SunTenants: A Simple Way To Get Solar On Rented Roofs?

tenant and landlord looking at returns

Suntenants offers simple solar for renters.

Almost one-third of Australians live in rental properties.  This is a problem because tenants don’t like paying their own money to put solar panels on their landlord’s roof and few landlords see solar power as a good investment.  Because of this, lots of the population are missing out on the savings solar slathers all over electricity bills.  It also prevents the world benefiting from the extra clean energy that would be generated.

SunTenants is a company working to resolve this problem and get more solar panels on rental roofs.  They do this by solving the coordination problem between renters and landlords1.  SunTenants can fix this problem — for a price.  But if the alternative is no solar gets installed then I think it is a price worth paying.

If you decide you want to use SunTenants’ services and you’re a landlord simply get in touch with them.  If you are a tenant then you have to convince your landlord to get in touch with them.

Convincing a landlord to install solar panels

After that:

  1. SunTenants will work with the landlord to determine the size and type of solar power system to be installed.
  2. They will determine a fair increase in rent based on its expected output.
  3. The landlord then arranges installation or has SunTenants arrange it.
  4. The landlord pays for the solar power system and pays SunTenants $540-$640 to have a WattWatcher energy monitor installed.  The landlord also pays an annual fee of $104.50.
  5. SunTenants monitors the system and ensures both parties continue to benefit.

Tenants who are at home during the day will save more on their electricity bills as they will use more solar electricity, but the rent increase is kept at a level so renters should never be worse off even if they use no solar electricity at all.

Dr Bjorn Sturmberg — Founder Of SunTenants

SunTenants was founded by Dr Bjorn Sturmberg.  If I remember how to speak Foreign correctly that directly translates into Dr Bear Storm Mountain.  Clearly with a name like that his options in life were limited to either becoming a superhero or super-villain.  Fortunately for us, he chose virtue over villainy and rather than attend Evil Medical School for six years, he obtained his doctorate from the University of Sydney with the thesis The optical physics of dielectric nanostructures: enabling improved photovoltaic designs.

Dr Bjorn Sturmberg - founder of SunTenants

Dr Bjorn Sturmberg when I looked at him through the round window. (He’s the tall one on the right.)

With his advanced knowledge of nanotechnology it probably would have been very easy for him to build some sort of super suit and fly around in metal tights punching people.  Instead he set out to increase the amount of clean renewable energy produced by getting more solar panels on the roofs of rental properties.  It’s a good thing too because a few days ago it reached 32 degrees at the Arctic Circle in Norway.

The world is heating up

Australians are a bit broken when it comes to hot weather these days.  We read that it was 32 degrees in summer over there and think, “So it was a bit chilly then?”  This is because our 40+ degree summer heatwaves have fried our brains.  But trust me, it shouldn’t be that hot in the Arctic.  I feel really bad for the Norwegians.  So bad I promise I’ll never make fun of Norway again until I feel like it.  It would be nice if these temperatures were caused by some super-villain with a heat ray.  Then we could just punch him and go home.  Unfortunately, they’re due to our dumping too much CO2 into the atmosphere.  A molecule that is highly resistant to punching2.

The Coordination Problem

SunTenants provide a way to share the benefits of rooftop solar so both tenants, landlords and the climate are better off.  Some tenants and landlords don’t require any middleman or intermediate woman to help them come to a mutually satisfactory agreement and so don’t need SunTenants’ services.  And I think that’s wonderful.  But some people appear to think that just because services like SunTenants aren’t always needed no one should ever need to use them.

All I can say is these people must be much more charismatic and better at persuading people than I am if they have never needed a third party to help them come to an agreement.  It’s an unfortunately fact that a renter may simply be unable to convince their landlord solar is a worthwhile investment without SunTenants’ help.  Conversely, a landlord who wants to invest in solar power may decide using SunTenants is worth it in order to convince a tenant that putting up their rent in order to pay for it is fair.  I’m not saying you should use services like Suntenants’ if you don’t need it.  Because that would be dumb.  But the middle men and women of the world can and do provide useful services.

How SunTenants Works

On the SunTenants’ site it says:

“We make solar work for rentals.  Fair and simple”

I certainly hope that’s true.  Otherwise I’m going to feel bloody stupid about writing this article.  The site goes on to say how the SunTenants system works in four steps:

How SunTenants works

SunTenants’ Solar Benefits Calculator

SunTenants does the first step — calculating what a fair rent increase for a solar power system is — with their Solar Benefits Calculator.  I entered an Adelaide address into it and it gave me this information:

SunTenants solar benefits calculator

That’s a pretty impressive result:

  • The simple payback time is within 6 years.  If the landlord already has solar on their own roof then the only investment I can think of that might provide a better return is a ski mask and gun.
  • While the tenant has to pay an extra $19 a week in rent they’ll save an estimated $28 a week on their electricity bills leaving them $9 better off.

South Australia is the state with the best return on solar power but it still makes sense for most homes in Australia without shaded roofs.  If you want an idea of typical payback times for non-rental solar systems you can check out the graph near the end of this article.

The Solar Benefit Calculator Assumes Panels Face Directly North

The solar benefits calculator gives results for annual solar electricity production that I would describe as optimistic, but are definitely possible with a new, decent quality, solar power system.  But only if the panels are facing directly north.  If it’s not possible to place solar panels in that direction, which is often the case, then the output will be less.  If the panels face north-east or north-west they will produce around 5% less than the figure SunTenants gives and if they face west or east they will produce around 15% less.  But these are just rules of thumb.  If you want a more accurate figure you can use the PVWatts site for an estimate.

