Nearly 1000 Aboriginal Housing Office properties in western New South Wales are set to have rooftop solar installed, after the state government-run organisation called for tenders to supply and retrofit 970 rooftop PV systems.
The installations are part of an energy bill support program the AHO has recently undertaken, to assist its tenants with the high cost of electricity in an area that has been identified as experiencing “extreme energy hardship.”
The increasing incidence of “energy stress” among Australian homes and businesses has been under the spotlight this week, after a report by the Australian Council of Social Service (ACOSS), the Brotherhood of St Laurence and The Climate Institute, called for urgent relief from soaring power bills.
“There has been a fundamental failure to provide adequate measures to reduce energy stress, and deliver a national coordinated stable energy and climate policy which is a major factor in pushing up energy prices,” said ACOSS CEO Cassandra Goldie.
“Low-income and disadvantaged households are bearing the brunt of mismanagement and will be further disadvantaged if the desirable transition to a modern, clean electricity sector is not well managed, inclusive and equitable.”
The report sparked some concern among solar advocates, however, that much of the blame for this was being attributed to costs associated with renewable energy schemes – including incentives for rooftop solar – despite the fact that they represent just a tiny portion of consumer bills.
“If a household has distributed energy resources, their energy bills are small or zero and in some cases can be in credit,” the report said.
“These households are paying little if anything towards network expenditure and renewable energy policies, whereas households without distributed energy – including low-income and disadvantaged households – pay the full amount.”
But as Total Environment Centre’s Mark Byrne told RenewEconomy on Monday, this was not necessarily an accurate or helpful assertion; “especially when many of the 1.7 million Australian households with solar are themselves aged pensioners on low fixed incomes.
“Solar advocates would prefer to be working side-by-side with the welfare sector to make solar, batteries, smart homes and above all more energy efficient buildings more readily available to low income households,” he said.
The AHO solar project will also include an education program for tenants, many of whom have also recently had air conditioning installed.
Contractors wishing to tender for the AHO solar jobs can do so for “one or more” of the five installation zones in NSW’s Central West, Orana/Far West and Riverina/Murray regions, the document says.
The tender closes on Tuesday August 22, at 2pm.