A trial is being conducted to deliver cheaper solar energy for vulnerable electricity customers living in government-owned public housing.
The trial aims to reduce the cost of living pressures for the state’s tenants in the trial locations, and will help some of Queensland’s most vulnerable electricity customers. To date, tenants have faced multiple barriers to accessing solar power, including high up-front costs and because they are in a rental arrangement. This trial seeks to overcome these barriers and demonstrate benefits to all parties involved.
The trial will deliver 3 to 6 megawatts of solar on up to 4,000 government-owned, detached houses. It will test different business models tailored to the local electricity market, network conditions and housing profile, including:
A comprehensive analysis of Queensland’s public housing stock was undertaken to find suitable trial locations. Data from the first year of the trials will be used to evaluate the costs and benefits and determine if the business models are viable.
A 200kW solar farm is being installed on government buildings in the diesel powered remote community of Lockhart River, 700 kilometers north of Cairns. The solar farm will reduce the amount of diesel fuel required to power the township. Savings from using less diesel will be shared with public housing tenants, who will receive $100 of credit on their power card each year to help lower their electricity costs.
Ergon Energy has awarded the solar PV supply and install contract for the solar farm to local Cairns company Australian Sustainable Energy. Construction will commence in mid to late October, and includes a small amount of battery energy storage.
Lockhart River was selected as the remote trial site because of its suitable community make-up, network characteristics and energy load. The rooftop solar farm will provide around 10 per cent of the community’s energy needs.
Regional and rural Queenslanders are subsidised for the additional costs involved in supplying electricity outside South-East Queensland through government payments to Ergon Energy – the Community Service Obligation (CSO) payment. The trial will test whether using solar can reduce the costs to power the township, and therefore the cost of the CSO for Lockhart River. Reducing diesel use is also good for the local environment.
The Cairns and Rockhampton Sunny Savers trial will deliver up to $250 in electricity savings to public housing tenants in detached government-owned houses with no upfront costs.
Eligible public housing tenants will be able to opt into an arrangement with Ergon Energy Queensland to receive cheaper power through a solar power purchase agreement (SPPA).
Public housing tenants in Cairns and Rockhampton will be the first in Australia to have access to cheaper solar power through an SPPA arrangement.
Participants in the trial will be offered solar PV, digital electricity meters, and the Ergon Energy HomeSmart online portal service to keep track of their solar savings, at no upfront cost.
Tenants will buy the solar power that they use for 19 cents per kilowatt hour, which is around 30% cheaper than the price of grid electricity in 2017-18. Participants could save up to $250 per year, depending on their energy use.
Digital meters will also enable customers to receive more manageable monthly power bills.
Eligible households in Cairns and Rockhampton will be notified by mail during September and October, and can register their interest in the trial at Solar panel trial or phone 1800 808 107.
A SPPA will also be trialled in Logan City through the Logan Housing Service Centre, benefiting up to 2,000 public housing tenants in the area. The government will approach the market for a partner to deliver the Logan City trial.