Solar Self Consumption Is 30% For A 4 Kilowatt System

By looking at the figures SunTenants uses for retail electricity prices and feed-in tariffs, I worked out they have assumed a household will self consume 30% of the solar electricity generated by a 4 kilowatt system.  The actual percentage will vary depending on if people are home during the day and how much electricity they use, but 30% is a reasonable figure and fairly typical for that size system.

The Solar Benefit Calculator Can Be Over Optimistic

The calculator assumes electricity prices and feed-in tariffs are as follows:

SunTenants - electricity pricing and feed-in tariffs

Feed-in tariffs are trending downwards.  As a result, some of the figures SunTenants uses may need to be updated, but they are not unreasonable.  Except for rounding up Western Australia’s to 7.2 cents when it has been 7.135 cents for years.  That’s just weird.  Also, I’m pretty sure that ANU in the feed-in tariff column is meant to be ACT3.

The figures SunTenants uses for retail electricity prices are mostly too high.  Only a small part of this is because they are from last financial year and haven’t been adjusted yet for the slight decline in electricity prices most Australians received recently.  Using the SolarQuotes Electricity Retailer Comparison Tool for regions with electricity retailers, I looked up electricity plans4 for Australian capitals and chose the cheapest one with the same feed-in tariff SunTenants uses.  After adjusting for discounts I put the price in cents per kilowatt-hour, including GST, in the graph below in blue along with the figures SunTenants uses:

Available electricity prices vs. SunTenants

While currently available prices in Canberra, Hobart, and Perth are close to SunTenants figures, in the other 4 state capitals the available prices are much lower:

  • Adelaide 16% lower.
  • Brisbane 45% lower.
  • Melbourne 45% lower.
  • Sydney 24% lower.

Darwin stands out as the only capital where the available price is significantly higher than SunTenants’ figure.  I suspect this is some kind of typo.

Dr Bear Storm Mountain Responds

I emailed Dr Bjorn Sturmberg about the difference in prices and he replied:

“As you’re aware pricing is a total mess (purposefully designed to dis-empower consumers). We don’t want to get drawn into this frequently changing mess so decided to stick with standing rate prices, without discounts and without fixed terms (as a renter I’m uncomfortable entering into a fixed term contract as I’m not confident I’ll have my lease renewed).”

Not allowing their calculation to be based on the electricity price people pay in reality is a pity as the renters’ promised electricity bill savings may be exaggerated.  Landlords will be unaffected, except for potentially having a tenant who is unhappy about how little their electricity bills have been reduced.  But Dr Sturmberg did say Suntenants’ figures would be updated to account for recent falls in grid electricity prices.

Lower Actual Electricity Prices Mean Less Return For Renters

For the Adelaide example I mentioned earlier, using the currently available electricity price rather than SunTenants’ figure while keeping all else equal results in the following:

  • Total annual electricity bill savings fall 8% from $1,456 to $1332.
  • The tenant’s savings on electricity bills falls by almost one quarter from $9 a week to $6.60.
  • The landlord is unaffected and the simple payback period remains the same at about 5.8 years.

As you can see this makes a considerable difference to the savings received by the tenant.  In Brisbane, Melbourne, and Sydney the effects of using realistic electricity prices are far worse:

  • In Brisbane tenants go from saving $7.90 a week to only saving $3.60.
  • In Melbourne tenants go from saving $6 a week to only saving $2 a week
  • In Sydney tenants go from saving $6.10 a week to only saving $3.50 a week.

Paying an available lower electricity rate makes a big difference in savings for tenants with a two-thirds reduction in Melbourne5.  Because of the way payments are calculated it is only the tenant who saves less and the deal remains the same for the landlord.

Have Calculations Done With The Electricity Price You’ll Be Paying

If you are a tenant I suggest researching electricity plans and deciding which one you are likely to use if solar panels are installed.  Then look up the electricity prices Suntenants uses in their calculations at the bottom of this page.  If what you are likely to be paying is significantly different I suggest you ask SunTenants to make their calculations using the price you will actually be paying.  This way you will have a much more accurate indication of how much you are likely to save.

Or you can work out how much you are likely to save on electricity bills yourself and let your landlord know you are not likely to save as much as SunTenants says.

Tenants Should Never Be Worse Off With SunTenants

The amount of extra rent paid to the landlord is based upon the expected total output of the solar power system multiplied by SunTenants’ feed-in tariff figure.  This means tenants normally should never be worse off with SunTenants even if they use no solar electricity.  It also means that households where there are people at home during the day using electricity will save more than those where people are usually out of the house when the sun is shining.  This gives tenants an incentive to shift electricity consumption to the middle of the day.

Changing To A Higher Feed-In Tariff May Help

In areas with retailer choice, tenants are free to choose whichever retailer plan they like.  SunTenants has no influence on this but you’ll want a plan with a feed-in tariff that is at least equal to the rate SunTenants assumes.  Selecting a plan with an even higher feed-in tariff may save money on electricity bills by increasing the payment received for surplus solar electricity sent into the grid.  But because plans with above average feed-in tariffs often charge more for grid electricity and can also have higher supply charges, tenants will have to take care to make sure they will actually be better off.

