WA PPA shows solar can be a win for residents and developers

The Amble Estate: illustrative purposes only; may be subject to change

Residents of The Amble estate in Girrawheen, Perth will get a 40 per cent cut in daytime energy costs, thanks to rooftop solar systems installed at no cost under a power purchase agreement.

Under the opt-in PPA, residents will be guaranteed solar energy at 40 per cent of the standard Synergy A1 tariff, guaranteed for 10 years, which could equate to about a $600 a year saving. After the 10 years, residents can choose to have ownership of the system transferred to them (for as little as $1), or have the system removed.

Developer Yolk Property Group has devised the pilot program with retailer Infinite Energy, along with builder Ventura Home Group and the Western Australian Department of Communities. It’s the first time a PPA has been rolled out across a green title residential development in WA, but Yolk director Tao Bourtonis hopeful the model can be replicated far and wide.

“This is not a marketing gimmick but a considered long-term solution to address rising household costs associated with the volatile power market,” Mr Bourton said.

“Australians pay the highest rates for residential electricity in the world and this aims to remedy that with a model that can be rolled out nationally.” 

Part of the appeal is that there’s no downside for resident or developer.

Residents aren’t charged for system installation, only for solar energy that is produced. Any generated energy not used will be sold into the grid for an equivalent price. Energy used at night or above that which is produced is billed separately at the normal rate. Homebuyers are also able to add battery storage and electric vehicle charging if wanted.

Developers are able to structure the PPA so it doesn’t affect profits, while providing increased marketing potential and development sustainability outcomes. Infinite Energy will take full ownership of the solar systems, including responsibility for maintenance.

“This could be an absolute game changer,” Mr Bourton said. “If all developments in Australia rolled it out, the reduction of carbon emissions would be immense. It would help Australia become a world-leader in the up-take of renewable energy.”

L to R: Tao Bourton, Yolk Property Group ; Julian Munrowd-Harris, Department of Communities; Aidan Jenkins, Infinite Energy; and Simon Flesher, Ventura Home Group

While residential solar PPAs have been popular models in places like the US, particularly California, Australians have tended to buy their solar systems outright. But having a solar PPA as part of a “complimentary sustainable living package” in new homes could turn the tide and lead to more people taking up the benefits of solar energy.

Infinite Energy managing director Aidan Jenkins said the model had potential to disrupt the entire residential solar industry.

“Australia is one of the sunniest continents in the world, with nearly a quarter of Australian homes already having solar panels installed on their roof,” he said.

“This solution allows for an even greater number of households to access the benefits of solar energy, without the upfront cost of installing a system.

“This pilot paves the way for solar PPAs to become the norm for millions of homes across the country, delivering cheaper and cleaner electricity, including to those that do not have the surplus cash to purchase a solar system.”

Mr Bourton expects the wider property industry to pay close attention to the outcomes of the pilot over the next few years.

“As with any untrialled new initiative it is not without risk, but we’re committed to pushing the boundaries of green development to find ways to make sustainability affordable and attractive for developers, government and purchasers,” he said.

The development is also being designed under the One Planet Living framework, with further details on these sustainability features to be released soon.

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