy.

“South Australia is battling a long-term jobs crisis as we move away from the industries of last century into creating jobs of the future in clean, renewable energy,” Senator Simms said.

“This initiative would not only provide South Australians with more jobs in the renewable energy sector, but it would save the average household $780 per year in electricity bills from installing solar alone. When people in our community are risking their health because they can’t afford to run a heater in the middle of winter, we know there is a problem.”  

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  • David Keech

    Solving three problems at once with a single intervention:

    1. Reducing pollution (both CO2 and particulates).
    2. Breaking people out of the vicious circle of poverty.
    3. Direct improvements to the health of the people helped and indirect benefits to everyone who doesn’t have to breathe so much pollution any more.

    It makes so much sense, I can’t believe it isn’t already the policy of *every* political party.

    • Barri Mundee

      Plus adding to employment, another very worthwhile aim.

      • Cooma Doug

        This policy will create 10 times as many jobs per unit spent as the 50 bil tax cut by LNP.
        If the libs left tax as is and spent it on renewable innovation across the entire industry they would get a result that would be felt much earlier and much more substantial.
        Then if we add to this the real cost of not cashing in on the revolution it starts to look as bad if not worse then any government ” head in the sand” act in Australia ever.

      • Alastair Leith

        Employment for long term under-employed too if it’s public housing. Let’s have more good quality public housing too as it has a deflationary effect on the market, unlike baby bonuses, first home buyers grants, negative gearing, cheap central lending. In some European countries public housing is not stigmatised the way it is hear and governments didn’t stop building it in the ‘greed is good’ 80s.

    • nakedChimp

      That’s why only the Greens have it – it makes too much sense.

    • Alastair Leith

      Straight out of the BZE Buildings Plan. Only thing missing is a national double/triple glazing rebate to prime the market and get prices down near European prices instead of the 100%+ higher they currently are.

      • Andrew Woodroffe

        Sorry but we are so far from double glazing (let alone triple). No point having such windows if summer sunshine hits them. Simply putting awnings over unprotected north facing windows will get us a long way. And we have known this for decades.

        Then there are unprotected east and west facing windows . .. .

        • Alastair Leith

          awnings obviously come first. no brainer.

  • Jo

    jobs and growth!

    • MaxG

      Sounds like turncoat 🙂
      The sad thing is that neither the pollies nor the people seem to realise that there will be less jobs around with every year passing. Look at employment figures post GFC; profits have increased so has the level of automation (while employment has decreased).
      Growth, as it is understood in economy terms, with the environment as external cost is not sustainable.

      • nakedChimp

        Yep, we’re on the road for a revolution – French style.

      • Jo

        Not sure if you understand mild irony. I had just heard this three letter expression (not even a sentence) too many times and applied it to a policy where it actually comes true.

  • MaxG

    421,000 * $2,000 = 842m$; how will $240m cover all 421,000 houses, if the 2kW system will cost $2,000…
    I thought it was only the Liar and Numnuts Party and the Alternative Liar Party who could not count… and now the Greens 🙁
    Also the $780 seem very theoretical; at 25C/kWh they assume 8.5kWh being saved per day… which seems like 365 days of sunshine have been assumed too.

    • nakedChimp

      I think they modeled it and put the savings back in there to pay for more.. the target year says 2030, that’s 13.5 years while system costs fall further.

      • MaxG

        Thanks… I have nothing against the plan… in fact: it’s great… but got puzzled by the numbers 🙂

        • Alastair Leith

          have to agree. somebody forgot to sanity test this announcement. excellent policy initiative though. Some of the rebate schemes should be opened up to the public for example the cost of double/triple glazing in Australia is way higher than in Europe, 2 to 3 fold the product cost alone then installation. We need to get this more affordable, it’s such a big energy saver once insulation has been tackled.

      • solarguy

        Even if the current cost of approx. $1.60/watt retail which isn’t installed, if that was halved by 2030, labour costs will be dearer.

  • solarguy

    For a start you won’t buy a 2kw PV system for $2k, that’s just bullshit! Secondly 2kw will provide close to sweet FA, unless they also give them a solar hot water system as well!

    • GreenBrad

      First, as a government purchase, you will not pay all the taxes that the average person does.
      Secondly, if you purchase 421 2k systems, the economies of scale will come into it.
      The figures may not be perfect, but they are a start, and a good one…
      The cost would of course be inflated greatly by third party Installation Teams, unless the Govt trains and installs itself.

      • patb2009

        and if these are community housing, there will be a lot of them
        all alike.