Rent Assistance Can Improve Tenant Savings

If some of the increase in rent that SunTenants recommends is paid for by someone else through government rent assistance or possibly an employer or grandmother, then this will effectively increase the amount of savings a tenant receives.  However, the number of people this will help is small and those footing some of the bill may not be happy about it.

SunTenants Installs A WattWatcher Energy Monitor

SunTenants will arrange to have a WattWacher energy monitoring system installed at the same time as the solar power system.  They use this to keep track of the system’s output and use the information it gathers to display the tenant’s and landlord’s savings in real time.  The monitor and its installation will cost the landlord $540-$640.

If the energy monitor indicates there is a problem with the system then SunTenants will notify the landlord.  If the system performs below SunTenants’ predictons for an extended period of time and is not faulty, SunTenants will reevaluate the amount of rent increase the tenant should pay.

Landlord’s Annual Fee

SunTenants charges the landlord an annual fee of $104.50.  This includes the cost of operating the WattWatchers energy monitor.

SunTenants Is Useful In The Right Situations

If you are a renter and your electricity consumption is anything close to normal then you will not be worse off if your landlord uses SunTenants and installs solar panels.  So if you can’t come to an agreement without the involvement of a third party you won’t lose out by suggesting they use SunTenants.  But if you pay less for electricity than the amount SunTenants uses in their calculations your savings can be much less than what they estimate.  In this case I recommend explaining to your landlord how your savings are likely to be less because if some landlords think you are saving a significant amount of money on your electricity bills they will use this as an excuse to increase your rent.

If you are a landlord thinking of installing solar panels on the roof of a property you can use SunTenants’ services.  Or you could just put it on the roof without them.  It’s up to you.  If you are going to install a WattWatcher or other energy monitoring system anyway you may find it more worthwhile.

Not everyone wanting to put solar panels on a rental roof will want or need SunTenants but they are available for people who will find their services useful and they will get solar power systems on some roofs that otherwise wouldn’t have any.  This is something I approve of because, as anyone who has ever met me personally can attest to, I am already dangerously hot and I’m not sure the world can handle it if I happen to get any hotter.

Footnotes

  1. The problem is renters want solar installed so they can save money while landlords generally only install solar if they are certain they can profit from it.  So if both stand to benefit but they can’t come to a mutually satisfactory agreement they have a coordination problem
  2. But I think I could take on a CO2 molecule and win.  After all, I’m pretty tough.  I once almost managed to beat up Stephen Hawking.
  3. I know the Australian National University appears to be the most important thing in Canberra, but let’s not forget that Reposit is based there too.
  4. I looked up plans with standard tariffs rather than time-of-use, but because households with solar panels are normally better off with a standard tariff this makes sense.
  5. Note I took the currently available electricity price for Melbourne from its centre and electricity prices can be lower there than in the suburbs.  Presumably this is to compensate the rich people who live there for all the envy they have to put up with.  Or maybe it’s just cheaper to supply electricity in a densely populated area.  Either one.
About Ronald Brakels

Many years ago now, Ronald Brakels was born in Toowoomba. He first rose to international prominence when his township took up a collection to send him to Japan, which was the furthest they could manage with the money they raised. He became passionately interested in environmental matters upon his return to Australia when the local Mayor met him at the airport and explained it was far too dangerous for him to return to Toowoomba on account of climate change and mutant attack goats. Ronald then moved to a property in the Adelaide Hills where he now lives with his horse, Tonto 23.

Comments

  1. I went through this exercise as a landlord. I looked at both Suntenants and Matter. (now defunct) and others.
    The ideal solution for me would have been monitoring the use and export with the tenant paying a discounted rate for use and the landlord recieving the FiT via a separate invoice. Up front costs for metering and on-going costs for monitoring were a disincentive as well as the requirement for always on wi-fi for the tenant.
    The current tenants weren’t interested in a $10 rent increase. So I put the plan on hold.
    The current tenants are leaving in about 6 Months so I bit the bullet and fitted 6.6kWp East West.
    In the current relatively high vacancy rental market (Adelaide) I can hopefully add $15 per week to the rent for the new tenants.
    I will monitor the system remotely via the SAPN NMI Portal, when Origin finally get around to fitting a bi-directional meter. Grrrr.

    • Joe Blake says

      “Most tenants are getting a FiT of 47c…”

      I feel that I should comment further here. Have I misunderstood what you have written or are you saying that your TENANTS are receiving the FiT, and not yourself, as the owner of the property? Obviously this is your business and you can run it how you choose, but I have been a renter in previous properties, and the agreement was that (except where I was living in a block of flats) I should pay the electricity directly to the utility, as the account was transferred to my name. But in those days there was no renewable energy available. However, were I in your position (or your position as I see it – again, I may have misunderstood) I would have the account in my name, pay the bill, collect the FiT/REBS, as the OWNER of the property (who presumably has paid for the solar panels and inverter), collect the power cost from the tenant(s) and split the FiT/REBS between myself and the tenant, both are winners that way. It appears that your tenants are getting cheap (if not free) electricity from the solar panels and as a bonus receive the FiT/REBS. You say your tenants are happier. If this is the situation I can see why.

      If I have misunderstood, then my sincere apologies.

