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Sydney councils join forces to provide cheaper solar for residents, business

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In what is becoming a familiar pattern, a group of local government councils in NSW has joined forces to take up the federal and state policy slack and drive Australian solar uptake; this time by working to providing residents and small businesses with ready access to cheaper PV systems – including through a solar leasing option.

The SMH reports that eight southern Sydney councils have jointly approached suppliers of solar PV, solar hot water and heat pumps, asking for their best offers, with the ultimate goal of having up to 30 per cent of the region’s energy needs generated by renewable sources.

The decision to make the combined approach was reportedly motivated by a recent study by the Institute for Sustainable Futures that found many Sydney residents who were interested in installing rooftop solar could either not afford the up-front cost, or were confused about how to choose a good supplier.SSROC_OEF_Logo_Final_col_wtag

To this end, the joint local government group – known as the Southern Sydney Regional Organisation of Councils (SSROC) – are asking solar suppliers to come up with a variety of finance options, including solar bulk buying, and the relatively new (to Australia) concept of solar leasing.

Collectively, the group – including the councils of Ashfield, Bankstown, Canterbury, Canada Bay, Kogarah, Leichhardt, Marrickville and Rockdale – represent 750,000 Sydneysiders.

The scheme, Our Solar Future (part of the broader Our Energy Future scheme), will be officially launched next year with a community forum where suppliers can pitch their offers.

“Solar leasing is a relatively new option whereby households can purchase the electricity generated from a solar system on their roof rather than having to buy the system,’’ the program manager for SSROC, Helen Sloan, said

“If they are successful in offering this, it would open up solar to people who previously could not afford the upfront cost, allowing them to save money. It may also prove to be a solution for tenants who want to install solar on their rented property,’’ she said.

Residents and businesses will be able to contact nominated suppliers directly or fill out a quotation request online that will be sent to a supplier.

The approach is not dissimilar to that taken by the City of Melbourne, which last month joined forces with other large energy users (including like-minded local governments and businesses) to launched a Request for Information Process, with the aim of “challenging the market” to supply the right renewable energy solutions at the right price.

Although the Melbourne experiment aims to stimulate the development of larger-scale energy projects, the idea of combining purchasing power to root out a competitive deal is along the same lines.

Similarly, a separate NSW local government initiative – this time a group of up to 32 regional councils accounting for two-thirds of the state’s area – is using its collective weight to help fund the installation of around half a megawatt of PV in various sites around their electorates.

The plan, called the Solar Energy eXchange Initiative – or the SEXI proposal – is to seek federal government funding of up to $200 million over five to six years to develop six solar projects, worth about $30 million each, and demonstrate five different solar technologies.  

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  • Alen T

    Good time to seek funding I’d say. After the Vic election -Shepparton in particular- the LNP (state & federal) should and if they are smart will be more cautious about ignoring the voices and wishes of so many councils, especially with NSW election just around the corner.

  • Rob G

    We all know it’s right to be making the shift to renewables. It’s a no brainer on a multitude of fronts. And while coal companies can ‘buy off’ the state and federal politicians, their reach doesn’t quite make it to our local councils. More and more the battle for renewables is being won at the smaller end of things – roof top solar and small to medium businesses. Think of it like a noose around the legs of an imperial walker (star wars) they might be bigger but we’re smarter.