In June 2016, EAGA and its partners secured a $0.76M State Government Grant through the New Energy Jobs Fund to deliver the Solar Savers project.

Maroondah City Council led the funding application on behalf of twenty councils and four of Victoria’s Greenhouse Alliances. The project seeks to install up to 900 solar PV on low income and vulnerable households across twenty municipalities between October 2016 and June 2019 and will:

  • test a model for scaling-up the use of council rates to provide individual loans to households and recover costs through the rates system
  • catalyse private-sector investment within a community segment traditionally viewed as high risk to investors by establishing and evaluating partnership finance models with the banking sector
  • establish a shared services approach to project implementation to enable access to dedicated capability and thereby reduce resource requirements and risks to councils. This approach is intended to leverage economies of scale in administration, procurement and governance, and (importantly) enable participation by councils not otherwise able to offer this service to their residents

The project has the potential to deliver immediate net savings of around $10-30 per month on electricity costs for large numbers of low-income households. The ability of solar PV to provide low cost energy throughout the day means these householders can cool their homes during heatwaves without fear of ‘price shock’, further protecting a vulnerable sector. The project also has the potential to materially reduce Victorian Government concession payments, and meet broader social and environmental policy objectives.

Solar Savers launched in May 2017 and will be progressively rolled out across participating councils through to June 2019.  To find out more or to participate visit please visit the Solar Savers website.

The project methodology has been informed by two detailed business case studies, available here.

The outcomes of the project include:

  • Delivery of a council rates pilot, in which councils provide individual loans to low income owner households and recover their costs through the rates system
  • Piloting partnership finance models with the banking sector through:
    • a bank loan pilot with Bank Australia, where individual loans are provided directly to households
    • a phase 2 bank loan pilot, trialling the use of a default fund and engagement of additional finance partner/s through a competitive tender process
    • development of tailored debt based finance options for councils to directly fund additional system installations
  • Evaluating and comparing the effectiveness of the pilots and the shared services model to enable the market to grow beyond the project lifetime.

The project will involve the following activities, some of which may occur in parallel:

  • The Program Leader will be recruited and host at Maroondah City Council and work under the direction of EAGA’s Regional Coordinator
  • The systems and processes to support the program’s implementation will be established, including a robust monitoring and evaluation (M&E) plan, data management systems, communication tools, project website and reporting arrangements for partners
  • The Program Leader will recruit Sustainable Energy Officers to be hosted within greenhouse alliances and establish the shared service model
  • Each council partner will facilitate the promotion of the program offer within the targeted community group in each partner municipality. This may include the distribution of formal letters of invitation to all households within their municipality who receive the council rate rebate
  • The Sustainable Energy Officers will facilitate a joint procurement process and capture economies of scale in material costs and program facilitation fees (e.g. call centre, site visits etc)
  • Councils trialling the Rates Pilot will sponsor the installation of an agreed number of 2kw solar PV systems (estimated cost $3,350 per household, including site visits and facilitation) and recoup these costs through council rates charges
  • Partners trialling the bank loan pilot will facilitate installations via a direct loan (5% interest over 10 years) through Bank Australia
  • Each partner council will have access to the shared service (Sustainable Energy Officers) commensurate with their respective cash (and other) commitments to the project
  • The program cohorts (rates pilot and bank loan) will be managed through a consistent programmatic face (brand and engagement channel) managed by the Sustainable Energy Officers and available on all partner Alliance websites and relevant collateral
  • The Program Leader and Alliance representatives will work with partners to identify councils who are willing and able to facilitate additional installations through external finance to develop ‘hybrid investment options (combinations of cash and debt) and facilitate joint negotiations with financiers, documented in an options paper for consideration by councils
  • A second phase of the bank loan pilot will be used to expand the reach of the program through a competitive tendering process to partner with additional financiers and secure the most efficient interest rate and loan term (through access to the default fund).
  • Summative and longitudinal evaluation activities will be conducted to determine what worked, what did not work and what should be incorporated into subsequent initiatives

To find out more, please contact Karl Barratt, Program Leader here.