      Perhaps this WA Treasury document may answer any questions as to the difference between FiT and REBS.

      http://www.treasury.wa.gov.au/uploadedFiles/Site-content/Public_Utilities_Office/Solar_PV/Feed-in-Tariff-Frequently-Asked-Questions.pdf

      • Hi, I think this reply should have gone to Lessor?
        My preferred method would be the tenant choose a retailer and get the bill from them for grid purchased energy with the FiT itemised.
        Any energy self consumed from the PV would be invoiced from the landlord at an agreed discounted rate (>30% maybe) A requirement here is a quality meter and remote monitoring.
        The FiT amount would also be returned to the landlord.
        I’m pretty sure this was the way the SA Gov scheme for public housing PV and storage was going to work.
        FiTs in SA are now at the discretion of the retailer with no Gov FiT.

  2. “The problem is renters want solar installed so they can save money while landlords generally only install solar if they are certain they can profit from it.”

    For over eight years, most of our tenants have benefitted from our decision to place solar electricity systems on our rentals’ roofs. We benefit, too:

    * Our rentals rarely have vacancies;
    * Tenants renew their leases, often up to five years;
    * We have happier tenants;
    * Some even offer to buy ‘their’ homes from us (no agents commission!)

    Most tenants are getting a FiT of 47c. The latest system we’ve fitted brings in just 7.2c… so it’s _larger_ than any we’ve previously installed. You’re correct in expressing indignation about the situation in WA… but what’s even worse is that tenants tell us they’re actively discouraged from claiming the 47c FiT. Why would we _ever_ vote Labor again?!

    • Joe Blake says

      “. Why would we _ever_ vote Labor again?!”

      If you really MUST bring politics into it, at least be accurate. Assuming you are speaking of WA politics, Labor had little or nothing to do with introducing the FiT. The Liberals under Colin Barnett went to the electorate in 2008 promising to introduce a Feed in Tariff (FiT) of 60 cents GROSS per kWh. In other words the generator would be paid for every unit generated, even if they consumed it themselves. Though a great fan of solar power, I refused to vote for this as it was patently obvious that it would not work. Once elected Barnett’s government found the same thing and introduced a more reasonable option, that of 40 cent NETT – in other words paid only for each unit exported to the grid. ( Further the scheme was created with a limited lifespan of 10 years from the time it was claimed by the generator.)

      This was so successful that the government reduced it to 20 cents, then discontinued it altogether, although those who had initially claimed it continued to receive the tariff, but with conditions. When I installed solar panels in 2009 I claimed the FiT (40 cents) and ALSO signed up to the Renewal Energy Buyback scheme (REBS) which was an agreement between the utility (not the government) and myself to purchase any excess power generated. I was to be paid a fairly nominal sum of about 7 cents per unit (my bill tells me from 1 August 2010). These were two separate payments.

      One of the conditions for receiving the FiT I mentioned was that should I increase the number or capacity of my inverter(s) (not my panels) I would automatically cease to be entitled to receive the FiT. I installed more panels and another inverter in Oct 2013 and ceased to receive the payment but continued (to the present) to receive the REBS payment of 7.13 cents per unit.

      “The latest system we’ve fitted brings in just 7.2c…” This would be because there were no applications for FiT accepted after it was discontinued, unless the application was made BEFORE that date.

      You say” tenants tell us they’re actively discouraged from claiming the 47c FiT.” I suspect that this is because as tenants, they do not own the generating capacity, so therefore are not entitled to receive anything.

  3. Joe Blake: ‘…they do not own the generating capacity, so therefore are not entitled to receive anything…”

    First, they _are_ entitled to the FiT. It’s part of our rental agreement;

    Second, THEY have the electricity account… not me.*

    Third, the solar FiT has _always_ been paid 100% to our tenants… for 8 years.

    YES, the LNP introduced these ten-year contracts.

    Labor, for whom we’ve voted for _decades_ takes the position that (only) the wealthy can afford solar. They argue that the wealthy are subsidised by the poor, who pay high electricity bills. It’s all about ideology… and the state-owned utility cash cow. In fact Labor has raised energy prices, to pay off the immense debt created by the LNP. So the poor pay more. Politics? LOL.

    * As the owner of the panels, I’m not allowed ANY information about our tenants’ electricity accounts. I’m not even permitted to know how much time is remaining on any of the solar FiT contracts. Nor am I permitted to know if our tenants are actually receiving their entitled FiT of 47c / unit!~ And finally, I’m amused at the expertise of respondents who think they know what’s happening in WA. We’ve been lessors for 44+ years. We _know_ solar electricity benefits tenants immensely. It also encourages tenants to _stay_ with us, extending and renewing their leases year after year. We’ve continued to install solar electricity systems on rentals, even though our tenants in these newer homes now receive a _miserable_ FiT of 7.2c / unit.

    • Lessor,

      ” tenants in these newer homes now receive a _miserable_ FiT of 7.2c / unit.”

      If you’d read the Treasury document I linked to in my post, you would see that in WA (where I’ve lived since 1980) there were no FiT applications being approved since the scheme was discontinued a couple of years after it commenced. The 7.2 cent/unit is the payment for the Renewable Energy Buyback Scheme (REBS) – NOT FiT!

      “As the owner of the panels, I’m not allowed ANY information about our tenants’ electricity accounts. ”

      As I’ve said this is your business and you run it how you see fit. Since you have chosen to sign the account over to your tenants, I do not see why you SHOULD be entitled to see any information about their affairs. And if the tenants receive the FiT/REBS payments then again, that is your choice.

