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The Housing Crisis is Stopping us From Reaching our Renewable Goals

As a fellow renter, I am all too aware of the problems surrounding rising housing prices and have accepted it will be many years before I can afford to buy a house of my own.

Back in the 80s when my parents would have bought their first home, the average housing prices in Melbourne were around $39,500 compared to $903,859 at the end of 2017. Sydney had an even more shocking average of $1,179,519, putting it at number 7 in the world for the most expensive places to buy real estate and making home ownership out of reach for most residents.

Although the problem is often only reported on for large developed cities such as London, New York and Hong Kong, the housing crisis is happening all over the world. As the global population rises and cities become more economically powerful the demand for land increases, resulting in heightened housing prices and competition.

What does this mean for our renewable future?

As a large number of us are now renting instead of buying, the choice to switch to renewable energy sources has been taken out of our hands. Landlords are generally very strict about any alterations happening to the roof or building of a rental property.

Whilst many of us have learned to be pretty sneaky about getting around landlords’ rules, smuggling a pet fish or hamster into the building is significantly easier to do than hoping they don’t notice an array of solar panels on the roof.

Even if you were lucky enough to find a nice Landlord that would let you install solar on your rental property, the problem then arises of who should pay for the system.

It is uncommon to stay in the same rental home for an extended period of time and therefore, one would not receive an ROI from the installation costs. At the same time, it is difficult for the Landlord to see the benefit of shelling out for a solar system on their rental property when they won’t reap the rewards of free energy.

To further add to the already frustrating situation, the reality is much of the young population are renting single rooms in a house rather than the entire property. This puts more people in the mix and further exacerbates the problem.

What is the Solution?

A reality in which the housing crisis is suddenly solved and people can afford to buy property again seems like an unlikely future.

In fact, with the rising global population, it seems that the need to address this issue is only going to become more imperative. Melbourne’s population alone is said to double by 2031.

However, there are a number of companies that are currently trying to help renters reap the rewards of the solar boom.

SunYield, a company formed by Powershop and Reposit Power, has developed a technology that allows Landlords to own the solar system and means they can either sell the power to tenants at a discount to the market rate or export it to the grid if they don’t want to purchase it.

They are suggesting that in the next 2–3 years, we’ll see a complete shift — going from rarely seeing a rental property with solar to struggling to find one without it.

Although this solution doesn’t completely solve the issues of split incentives, it seems like an interesting concept and is a step in the right direction towards a renewable future. I for one, hope that their prediction becomes a reality and renters are given an equal opportunity to benefit from solar energy.

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