Sydney’s Inner West targets 1000% increase in solar generation

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Sydney’s Inner West is home to a discrepancy, its population is enthusiastic about renewable energy and reducing carbon emissions, but the area has one of the lowest uptakes of solar on private properties. 

To fix this, Inner West Council has launched a solar initiative which, through Expression of Interest (EOI), looks to begin its ambitious journey toward a 1000% increase in solar generation across the Inner West over the next decade. 

“We want to establish Council as a broker to facilitate the large-scale installation of solar on buildings and homes across the Inner West,” said Mayor Darcy Byrne. “We can achieve this enormous growth by covering every factory, apartment block and shopping centre in solar panels.” 

As it stands, only four per cent of Inner West residential dwellings have solar PV installed, compared to 18% in Sydney’s outer suburbs. And similarly, only five per cent of medium and large buildings in the Inner West have solar installations. Of course, part of the reason for the Inner West’s slow solar uptake is because it is home to a much higher number of renters, strata units and lower numbers of day-time homebodies who would most benefit from solar PV. Nevertheless, the residents of the Inner West still deserve to save money on their electricity bills and help reduce their carbon emissions. 

Through EOI, Inner West Council is inviting organisations to design a system that will substantially increase the area’s solar uptake on residential, commercial, industrial and community properties. By acting as broker, Council hopes to attract capital from superannuation funds, banks, and other investors. 

“In doing so” said Byrne, “we can create a profit for property owners and investors while massively reducing carbon emissions…and I want to hear from the best and brightest (who) can address these obstacles.” 

This is a significant local government initiative and one that is desperately needed. In the past, Inner West residents have had to form their own independent community groups, such as Inner West Community Energy, in order to promote and help each other toward more sustainable living with renewables, and particularly solar. 

The group facilitates investments in community solar projects and seeks to help households on fixed or low incomes get access to solar PV. In December 2018, Gayle Adams, an early adopter of solar in the Inner West, upgraded and expanded the residential array she’d installed in 2009 through the Inner West Community Energy Group. 

Australia’s local governments are great supporters of renewable energy and have shown far greater policy foresight in recent years than at the Federal level. Inner West Council partnered with UNSW and the Australia Photovoltaic Institute in 2018 and, as well as being a member of the Cities Power Partnership, its “Go Solar” program which connects residents with trusted suppliers and advice. The Inner West Council’s new initiative is yet another example of how ambitious policy can get the ball rolling.