      As to Labor “raising” the energy prices, what the McGowan government is doing is starting to remove the $2.2 Billion dollars in subsidies to non-renewable power announced in 2016 by Dr Nahan, the erstwhile treasurer and minister for energy under Barnett. What HAS gone up is the “supply charge” which is applied to ALL consumers connected to the grid, regardless of whether they have renewable power or not. However, the massive $330 million bill for the failed attempt to refurbish the Muja coal fired power station rests entirely at the feet of the LNP. (In the interests of even-handedness I freely admit that BOTH sides of politics have been buying votes by subsidising non-renewable energy since (according to my power bills) the late 1980s – and I just as freely admit that I don’t vote for either of the majors because of their demonstrated ineptitude.)

    • I can chime in here as well. I installed a system on my old house in 2008, then bought and moved into another house in 2011 and installed a system on that one as well. Both systems were installed in the window when the 40c/kWh FiT was active.

      I rented out my old house to a family member and advised her that I didn’t think she’d be eligible to continue receiving the 40c FiT, however as it turned out Synergy continued to pay it. To be honest I was surprised at that (as I thought the new electricity sales contract would use the current terms), but there you go.

      To the best of my knowledge the same owner can’t receive the FiT on more than one system at the same time – I still get it for my current house (but this will end in 2021) but I essentially forfeited that on my first house. I don’t have any problem with the tenant getting that benefit since I wouldn’t be able to claim it anyway. Sure I made the up-front investment but this is true for any item in the house – oven, water heater, carpet, whatever… I don’t get to enjoy those on a daily basis, the tenant does.

      • Scott,

        The Treasury document I linked to is quite specific in a couple of areas.

        http://www.treasury.wa.gov.au/uploadedFiles/Site-content/Public_Utilities_Office/Solar_PV/Feed-in-Tariff-Frequently-Asked-Questions.pdf

        Firstly, (Cut and paste)

        “The Scheme was designed to provide an additional incentive to encourage homeowners to purchase renewable energy systems at a time when the cost of systems was much higher. ” Note the term is “Homeowner” and not “Tenant”. I was responding to Lessor’s comment about his tenant(s) being discouraged from applying to receive the FiT.

        In respect of your comment about moving house and losing the FiT, (Cut and Paste)

        “Can I still receive the Feed-in Tariff if I move house?

        The Feed-in Tariff is not transferable and you will not receive the Feed-in Tariff at your new premises, even if you retain the existing system. If you move house, the new residents are eligible to receive the balance of your
        Feed-in Tariff duration”.

        So your understanding about “more than one system at the same time” is correct.

  4. Yes, it’s our _business._ We have no ideologically-driven political agenda.

    It’s clear from your initial statement: “I would have the account in my name, pay the bill, collect the FiT/REBS, as the OWNER of the property (who presumably has paid for the solar panels and inverter), collect the power cost from the tenant(s) and split the FiT/REBS between myself and the tenant, both are winners that way…”

    … that you would do things differently. You clearly know much more about keeping tenants long-term than we do. You present as knowledgeable in matters of property-leasing, so I assume you:

    * Have more rentals than we do…

    * Have owned them longer than we have…

    * Keep tenants longer than we do…

    * Have been initiating solar electricity systems much longer than we have ie., before this became common. (Over 30 years, in our case.)

    In conclusion, your 50 / 50 proposed split with tenants is exactly what I’d expect from an inexperienced lessor, who probably owns his/her rentals 50 / 50 with a bank. We don’t. We have zero debt and can afford to provide SES, SHWS and a range of other cost-saving, environmentally-friendly initiatives to tenants who respect our properties. That’s the real ‘everybody wins’ position.

    What we expect is that our state government utilities practise fairness and ethical, honest behaviour… regardless of their political colour… .

  5. Scott: “I was surprised at that (as I thought the new electricity sales contract would use the current terms), but there you go.”

    As I understand the legislation, ‘the house’ actually owns the ten-year contract… however strange the concept of this personification seems. Thus tenants get the benefit of the FiT… and, if sold, the new owner of the house ‘inherits’ the high(er) FiT.

    NB: I’m not posting after midnight. Where I am now, it’s exactly 9:24 am. 🙂
    For some reason, I’m not receiving any alerts about responses to my original post… and some of my posts appear to be lost in the ether… . 😉

  6. Answering both related posts above – the FAQ from Treasury makes it pretty clear, though I do not remember seeing that years ago (and there’s no date on it as far as I can see now).

    So, my tenant is not receiving an unexpected bonus. It’s entirely expectable based on that FAQ.

    Thanks…

    • “No date on it as far as I can see now”.

      I had a peek under the “view page info” tab and it says it was “modified” in June 2017 – but that’s probably not the date it was created. For what it’s worth ‘-)

  7. You’ll recall that the former LNP government attempted to rescind ten-year _contracts_ with owners who had installed solar electricity systems.

    When that occurred, we threatened a class action online… and the LNP _very_ quickly and very publicly dropped the idea, implementing parking fees at railway stations, instead(!)

    With so few years left to run on these ten-year contracts, I’d be surprised if _any_ government would attempt to a.) breach contract; and additionally b.) incur the wrath of so many electors who have contracts… .