        • Alastair Leith

          In germany the rip the external walls off three storey public buildings and fit pre-constructed very well insulated three storey panels that include wiring and everything. install heat pumps etc in a small concealed box in the garden. All happens in something in the order of three days to do one block of units. The future of retrofits.

      • solarguy

        Dear Delusional,
        As I own a Solar PV and Solar Hot Water business, I can tell you that even without paying any tax, the wholesale cost for good quality gear for a 2kw system is in excess $2k. Even buying 421,000 systems would not reduce it by much simply because much of the kit components are imported, must be warehoused and distributed. Then transport to site and labour cost to install a 2kw system is around $900, even before, the meter change over cost is taken into account. Meter change over must be done by ASP level 2 electricians and they charge around $400 minimum!
        The max yearly output of a 2kw system under the best real world conditions is about 1,500kwh or 4.1kwh per day averaged for the central coast of NSW.

        When you consider that a family of 4, will consume at least 30% of their daily power usage heating water, a solar water heater would also be in order saving approx. 3,000kwh/year or $390/year @ 13cents/kwh Off Peak cost.
        So just installing a 2kw PV system without a SHW system won’t do a lot. Add space heating and cooling costs and you can see that a 2kw PV system is wholly inadequate.

        • Alastair Leith

          much as I’m a rusted on Green I have to agree, don’t forget at least $200 of LED globes (uninstalled price), security grade screen doors and windows for night time summer cross ventilation cooling ($500-$1000 installed?), insulation and thermal envelope integrity improvements ($1000-$10,000 in materials).

          Throw in the the pumps for HW unit and AC ($3000-8000 installed) and double glazing CEFC were quoted on and it really starts to add up.

        • GregX

          As much as I like the idea, I am also very cynical of it. It will end up being another pink batt debacle. The only people to make money out of it will be cowboy operators who tender cheaply with inferior products and a bunch of government administrators who will get it wrong regardless. Why not give the $240 million to ARENA who have already proven they can maximise the bang for buck on renewable energy and ensure all public housing and other government departments use green power?

          • solarguy

            Ah yes, the cowboy operators, the bane of the industry, now that’s a sore point with me.
            To avoid possible litigation from some of the cashed up one’s ,I won’t mention existing operators, except allude to them. There are to types of crooks in the solar game, the ridicules expensive and the super cheap.
            Back in 2010, when the NSW gov, killed the Solar bonus scheme without more than 24hrs warning, the ruthless companies who had great resources contacted my prospects whom, they quoted also and stole 27 of the 40 that were on my books, by telling them they had to make a decision there and then before I could get to them. These people felt pressured and committed not wanting to loose out on 60cent gross FIT.
            Not much further down the track, some of these people contacted me with troubles, like not making any power, because these companies didn’t tell them they needed a meter change and their solar was going nowhere. Others who I didn’t quote had such bad workmanship that wasn’t even third rate had to be done again, but punters couldn’t afford it, so left it alone. and some paid 4 times the cost, like $25k for a 1kw system and when a cheap shit inverter failed M solar didn’t want to know about it.
            So yes I hate cowboys because new ones spring up all the time even now! Thieves in the night just waiting for an chance to cause disaster and run away never to be seen again!

          • Alastair Leith

            Pink Batts was not such a debacle in energy terms, CSIRO reviewed the program and found that most roofs were well insulated.

      • Alastair Leith

        yeah that’s if they don’t do what Garrett did and just wave a big pile of cash at the cowboy market. wholesale importers of insulation batts doubled their prices on batts, even on warehoused stock when the ‘Pink Batts’ scheme came into effect. Rather than do that the government could us it’s buying power to get much reduced prices, or even set up an instrument to do wholesale purchasing and regulate installers under the scheme to buy from that procurement program.

  • Brunel

    Floor insulation? How?

    • patb2009

      you can lay firring strips on the floor, then place insulation between it.

    • Alastair Leith

      get into the sub-floor if one exists and spray or fix styrofoam or other insulation. Also more thermal intergrity than insulation per se but block cracks b/w floorboards and between floor and walls. etc

  • Alastair Leith

    Seriously great initiative Greens. $2000 per house sounds very cheap for PV, LEDs, secure screen doors and windows and thermal envelope improvements though.

    I imagine that if we learnt from the pink batts scheme (which CSIRO reviewed as a great success in terms of the energy efficiency gains) then telegraphic to the materials suppliers so they can jack their prices up on existing stock by 100%+ would be eschewed and using the large buying power of such a scheme to get very competitive prices on all the materials, and for that matter the installation services.

    Hopefully we see that kind of a program administration when this comes to be (ALP or Liberals end up picking up most Greens policy work a decade or two later) not a rush of cowboy operators employing careless staff who literally throw the products into place.