Australian shared solar technology targets untapped rental market

Australian tech startup, Matter, has launched a technology that aims to give Australia’s 2.4 million rented households to access solar power.
The technology, called Digital Solar, allows landlords to install rooftop solar and operate it like a micro-utility by selling the solar generated energy back to their tenants at a cheaper rate than power from the grid.
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Contained within an “unassuming” box, Digital Solar measures the amount of solar power generated, and the amount consumed by the household, allowing a property owner to bill their tenant for the power they use with an invoice automatically generated by Matter’s system.
A separate log-in allows tenants to view their usage in real-time, visualise the dollar value of what they’re saving and view a usage forecast, leading to more conscious energy consumption habits.
For tenants, savings can be as high as 20 per cent off their utility supply charges for new installs. For landlords, the Digital Solar service offers attractive payback periods – a return on investment of 3-6 years with a Net Present Value of five times the investment – and high lifetime returns, which improve both rental incomes and the capital value of their investments.
This means the landlords can earn five times the cost of installation of the solar PV, while saving their tenants on average $300 a year.
Matter says that the one-third of all households living in rented accommodation has represented a significant hole in Australia’s otherwise world-leading market.
This is because landlords have not been able to justify the considerable expense of providing a solar system when the benefit of a reduced energy bill goes to the tenant, the company says – a problem known as the ‘Split Incentive’ factor.
By monitoring and monetising roof top solar energy, there’s the potential to create a solar shared economy in the future, much like Airbnb or Uber, Matter says.
Matter’s technology allows also property owners and tenants to collaborate through a simple online business case calculator to see what shared benefits they can generate before signing up to the Digital Solar service.
Matter then provides a quote and facilitates the installation process.
“Our mission is to empower millions of people who want to adopt sustainable energy but currently don’t have the option,” said Matter CEO Chris Mrakas.
“By pioneering the shift from ownership to usership in the energy industry Digital Solar puts landlords and their tenants in control, creating new revenue streams and lowering energy bills. It’s a trend that’s set to continue as solar becomes more prevalent and new business models emerge to meet the needs of the changing energy landscape.
“There’s no reason why in the future, communities using this technology won’t be able to produce, share and even trade in solar energy units,” Mrakas said.
Digital Solar is currently suitable for single tenanted rental properties and will be rolled out to multi-tenanted, mixed residential and commercial properties next year.
Matter says it is expecting high demand with the launch of Digital Solar in November in Australia, and plans to launch in the US and Europe in early 2016.

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