  8. For whatever reason, not everybody who rents is unable to afford solar panels and for whatever reason, not every landlord is able or willing to install rooftop solar generation. I was in that situation in 2004, and in going back over my collection of power bills, I could see that the existing situation of government subsidies to (non-renewable) power prices could not continue and there would sooner or later come a surge in the cost of power as the subsidies were phased out (which is happening now). In the mid-’60s I’d been apprenticed as a “radio mechanic” in the Army and had worked with photovoltaic and photoelectric devices so I was familiar with their characteristics, and I decided to start experimenting with PV power. I visited several specialist shops, such as camping and caravanning, and by 2006 I had assembled a small but useful solar array, with deep cycle batteries and stand alone inverters. I was fortunate that the northern aspect of the rental property was unshaded virtually all year round, and by judicious choice of the free-standing 12 volt folding panels I was able to relocate them as required, sometimes even twice daily, to obtain optimal generation.

    Whilst initially small, the system supported a camping freezer (12/24/240 volts, 40 watts) and my home office computer, screen and modem. It enabled me to ride through several grid failures, some lasting more than 24 hours, without having to stop working altogether, or lose food through spoilage. (In total my frozen food was worth over $200, so no small saving that.)

    The system had several ups and several downs. The downs were that it was not particularly powerful and required constant maintenance (eg moving the panels), but since I was working at home, that was not a problem, and my electronics experience enabled me to install the appropriate meter(s) to allow me to keep my finger on the pulse. (The fact that the system does not attract either a feed-in tariff (FiT) or renewable energy buyback scheme (REBS) payment is immaterial, since at the time of installation those payments had not yet been created.) The ups were that since it was not connected to the grid, there was no approval necessary from any authority, and except for the 240 volt output from the inverter(s) it was all 12 volt and did not require licensed tradespersons to assemble. Lastly, it was totally portable, and should I have needed to relocate my accommodation, the system could travel with me, and assuming there existed a suitable site with access to sunshine in my new digs, I would soon have had a small amount of solar power.

    Fortunately, I was able to purchase my rental property outright (paying cash, thanks to a long standing “green” investment) as well as gradually installing 3.2 kW of grid connected rooftop solar with 11 kWh of batteries, as well as solar hot water system and rainwater tanks. My initial “experimental” 12 volt system is still with me and now supports three freezers and sometimes my computer etc. (In total they draw just under 200 watts, which on a good day, is sustainable for several hours before starting to discharge the batteries.) I’ve had to replace two folding panels owing to storm damage but my initial pair of panels (now into their 12th year) is still functioning well enough to help keep their batteries fully charged for most of the year. Indirectly, I am now getting REBS as every kWh I generate and consume from my stand-alone system is another kWh which my grid connected system can send back and I get paid for.

    So renters, there are alternative ways of achieving at least some degree of power independence, which you can take with you when you change houses.

  9. Interesting.

    I’m doubtful that many tenants* are in a position to replicate your technology… and I’m unsure whether many lessors* would support that level of tenant experimentation.

    As for “…there would sooner or later come a surge in the cost of power as the subsidies were phased out (which is happening now)…” there remains, as Ron reminds us frequently, a great variance in FiT paid by state governments. It’s his stated view (and mine) that what we’re paid now in WA is, in fact, a miserly pittance, compared to the majority of states… .

    * Let’s use the correct terms, ‘lessors’ and ‘tenants’, as specified in the 2016 upgrade of the Residential Tenancy Act (WA).

    • The technology is no more difficult than that in most motor cars. Many “grey nomads” adopt this technology in their caravans and recreational vehicles. If a lessor does not wish to support “that level of tenant experimentation”, then so be it, though possibly to their loss. My neighbour (in a side-by-side duplex), who was also my previous “lessor” prior to my purchasing the house, has been inspired by my “experimentation” and is even more enthusiastic (in terms of area of solar panels on his roof) than I am. He still receives the FiT and the REBS, and has got back his initial investment and then some. I’m sure he would disagree with you.

      “there remains … a great variance in FiT paid by state governments.” I was not talking about the subsidies to renewable energy, I clearly stated “subsidies to (non-renewable) power prices”. As I stated, when I first adopted PV power there was NO FiT or REBS.

  10. ” As I stated, when I first adopted PV power there was NO FiT or REBS.”

    Therein lies the difference. I actually enjoyed reading about the interesting history you described, but we’re talking about what’s relevant _now_.

    Given the choice of a lessor providing solar passive homes, facing the right direction, fitted with solar electricity panels, solar hot water systems, windows tinted to reflect heat, etc., we don’t think they’ll opt for the DIY option you’ve described. Nor do we believe it’s unethical for us to defend tenants’ rights.

    When interest rates fell from 9.54% to <5% we used those savings to implement solar initiatives… as well as A/C for the few homes lacking it. All homes have now been paid off, for the most part by tenants… and we continue to 'give back'… rather than _halve_ their benefit, as you suggest you would in your initial post.

    By all means, continue to promote DYI solutions. Best of luck selling the concept to the queue of applicants for your rentals.*

    * We do not ever seek advance rental payments for our houses, yet we continually _receive_ offers of up to a a year's rent-in-advance. We declined yet another offer of a year's advance rental payment less than two weeks ago(!) Clearly tenants value both our passion for solar, as well as our honesty. That probably explains why many also offer to buy 'their' homes from us… .
    Again win/win. We sell at fair prices and pay no agent's commission.

    • You’ve remarked on several occasions that you think the amount of the FiT in Western Australia is unsatisfactory – you’ve used the words “miserable”, a “miserly pittance” – which raises some questions I’d like to put to you.

      (1) How much do YOU think the FiT should be;
      (2) Why did you settle on that amount;
      (3) Where will the money come from for this increase in the FiT?

