Funding for solar panels is open to apartment building owners corporations for the first time in Canberra as part of a push to make sustainable electricity more accessible.
The program provides owners corporations with up to $100,000 in grant funds, and access to a zero-interest loan, to install rooftop solar in eligible apartment complexes in the ACT.
Chief Minister Andrew Barr said the Sustainable Household Scheme so far had focused only on single residential homes, with more than 20,000 participants.
The expansion of the scheme, jointly funded by the ACT and Commonwealth governments, was about levelling the playing field for other types of accommodation.
“This is important because it’s going to open access to solar for renters in Canberra on a scale that we haven’t seen before,” Mr Barr said.
The Chief Minister admitted unit owners renting out their properties may be hesitant in helping to pay for solar on apartment buildings, as they weren’t the ones using the electricity in the building.
However, the rooftop solar can also help offset shared costs.
“Obviously, every apartment complex has shared energy costs, they have common areas, they’re often running lifts and those sorts of things, so the benefit for everyone in the complex is through reduced energy bills,” Mr Barr said.
“What we are endeavouring to do here is to bridge that gap through the grant component, recognising that almost in any apartment complex there’s going to be a balance of owners and renters, and so the scheme has a grant and an interest-free loan component.
“The big winners here will be residents [of apartment buildings], many of whom are renters.”
About $3.6 million has been allocated to the scheme, which will run until the money is gone.
Mr Barr said given the scheme was jointly funded, owners corporations shouldn’t wait around, as governments could change.
“Here is an opportunity to make a difference for everyone in an apartment complex,” he said.
“Don’t wait around thinking this will be here forever, and equally it’s not a mad rush that you have to have your application in today.”
Only owners corporations can apply to the program for funding, as this way the process can be centrally organised.
Fifty per cent of the funds are in the form of a grant, while the other half is financed by an interest-free loan that the owners corporations will need to pay back.
Water, Energy and Emissions Reduction Minister Shane Rattenbury said the program would go a long way in supporting apartment residents to reduce their energy costs and help to power the ACT with clean energy.
“It makes good sense to use available roof space to power our city and I look forward to seeing more solar on apartments as this program is delivered,” Mr Rattenbury said.
It’s anticipated more than 2100 households will benefit from the program, providing up to a 35 per cent reduction in electricity bills for Canberrans living in apartments.
The loans will be managed by Brighte, which has been the exclusive finance and administration provider of the ACT Government’s Sustainable Household Scheme so far.
“Brighte is proud to continue supporting the ACT Government’s nation-leading programs by extending finance to apartments, making sustainability more inclusive, affordable and accessible to everyone,” Brighte founder and CEO Katherine McConnell said.