WA completes first installations of $6 million in solar for public housing


Western Australia’s (WA) $5.5 billion WA Recovery Plan to combat the economic impacts of Covid-19 included $66.3 million for renewable energies, including $6 million for the installation of solar panels on public housing. This week sees the first 10 of 500 rooftop systems installed in Clarkson, Gosnells, Balga, Ellenbrook, Rockingham, and Girrawheen. 

Installed and maintained by the state-owned Synergy, the McGowan Government expects the rooftop solar panels, part of its Smart Energy for Social Housing program, to save hundreds of tenants up to 20% on their yearly electric bill. 

To mark the occasion, WA Energy Minister Bill Johnston and Housing Minister Peter Tinley bore the burden of a ribbon with them as they visited the family home of the Coopers in Clarkson. Matron Patricia welcomed the delegation and lent a steady hand to the ribbon’s rending. 

“It was a pleasure to meet the Coopers today,” Johnston said, “and I’m sure they will see significant savings on their energy bills as a result of their participation in this project.” 

Minister Tinley seconded the notion, adding that rooftop solar will result in financial savings for hundreds of WA’s most vulnerable people. “It will also help stimulate the economy and support local jobs by activating trades not currently involved in social housing construction.”

WA is not isolated 

Last year, a group of residents of a Port Melbourne housing estate joined together to put pressure on the Victorian Government to install solar panels, and even battery storage, on the rooftop of every public housing project. With many of these residents elderly, sick or disabled, they spend most of their time at home during the day racking up enormous power bills that rapidly exhaust their pensions.

At the time, the Clean Energy Council’s (CEC) Director of Smart Energy Darren Gladman said solar coverage on public housing would significantly reduce its cost to the public purse. 

In May of this year, the Australian Capital Territory (ACT) allocated funding to undertake solar and sustainability upgrades on public and community housing and install solar batteries for two public schools as part of its fast-tracked infrastructure projects to support the local economy.

And in September, Solar Citizens, the Queensland Council of Social Service (QCOSS) and Queensland Conservation Council came together to propose a $215 million initiative to the Queensland Government which would see 50 MW of solar installed across more than 50,000 social dwellings to help households save on their energy bills in these tough economic times.

Clearly, state governments are beginning to realise that solar systems are one of the easiest ways to ease the pressure on tenants in public housing. Not only does it save the tenants on their bills, but also contributes to the state’s renewable energy targets and increases the value of the properties themselves. 

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