Sharing the solar benefits: case studies

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If you don’t own your own roof, how can you get solar? We speak to a variety of tenants and apartment owners to see how they went about it.

Doing a deal with the landlady
Originally hailing from Sydney, Dev Mukherjee found winters in his poorly insulated rented sharehouse in Castlemaine, central Victoria, pretty hard to handle. Although from Melbourne, his partner Linnet Good also felt the cold, and she worked from home. The all-electric house also incurred large electricity bills—up to $800 per quarter in winter for the three tenants, as they only had a single reverse-cycle heater in the living area and used plug-in radiators elsewhere.

After living there for a couple of years, and prompted by a bulk-buy solar scheme offered by local sustainability group Mount Alexander Solar Homes (now More Australian Solar Homes), Dev and Linnet approached their landlady about installing solar on the property in an effort to reduce their energy bills as well as the house’s environmental impact.

“Our landlady was supportive,” says Dev, “though of course she was concerned about the cost. She wanted to ensure she’d recoup the cost while the system was still under warranty. The panels had a ten-year warranty, but the inverter was only warranted for five years.” Eventually a suitable agreement was reached, and in spring 2014 a 3 kW solar system was installed at a cost of around $5000.

The electricity bill remained in the tenants’ names after the solar system was installed, and they retained the feed-in tariff for exported solar generation. They negotiated a $25 per week rental increase with their landlady, calculated to pay back the cost of the solar system over five years. “Our average bill reduction we calculated to be slightly more than $25 per week,” he says, helped by changing their behaviour to make best use of the solar, like running the washing machine in the middle of the day.

In addition, they didn’t have another rent increase in the time that they lived in the house. (In the end, despite intending to stay long term, they moved out as the landlady wanted to sell the property vacant; Dev believes the solar system was a drawcard for the purchasers.)

Dev and Linnet encourage other renters to start a conversation with their landlords about installing solar. “It helps if you have a good relationship with the owners, and be mindful that, as they put up the capital, they must be able to see a return on that investment.”

Read more case studies in ReNew 142.

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