      I see these as questions that are very important, not just to those people who own solar panels, but ALL of the taxpayers. Since this is, as you have pointed out, money from the [WA] state government I see no reason to compare WA to other states, and I’m asking YOU the question, so I see no reason to attempt to speak for other people. This is a public forum and they are quite free to speak for themselves.

      • How does one define “miserly” in this context? Further research into the “miserly” FiT in Western Australia, brings up this interesting set of figures state by state.

        As at Feb 2018.

        QLD 7c-16 c/kWh

        VIC 10c- 16 c/kWh

        SA 7c -16.3 c/kWh

        TAS 8.9 c/kWh

        ACT 9c-11 c/kWh

        NSW 11.6 c/kWh

        WA 7.135 c/kWh or 10-50 c/kWh

        NT 26.88 c/kWh

        NB These figures can vary within each state depending upon the retailer supplying them.

        I don’t see anything to indicate that WA’s FiT is “miserly”. Somebody was to be last and these figures indicate that WA, admittedly by a narrow margin,is not in last place.

  11. JB: “I see no reason to compare WA to other states…”

    Of course not. It totally defeats your argument.

  12. Blake: “I see these as questions that are very important, not just to those people who own solar panels, but ALL of the taxpayers.”

    Whhhhat? Surely you don’t include tenants, from whom you’ll happily rrrrip 50%, you generous lessor, you!~ 🙂

    I went back through my measured responses, just now… and calculated you’ve had enough rope, JB. Not blind to rhyming slang, y’know… Noah’s Ark, Joe Blake, etc. Not that I’m suggesting for a moment that you’re a snake-oil salesman, although there’s a distinkt whiff of troll (or state government hack) in your posts.

    To humour you:

    Poles’n’Wire technology is an expensive 19th century anachronism. It also causes bushfires. To cite data close to my current timezone: “In 2015, the last year of reported data, electrical power problems sparked the burning of 149,241 acres — more than twice the amount from any other cause.” TWICE the amount of any other cause… .

    So that horrendous technology is wasteful, dangerous and long-overdue for replacement. With that data in mind, it’s reasonable to propose that any reasonable NEG would at least provide substantial subsidies to safer alternatives. And any state government with _guts_ would be initiating underground power… creating infrastructure jobs. I did, in fact, argue loudly that this might have been achieved at the same time NBN trenches were being laid in regional Australia.

    Now to your first question: We always considered 47c to be very, very generous. Collier seriously underestimated the cost blow-out, as legions of WA citizens took it up. To give him (some) credit, we are better served for that financial mistake. (But not by the LNP’s other very serious financial mismanagement issues… .) I’d propose that the FiT _match_ the exact cost consumers are actually charged.

    Your second question: Why settle on that amount? It’s cost neutral,… unless you believe that state government owned utilities should be unresponsive cash-cows… and that public officers should be permitted to milk tenants, by denying them access to FiT payments… and refusing to advise lessors whether tenants are, in fact, being creamed… . 🙁

    Increase? If you’re concerned about this ‘increase’ (it’s cost neutral, remember?) consider the savings if we de-linked from the huge expense of poles’n’wire maintenance… and the millions lost annually in bushfires.*
    Close your eyes, grit your teeth (OK, I see you’re grittin’ ’em) and try to see The BIG Picture here. 😉

    As for ‘money generation’, we see no better ‘money management’ from state Labor so far, than we did from the state LNP. If McGowan can actually land the lithium deal, perhaps we’ll reassess. Your argument that other Australian states’ commitment can’t be considered is as silly as proposing that tenants build DIY electricity systems on lessors’ properties. LOL.

    * We will ourselves be independent within two years… and will _charge_ our vehicles. Clearly, our tenants can’t afford such independence. We will have to continue to fight for their FiT… . Count on it.

  13. JB: “I see no reason to compare WA to other states…”

    …and then you did! 🙂

    Labor changed its mind on shark mitigation*… so I guess you can change yours on state-to-state FiT comparisons. And, as expected, WA is right down there at the bottom.

    No attempt from you to comment on any of my responses to your three questions. Not surprised. I’ll repeat my assertion, based on my belief in ‘a fair thing’. Pay energy providers (or their tenants) what you _charge_ the general public. Ahhh, but you’ll ‘halve’ what tenants receive, whatever Synergy pays. Classic… .

    * Good thing, too! Perhaps Labor will next realise that punishing West Aussies for the LNPs’ past financial mismanagement will only s-t-r-e-e-t-c-h so far… and begin to pay some attention to the less-fortunate in society. That might start with power companies helping tenants to benefit from lessors’ generosity, rather than persuading them _not_ to sign up.

  14. For some reason not immediately apparent, you have decided to “humour” me and introduce the following non-sequitur. “Poles’n’Wire technology is an expensive 19th century anachronism. It also causes bushfires.” How is this relevant to solar power for renters? However, since you’ve set this rabbit running I’ll chase it down the hole. I quite agree, and it’s a long-standing problem, which has been exacerbated over the past decade and more by the increasing amount of power generated from solar panels. This “anachronistic” technology is simply unable to cope. Neither is this problem restricted to Western Australia, as this June 2018 news item (from Queensland) indicates.

    http://www.abc.net.au/news/2018-06-07/rising-number-of-solar-rooftop-installations-flooding-grid/9845924

    There are some problems mentioned in the article – “The second [problem] is we have networks saying to customers wanting to connect solar, ‘No you can’t do it because we’re full’.”

