You've swapped your bank and super fund for one where your money isn't being invested into fossil fuel projects and you take your reusables with you wherever you go. You compost your food scraps at home and use plant-friendly cleaning products. You're doing your best to live climate action every day. What's next?
These are all incredibly impactful changes or habits which make a huge difference individually and multiply that by 1 million of us and we really start to see a cultural shift away from living unsustainable for the planet. Before we get to where our energy is coming from, it is worth having a look at the energy efficiency in our homes. By adopting good energy use habits, we are doing the best we can to use only the energy we need and to keep our money in our pockets. We also know that powering our homes with low-carbon electricity is one of the most effective parts of the addressing climate change puzzle but this shouldn't just be for homeowners exclusively.
As one-third of Australians rent their homes, and a similar figure for other countries around the world like Spain, Ireland, USA and the UK where homeownership is steadily dropping, there are more and more people who don't have the freedom to get solar panels installed who still want to be able to use renewable energy.
How do we ask our landlords to install solar panels?
As renters, we are still able to end our reliance on fossil fuels and swap it for clean energy in our homes if we approach our landlords with a thoughtful plan - time to create our pitch!
Depending on your relationship with your landlord (for a private rental) or real estate the first thing you can try is getting in touch with them directly to make a case for the mutual benefit of installing solar panels on their property. Nobody wants to deal with our real estate more than necessary (I know we don't) but you never know how it could go until you ask!
Some homeowners are deterred from getting solar due to the upfront cost which falls on them. When you go to them with the idea to get solar panels for their house you want to make it as easy as possible for them - reminding them that schemes like the Australian Federal Solar Rebate and other national schemes are still going and that solar will often increase the value of their property if or when they wish to sell.
What if we live in an apartment?
For those living in an apartment, there are companies that can put solar panels on a shared roof, and split the energy at the meter so you only pay for what you use in your apartment. Again it requires a bit of communication with strata or your neighbours but if you can get everyone on board you could all be saving money and the planet in no time! Whatever your situation, there are resources like Solar Quotes that have helped renters get solar in the past.
Solar gardens and community solar are also great options for those who are renting, live in an apartment or just don't have a suitably sunny roof for solar panels. By buying a plot in a solar garden or investing in community solar, you receive an on-bill credit for the electricity generated by your solar plot. The best part is the savings on your electricity bill will eventually be greater than the cost of the plot and you don't have to maintain it! Haystacks Solar Garden (NSW residents only) in Grong Grong, NSW, Australia wants to demonstrate that community-owned and small scale solar farms are viable, replicable and provide multiple economic and community benefits for everyone involved! Here's a list of other community solar projects in Australia.
The ins and outs
If your landlord has agreed to install solar on the property, either at their own cost or with an agreed percentage of the cost contributed by you (the tenant), you will be required to complete and sign a Landlord-Tenant Agreement which sets out the responsibilities and obligations of both the tenant and the landlord. This website provides templates for the different Landlord-Tenant Agreements: One with No renter contribution and Co-contribution between the renter and landlord and a breakdown of getting solar as a renter in the state of Victoria, Australia. Just download and fill them out once you've come to a negotiation with your landlord about how much you are to contribute if any.
Once signed you'll need to provide access to your property for installation and to contact your energy provider afterwards to switch over and make sure you're properly connected to the grid.
Each situation may be different but Ms Rowe from the Australian Energy Foundation told the ABC that she doesn't think there necessarily needs to be a change in rent when solar power is added to the property although when you are trying to convince your landlord it can sweeten the deal.
"I think the value of solar in terms of property valuation … with the right tax incentives and rebates, will facilitate a massive uptake without penalising any tenants," Ms Rowe said.
What to do if your landlord won't switch to solar panels?
Even if your landlord doesn't like the idea of solar panels, you can ensure you're leaving fossil fuels behind by switching to or going with an energy provider that buys their energy from a renewable energy source! If you live in NSW or QLD, Australia, then our top pick is Enova!
Enova Community Energy is a women-led and community-owned energy company - by more than 1,600 Australian community shareholders. Last year our founder Natalie Isaacs switched her energy provider to Enova as they favour energy that is locally generated, stored and distributed! Plus, half of their profits (after tax and reinvestment) go back into incredible initiatives to help curb climate change!
"I love Enova. They are owned by the community instead of big corporations and I truly feel they have my best interests at heart. I feel so empowered knowing I am supporting community-led energy who are working towards a 100% renewable future" - Natalie Isaacs, 1 Million Women Founder
So, if you're renting an apartment or house, there are still options for you to access solar power! Whether it's having a conversation with your landlord, searching for a solar farm near you or switching to an energy provider who steer clear of fossil fuels, there are options.
When it comes to talking with your landlord, often conversations like this can be tricky but starting a dialogue is the first step to cooperating in a way that benefits you as the tenant, the landlord and the environment so we can continue seeing real change!