by Michael Mobbs
Government rebates for solar panels are only offered to unit or house owners. It is not presently possible for developers of new residential units to get rebates. So they do not put them on units.
Yet, it is much cheaper for the developer to install solar panels at the time of construction, and more likely they will be in fact installed, than to put off this work and see if the body corporate can agree on buying and installing them. After governments, body corporates in units are the slowest, most conservative, un-greenest creatures on Earth, harder to turn around than the Queen Mary.
If you’re a developer and wish to make your project green then one option is to invest some money in an account and lock it up so the interest from it is dedicated to buying green power for the units to pay the common property electricity bills for lifts, lighting and such.
At the moment, if a developer were to put $100,000 into an interest bearing deposit the interest would buy more Green Power than the power generated by solar panels that cost $100,000 to buy. So, dollar for dollar, at the moment the best investment for a developer of units is Green power instead of solar panels. This would change if the government allowed developers to get the rebate for solar panels.
Do developers want to have access to the rebate and to put solar panels on their residential projects?
Have they asked the federal government to extend the rebate to allow them to do this along with home owners?
Yes. Many developers, large and small have been asking this for years.
Why has the federal government, both under Howard and Rudd, refused?
Because there is so much demand from developers for the rebate that all the money for the rebate and all the panels needed would be spent in a few months. And the governments and their ministers and their departments would:
• in the case of departments, not have a program to keep them employed dolling out panels and rebates year after year, sitting at desks sucking out dirty power into their office lights
• in the case of Ministers, well, they would not have press releases and “look good” moments year after year.
Gee, that sounds cynical, Mr Burr. Yes, doesn’t it.
For those who’ve come into the politics of sustainability recently and may be in the romantic phase, may I suggest you see all this the same way as that wonderful architectural wizard of politics, Albert Speer, saw it when, to divert the onlookers’ gaze from the fat tummies of the marching Nazi leaders at their military parades (Goebbels et al), he designed the Cathedral of Light, some 100 anti-aircraft searchlights turned skyward, that focussed the eyes of the beholder from the tummy to the sky.
And in the case of Mother Earth? Well, clearly she is irrelevant to these red tape buffoons. It’s the politics, stupid, not the planet.
Anyway, back to planet Earth. What’s the developer’s take on this?
David Hawes, Managing Director of Glenside Properties explained his approach this way, “The broad calc [calculation] was that the cost of us funding solar panels – even if we could access the Government subsidy – at $100k would have provided 15 per cent of the owners corporation’s energy from renewable (solar) sources. This way we spend $50k and they will source 100 per cent from renewable for at least 10 years, by which time we hope they will just continue. As I said we have noticed no discernable market advantage for all the ESD initiatives!”
Mr Hawes’ calculations of solar compared to buying green in units using his seed money runs this way:
“The extra over rate for 100 per cent green energy over the standard rate is approximately 5.5-6c a kwh. On this basis, the Owners Corporation will need to pay an extra about $5700 per year at current rates on estimated consumption. I calculate that if we provide $50k and it achieves an average 4 per cent per annum interest, there will be enough to fund it for 10 years. I think that is sufficient. We therefore proceeded with a by-law requirement that the Owners Corporation shall use 100 per cent renewable energy, the green energy investment account will provide for the difference between the standard rate and this while the funds last.”
Glenside Group is committed to the development of economically successful projects based on environmentally sustainable design principles that reduce the consumption of energy and help reduce global warming, providing healthier spaces for people to live and work in.Michael Mobbs is a sustainability coach who works with developers, governments and communities to design and obtain approvals for houses, units and subdivisions. He is based in the inner Sydney suburb of Chippendale, where in 1996 he pioneered the conversion of his inner city terrace into a sustainable house, which has now been disconnected to mains water and sewerage and is powered by solar energy. contact: email@example.com