    I’ve heard this mooted in Western Australia on numerous occasions – ie reduce the amount of solar generation. I disagree with this “resolution” of the problem.

    Your solution, it would seem, is “it’s reasonable to propose that any reasonable NEG would at least provide substantial subsidies to safer alternatives.” Obviously you’d expect this to be paid for by the taxpayer, without making any real contribution out of your own pocket – and this “solution” would take quite some time. Back in the late ’80s the WA public was crying out to stop increases in power costs, and in subsequent elections whichever side won provided subsidies to the cost of (non-renewable) energy. The present government is now struggling to undo the mess and reduce the mountain of debt thus produced. Neither side of politics (or the voting public) took heed of the acronym popularised by Sci-fi author Robert Heinlein – TANSTAAFL – “There ain’t no such thing as a free lunch”.

    I’ve other solutions in mind, some already in place eg creation of suburbs which supply the majority (if not all) of their power from their rooftops and distribute it locally via “microgrids” from battery storage, already developed in areas like Alkimos and White Gum Valley. For myself, I’ve already described how I created a non-grid connected solar system which, by its very nature, contributes nothing to the problem of your anachronistic technology. But you say “Your argument that other Australian states’ commitment can’t be considered is as silly as proposing that tenants build DIY electricity systems on lessors’ properties.” (The reason WHY I say the other states are irrelevant is simply – they are other states, and nothing you can do will affect what they do – or do not do. You seem to be like a spoiled child saying they’ve got more lollies than me. I want more too.)

    My next solution was to install house batteries which store the excess power from my rooftop and prevent it “flooding” into the grid, causing “bushfires” with “millions lost annually”, as you put it. I installed the batteries at my own expense (no subsidies for them) in late 2014. Since that time (1,329 days ago) my panels have exported 2,461 kWh(at peak hours) back to the grid. This averages 1.8 kWh daily. Surely this will not contribute to causing grid failure.

    According to the FAQ document I have linked to on a couple of occasions (and you obviously have not read) “The [FiT] Scheme was designed to provide an additional incentive to encourage homeowners to PURCHASE [my emphasis] renewable energy systems at a time when the cost of systems was much higher. .” (Please, do not argue with me. These are not MY words, these are the Government Department of Treasury’s. Take your whining to that office.) Yet you wish to increase your FiT from a “pittance” of $.07, in order for your tenants to “purchase renewable energy systems”. This would go against the very essence of minimising the degradation of “anachronistic” technology you talk about, contributing to its further deterioration and the resulting “bushfires”.

    Whilst I did not receive any subsidies for installing batteries, nevertheless this has been a moot point for several months now, and I am in favour of subsidies for storage, under the right conditions. “Aha”, I hear you cry, “I’m in favour of them too.” In

    https://www.solarquotes.com.au/blog/energy-storage-subsidy/

    I see a posting under your name which says, inter alia, “We’d seriously consider installing battery systems to assist these tenants, if subsidies made this more affordable.” At last, something you and I agree on. But again, I pose the same question as previously, where is the money for these subsidies going to come from? My answer, from scrapping ALL subsidies, on both renewable and non-renewable energy (as the McGowan government is now doing), and putting the money saved into subsidising storage. However, it appears that you not only wish to have batteries subsided – “We’d also consider initiating panels and battery storage at our own property” – but you, like Oliver Twist, want to have MORE subsidies in the form of the FiT. (From your October post, where you say “… but most of these ten-year contracts’ rebates will drop by 85% within 18 – 24 months” you obviously comprehend that when (if) you decide to install solar panels there will not be any subsidy for you – only the miserable $.07. And yet, while you “always considered 47c to be very, very generous” you want still more.) If you are really as concerned about the “bushfires” and “millions lost annually” (to say nothing of possible loss of human life) as you claim, surely you should be taking positive steps NOW and installing batteries without waiting for some subsidies. To me you are saying “someone should do something about this problem”, when you really mean someone else should do something.

    In your last post you say “No attempt from you to comment on any of my responses to your three questions.” What can I say? The important question was “How much do you think the FiT should be?” Your answer – “I’d propose that the FiT _match_ the exact cost consumers are actually charged.” If you’d read the FAQ sheet I linked you’d see the following: “The rate under REBS varies with the market value of energy. Currently, the rate for Synergy customers is 7.135 cents per unit.” To that, I’d say – you’ve got what you asked for. Let’s hear no more about it.

    You say you’ve given me enough rope. Actually, I think the reverse is true. I’ll leave that for others to judge. In respect of your rambling series of pointless posts, I’m happy to employ an ancient Latin phrase, “Res ipsa loquitur”.

  15. Yes, I’ve humoured you enough. I read the first few lines and decided you have indeed wasted enough of my time. Good luck tutoring your tenant on how to construct your heathrobinsonesque solar electricity system… and pay you half the FiT. Priceless!~ 🙂

  16. I think the best way to execute something like this is buddle all services. Otherwise it becomes too tedious to the tenant.

    An attractive rental contract would be a fixed portion which would include Rent, Power, Gas, Water and Internet fixed rate.

    Then a tariff for each unit or Power, Gas, Water and surplus Data.

    A aggregator could sell wholesale (plus some) rates to each landlord to be passed on to the tenant as a fixed rate.

    Then ideally a email is sent with all your consumption on a combined bill.

    Fixed costs + Variable. Keep it simple.

    T

Speak Your Mind

*

GET THE SOLARQUOTES WEEKLY NEWSLETTER
%d bloggers like this: