Queensland energy company, Locality Planning Holding (LPE), has partnered with Melbourne innovator Allume Energy to roll out their SolShare technology across two states and bring the benefits of solar energy to apartment blocks.
Despite the huge popularity of rooftop solar in Australia, apartment blocks have historically missed out due to limited dwellings with access to roof space and the difficulty of sharing usage and spreading the cost amongst multiple dwellings.
Victoria’s Allume recently ramped up production of their SolShare technology which solves the problem by diverting the energy to individual residents’ metres, tapping into a market which the company valued at $3.75 billion within Australia alone.
Now, publicly-listed Sunshine Coast company LPE which has a staff of around 70 people, signed with Allume to roll out the technology in Queensland and New South Wales, with early trial installations so far yielding positive results.
LPE chief executive, Damien Glanville explained his company came across Allume’s tech after responding to customers’ calls for better sustainable energy solutions for their apartment blocks.
“Putting on a single solar system for every apartment, which we have done, is too difficult and it’s too messy. You’ve got too much equipment that typically you don’t have the space for,” Glanville said.
“So we had a problem and we just went and found a solution and we’ve been working with Allume for a long time to get their product to market so that we can use it.”
Customers of the new joint scheme are not charged upfront for installation or hardware and instead pay LPE for the solar energy they use at a much cheaper rate than purchasing from the grid.
Glanville said that customers are charged at around 12-13 cents per kilowatt-hour, compared to a grid price of around 19-22 cents in NSW.
After an agreed period of roughly 15 years, during which Allume can recoup their costs, the building’s owners group takes control of the system.
“We know a major barrier for apartments adopting more sustainable energy sources is a) the shared roof and b) the cost and c) maintaining and the billing of the asset to recoup the cost,” Glanville said. “So we overcome all of their barriers.”
As a standard energy retailer as well, LPE provides customers with electricity from the grid during those hours when the solar system is not creating power such as at night.
According to Glanville it was not financially viable or desirable to sell excess power back into the grid and instead the company was looking to batteries or even hot water heating systems as ways to store power generated during the day when there is lower demand.
“We’re there just to support those customers with clean renewable energy, we’re not there to try and turn it into a virtual power plant where we’re just trading on spot pricing.”
LPE has been operating as an electricity provider in South East Queensland and small parts of New South Wales for the past six years, with 40,000 customers primarily in the apartment market.
“We do homes and businesses as well but our key focus over the last five years is really bringing innovation and tech to that apartment living environment,” Glanville said.
“We’ve been working with the network providers, especially in Queensland, for two years to get this product approved to deploy and we finally got it through the final hurdles with Energy Queensland four weeks ago.”
As part of the trial process, the company installed four systems which on average are using 70 per cent of the solar energy generated. Glanville said the company plans initially to deploy up to 360 SolShare units per year.