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New scheme aims to get solar on investment property roofs

Adam Taylor, Stoddart Group
Adam Taylor, Stoddart Group

In two years time, it will be rare to find a new-built rental home without solar panels on it, according to Adam Taylor, Stoddart Group general manager for energy systems.

The company this week launched a new product to market, SunYield, which it says delivers a win-win solar solution for both landlords and tenants.

In partnership with Reposit Power and Powershop, the company has developed a package comprising solar panels and a smart switchboard that is installed when the home is being built and replaces the standard meter box.

Once the tenant moves in, they have the option of using power from the 6.5-kilowattsolarsystem and being billed through Powershop for the solar electricity consumed at 30 per cent below the gazetted rate. Their grid energy usage is also included on the same bill.

It is estimated the average tenant could save about $275 a year on energy costs.

The landlord receives a price from Powershop based on the spot pice for electricity for every watt fed into the grid beyond what tenants use. This means that even if the tenant opts out, the landlord still makes a return on the solar.

The technology is also battery ready, so landlords can add batteries as they become cheaper and increase the proportion of solar-generated power sold to the tenant.

Mr Taylor said it was a “no brainer” because it could increase the yield from an investment property.

“There are a lot of reasons an owner-occupier might want solar on their home,” he toldThe Fifth Estate. “But an investment owner has just one – to get a better return.”

Four Queensland-based volume building companies – Choice Homes, Brighton Homes, Fortitude Homes and Metricon’s MetInvest – have already signed up to include the package as standard in new investor home builds.

“We’re always looking for ways to offer our customers a better investment, which made the decision to put SunYield on every home a simple one,” Choice Homes director Troy Knight said.

“For our customers, it means an increased rental return and a home that’s easier to rent. For our company, it means being one of the first to offer an innovative product that is good for our customers, their tenants and the environment. “

Stoddart Group worked closely with Queensland distribution company Energex to ensure that when the work orders for new home connections come in, the energy company’s staff are aware of the requirements involved.

The smart board for the package has been designed specifically to meet Energex and Queensland’s legislative and regulatory requirements.

Mr Taylor said that over the next 12 to 18 months, the aim is to develop smart boards that will meet the technical requirements for NSW and Victoria, so the technology can be further distributed.

NSW is likely to be first, he said.

Reposit Power chief executive Dean Spaccavento said that while the solar and battery industry was booming, there have been barriers preventing investors and renters from benefiting.

“We can now do things with electricity that only a few years ago were ideas on paper,” Mr Spaccavento said.

“It’s now possible for renters and landlords alike to benefit from rooftop solar. Landlords earn a profit and renters benefit from lower energy bills.”

So how big is the potential market?

Mr Taylor estimates there are around 170,000 new detached dwellings being built in Australia every year, and between 30 and 40 per cent of those are investment properties.

There are also a growing number of “upgraders” in the home buyer market, people who buy a basic home and live in it for two years before building a larger one and moving into it while renting the first home out.

Mr Taylor said these owners would be able to use the solar as a regular system for their own use while living in the home, and then switch it to income-generating landlord mode when it was time for move tenants in.

Founded around 50 years ago, his company – a roofing company – is deeply involved in the volume home building market. It works directly for builders supplying and installing metal roofs. In recent years it also expanded into supplying and installing cladding, steel framing, garage doors and solar PV systems.

While the majority of solar companies are engaged in the retrofit market, Mr Taylor said his company did not “play in that space”.

Mr Taylor said that because the smart board replaces the traditional meter box, to retrofit the system would require extensive and expensive re-wiring.

However, being an outright purchase as part of a new home is something likely to suit Australian buyers.

“You see so many articles about [power purchase agreements], but at the end of the day, the company owns the system and the mum and dad owners are locked into a 10-15 year agreement,” he said.

“But this is an investment opportunity for the mums and dads to own the asset and get a return, not just a PPA.

“PPAs do really well in America, but Australians want to own the solar system.”

The company plans to extend the solution to other builders, and aims to install 15,000 SunYield systems over the next three years.

Mr Taylor said the “market is huge” and that it is likely to technology will quickly become standard on all new investment properties.

“In the next two-three years, we’ll see a complete shift – from rarely seeing a rental property with solar to it being difficult to find a new one without it.”

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