With energy use responsible for the majority of our emissions, it makes sense to move away from fossil-fuelled energy, towards clean, renewable energy sources such as solar or wind.
Our experience is that there is considerable interest in solar for individual apartments, but the cost, legal issues and available roof space push most apartment buildings to providing solar for common areas only.
So if you live in an apartment, what other ways can you access clean energy?
Purchase certified GreenPower
Purchase certified GreenPower from your energy retailer. Individual apartment owners can buy Green Power to offset their energy use. This also helps support the renewable energy industry in Australia.
Collective power purchasing
This basically means that by getting a group of people together to buy energy, you can negotiate a cheaper rate.
Your Owners Corporation can buy power from an onsite or offsite energy source at a fixed price and distribute and bill this power to individual apartments.
This purchasing arrangement takes the form of a legal agreement known as a Power Purchase Agreement (PPA). PPAs may operate where the apartment building hosts solar and the power generated is sold to the Owners Corporation at a rate less than the grid rate.
Existing grid power connections remain unchanged. However two bills result which when combined are less than the previous single bill because of the cheaper rate for the solar generated energy.
This allows you to buy solar panels located elsewhere, if your apartment or building does not have enough roof space for sufficient panels.
Power is not supplied directly to the apartment, so you can continue to use this option if you move homes.
Energy sharing of solar among apartment owners has proven to be difficult with issues of cost and roof space availability, along with legal and technical complexity.
There are two viable options to achieve energy sharing in apartments:
- Install an 'embedded network', where one meter channels electricity to the whole apartment block. This requires everybody in the block to agree to sign up, and involves a 'regulatory overhead' that renders most installations unviable. This option lends itself to large new builds where the environmental credentials of the development are a selling point.
- An alternative approach to energy sharing has recently become available. This hardware and software combination marketed by Allume as SolShare allows for Owners Corporations to own or host the solar, but individual apartment owners can retain their own retailer, or choose not to take part at all.
The hardware distributes the solar power to individual apartments without the need for additional inverters, whilst the software distributes the solar power based on demand from the individual units. However over the month it ensures that each unit receives the same total amount.
This approach maximises the solar used, therefore reducing the amount sold to the grid. This technology is more suited to retrofits as existing grid metering is unchanged. It reduces the legal complications of roof real estate, power purchasing agreements and power sharing /billing issues. The system can also operate in a power purchasing agreement model if desired with onsite billing and monitoring provided for the system owner.
We held an information session in February 2020 about clean energy options for apartments (PDF 202 KB), hosted by Australian Energy Foundation.
If you’re interested in exploring clean energy options for your home, get in touch with us: