Public housing

Solar panels on social housing could save tenants $750 a year

If every social housing unit were equipped with solar panels, 2.4 terawatt hours of electricity would be generated, or 1.3% of the annual production of the National Electricity Market.

Dr Roberts’ team estimated that it would cost $1.8 billion to cover each social housing roof with solar panels.

“It’s a great opportunity because there are so many benefits – increasing renewable energy and bringing it to people who are probably struggling with energy bills,” he said.

Poorer households such as Ms Brooks are hit harder by energy bills because the outlay is a higher proportion of a lower income. Social housing is also generally older and less isolated.

“Solar power has been around for so long, I think it’s kind of amazing that it’s not more widely used [in public housing] than it is now,” she said.


Ms Brooks said saving at least $750 a year on energy costs if she installed solar power would be “amazing”, especially in the heat of summer.

“It would take so much pressure off me and allow me to live a bit better, in terms of surviving, freeing up money to pay for other things like food or medical bills,” she said.

“Our apartment gets super hot in the summer…We’re better off under a tree in a park than in our unit, or in the garden where there’s a bit of a breeze.”

Struggling to afford the essentials compounds other problems and means her seven-year-old daughter Bella is “missing out on a lot”.


“You end up with this very cheap diet that’s full of foods that aren’t good for you,” she said.

The NSW government has retrofitted 5,300 social housing units with three-kilowatt rooftop solar systems since 2017, at a cost of $26 million or $4,900 per house. Another 750 homes will have panels installed by June, and each of the homes will receive new air conditioning units.

In choosing homes with rooftop solar panels, the government prioritizes homes in the hottest parts of the state and homes with wood-burning heaters and old gas heaters.

Labor MP Matt Thistlethwaite, whose data on social housing in his Kingsford Smith constituency helped the report’s researchers, wrote to New South Wales Premier Dominic Perrottet on Monday urging him to consider extend rooftop solar power to all social housing.

“There is a significant opportunity for our state to help set a national benchmark for the adoption of rooftop solar in social and community housing. A relatively small investment from government could make a big difference for years. to come, in terms of savings on household bills and reduced emissions,” he said.

New South Wales Minister for Planning and Housing, Anthony Roberts, said: “Used wisely, the free solar energy provided by the panels can save tenants up to $1,000 a year on their energy bills, and we know that for social housing tenants, every dollar counts.

Australian Council of Social Services chief executive Cassandra Goldie said investing in solar retrofits for all social housing tenants would reduce poverty, improve health, boost the economy and reduce emissions.

“The market cannot solve this problem. We need direct investment from governments to improve the energy efficiency of low-income housing, provide access to solar power and batteries, and energy efficiency standards mandatory for rental properties,” Dr Goldie said.

The Morning Edition newsletter is our guide to the most important and interesting stories, analysis and ideas of the day. register here.