Australia Spends $206 Million on ‘Energy-Saving Upgrades’ for Social Housing

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More than 24,000 properties will be eligible for the upgrades, announced by the Albanese and Minns governments.

Federal and New South Wales (NSW) Labor have teamed up to provide $206 million (US$135 million) of taxpayer dollars towards energy-saving upgrades for social housing properties.

Low-income renters and apartment residents will also receive cheaper solar energy as part of the new plan.

The Albanese government and Minns government will allocate $175 million in funding across four years for the social housing energy upgrades.

The scheme will cover 24,000 homes that will be eligible for updates to solar systems, heat pump hot water systems, ceiling fans, reverse-cycle air conditioners, insulation, and draught proofing.

The social homes eligible will include a mix of NSW government-owned and managed homes, in addition to properties managed by community housing providers.

Another $30 million will be allocated towards rooftop solar installations on apartments, including rebates of up to 50 percent of installation costs. An extra $1 million will be provided for “community renewable energy projects” on the far south coast of NSW as part of an election promise.

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Advocacy group Healthy Homes for Renters said, “We hope that this announcement is coupled with the introduction of minimum energy standards in NSW but for now, we count this as a big win.”

More ‘Energy Efficient’

The government claimed social housing properties were among the “least energy-efficient” homes in Australia, often without basic insulation and modern appliances.

With this in mind, the government stated that elevating an average home from one-star to a three-star rating could lower energy consumption by 30 percent, lowering power bills.

Prime Minister Anthony Albanese said 30,000 households across NSW would have access to upgrades to “make their homes more energy efficient.”

“We want all Australians to have access to cleaner, cheaper energy. Renewable energy for social housing helps power bills and is good for the environment,” he said.

“Saving energy means saving money, which is why we’re continuing to deliver cost of living relief for families that need it most without adding to inflation.”

Meanwhile, Asthma Australia said it had been calling for these energy upgrades for social housing and renters in budget submissions.

“Great to see Aus and NSW Government energy upgrades for social housing & renters to make homes cooler in summer & warmer in winter and healthier. We have called for this in our NSW and Aus budget submissions,” Asthma Australia said.

Climate and Energy Minister Chris Bowen touted the government’s “clean energy transformation,” noting that the Albanese government was “helping those who can’t currently access energy upgrades.”

“Critical energy upgrades in social housing properties and strong solar energy incentives for apartment block residents across NSW will deliver cleaner, cheaper energy to more Australians,” he said.

“Today’s announcement comes on top of our Energy Price Relief Plan, which is supporting 1.6 million eligible NSW households with $500 off their bills.”

‘Solar Banks’ Plan

In addition to the social housing funding, the government also outlined details of the “Solar Banks” plan to fund rooftop solar installations.

A subsidy will be made available to residents on low incomes, renters, and apartment owners who are unable to install or afford onsite rooftop solar.

This will be made available to more than 10,000 households, who will save up to $600 per year, under the plan.

NSW Climate and Energy Minister Penny Sharpe said, “The Solar Banks program will support over 10,000 apartment dwellers and renters who have traditionally been locked out of owning solar.”

NSW Premier Chris Minns said the number one priority was helping people across the state with the cost of living, including on power bills.

Smart Energy Trial

In a separate announcement, the Australian government backed a smart energy trial to remote control 140,000 household devices in December.

Under the plan, more than 140,000 customer devices will be “voluntarily enrolled” in a platform for the integration of residential hot water systems and solar PV.

Batteries, electric vehicle (EV) chargers, and pool pumps will also be integrated into the system over a time frame of about two years.

The platform will aim to achieve 510 megawatts of total load under control on what is known as the “demand flexibility platform.”

Australian Renewable Energy Agency (ARENA) CEO Darren Miller said the project could change how customer energy resources are “monitored and controlled.”

“We now have the smarts to manage the energy these devices consume, so they become a flexible energy resource,” he said in December.

“Without the ability to monitor and control energy flows, these devices can create challenges for the grid, however, when aggregated and controlled, these resources can provide much-needed demand flexibility, unlocking benefits for retailers, networks and consumers.”



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