Community housing leads energy-efficient housing push

The most energy efficient home in your neighbourhood may well be managed by a community housing organisation with the social housing sector leading the push for environmentally-responsible housing, according to the CEO of the Community Housing Industry Association Victoria (CHIA Vic), Lesley Dredge.

Ms Dredge says the sector’s social mission to help low-income renters with energy bills, and its desire to reduce its carbon footprint, has combined to ensure community housing organisations actively seek opportunities to build or retrofit energy-efficient housing.

Ms Dredge was announcing the results of one of these opportunities; a $2.7 million program of energy efficiency and solar upgrades, funded by the Victorian Property Fund (VPF), which has seen more than 1,400 community housing households benefit from the installation of 1,634kW of solar, 26.2kWh of batteries and 116 split system air conditioners, with the emissions savings being the equivalent of taking 385 cars off the road each year.

Renters like Andrew Phillips have been appreciative of the VPF project’s impact. Andrew is the sole community housing resident in a small block of two-bedroom units in Croydon, yet his is the only home sporting solar panels. ‘My owner occupier neighbours are jealous…I noticed a difference in my bills immediately.’

CHIA Vic, in collaboration with BOOMPower, assisted seven community housing organisations to apply for the VPF grant, utilising the BOOM! platform, which helps organisations analyse their energy opportunities and create automated business cases for energy projects. BOOM! assists with competitive procurement all the way through to the measurement and verification of the costs and benefits achieved by the projects.

‘This project has been a great success and provided great learnings for the sector in the leadup to our delivery of $1.38 billion of additional social housing through the Victorian Government’s Big Housing Build project. All of those new homes will be a minimum of 7-star energy efficiency standards,’ Ms Dredge says.

In addition to the Big Housing Build, the Victorian Government has announced a $335 million rebate program to replace old wood, electric or gas fired heaters with new energy-efficient systems, as well as the $112 million announced last week for social housing properties to seal windows and doors, and upgrade heating, cooling and hot water system. The government has also expanded the Solar Homes rebates program.

‘We have no doubt that our members will take advantage of all these opportunities to increase the environmental efficiency of their properties for the benefit of tenants and the environment,’ Ms Dredge says.

‘Community housing organisations provide homes for people on low to moderately low incomes who are disproportionately impacted by rising energy prices. We don’t want our renters to have to choose between keeping the heater on in winter or buying food.’

Use BOOM to create a business case for energy efficiency 

Want to know how to determine what and where you should install energy products, such as solar, hot water heat pumps, air con, lighting, insulation and draught proofing?

This interactive half-day workshop will show you how to use the BOOM software platform to answer those questions, compare your options, competitively procure your solutions and monitor and measure their performance.

The focus of this session will be learning how to use the BOOM platform to fast track your decision-making and installations for future solar and energy efficiency upgrade programs, whether that is the current maintenance stimulus funding or a long-term upgrade program.

Participants are expected to have some familiarity with inspecting properties, although guidance will be provided on how to identify and assess the roof for solar, and the quality of other energy efficiency systems in the property.

The session will be held on Thursday, September 17 from 1.30 to 3.30pm.

Click here for details and to register.

solar installation on roof

Calls for a solar powered stimulus

A successful program that has enabled almost 700 low income households to benefit from reduced power bills could be used as the basis of a solar-powered stimulus package that could benefit more vulnerable Victorians and the environment, create employment and support the economy.

The Community Housing Industry Association Victoria (CHIA Vic) and BOOMPower are partners on a project that has seen solar power and other energy efficiency products and solutions installed in social housing properties, including standalone properties and multi-unit apartment buildings.

With funding from the Victorian Government’s New Energy Jobs Fund, CHIA Vic and BOOMPower developed the BOOM! software platform. The platform makes it easy for organisations to produce a clear business case on the impact of installing energy efficiencies, as well as providing a seamless procurement process, and measuring and verifying performance and outcomes on an ongoing basis.

Additional funding from Solar Homes and the Victorian Property Fund saw seven community housing organisations use the platform to plan and implement $3.5 million worth of energy upgrades on social housing properties and counting.

CHIA Vic CEO Lesley Dredge says, ‘People on low incomes are the most vulnerable to high energy prices. It can have a real impact on their day-to-day lives, as they can avoid using heating and cooling even in extreme temperatures, which reduces their quality of life and their health and wellbeing.’

BOOMPower Director Alex Houlston says new funding for solar and energy efficiency from the Victorian Property Fund (VPF), along with the introduction of Solar Homes in 2018 and the availability of the BOOM! platform caused a surge in the level of engagement from the sector for a range of energy solutions.

‘This is evidence a stimulus package would be welcomed; in addition to construction projects, the community housing sector has $14 million in solar and energy efficiency upgrades that are ready to be undertaken in the next six to 18 months,’ Mr Houlston says.

Based on jobs figures provided by product suppliers and retailers for the initial projects, Ms Dredge says, ‘We can confidently say that a $14 million program would also directly support up to 356 jobs.’

CHIA Vic and BOOM! are hopeful Solar Homes will develop a separate funding stream for community housing, in recognition of the fact that, unlike private landlords or homeowners, they are unable to receive any of the financial benefits of their investment in energy efficiencies.

Andrew benefits from solar install

Few renters would expect their landlord to install solar power for their benefit but SouthEast Housing Cooperative Ltd is doing just that.

Andrew Phillips* is the sole community housing resident in a small block of two-bedroom units in Croydon, yet his is the only home sporting solar panels.

‘My owner occupier neighbours are jealous,’ Andrew says.

Andrew’s home is one of the 162 properties managed by SouthEast that have had solar panels installed with the support of the Victorian Property Fund’s Environmentally Sustainable Housing Funding Round.

Andrew’s panels were installed in August last year and the impact was instant, despite his power company taking until February 2019 to begin crediting him with a feedback tariff for the energy his home was generating in excess of his usage.

‘But I noticed a difference in my bills immediately,’ Andrew says, with his bills dropping from an average of $5 a day to $3 a day.

Andrew says he was pleased SouthEast took advantage of the opportunity to reduce the energy consumption of their properties from an environmental, as well as financial, point of view.

‘I am really happy to be part of the bigger environment picture and I think this is something that should be rolled out to throughout the country.’

SouthEast’s CEO, Steven Morrissey, says his organisation leapt at the opportunity to apply for the VPF funding.

‘Our cooperative is all about housing and helping people on low incomes, and this is another way of making a difference.’