Technical ReportPDF Available

Photovoltaics on Apartment Buildings - Project Report

Technical Report

Photovoltaics on Apartment Buildings - Project Report

i
Photovoltaics on Apartment Buildings
Project Report
Centre for Energy and Environmental Markets (CEEM)
UNSW Sydney
Energy Consumers Australia
ECA Research Project AP841
ii
Executive Summary
The Opportunity
Australia has over 2 million solar households (22% of houses) but apartment dwellers
are largely excluded from the benefits of clean, cheap solar generation.
There are 1.4 million apartments in Australia, housing 10% of the population
nationally but two thirds of residents in some urban LGAs, while one in three
of all new dwellings are apartments.
There is potential for an estimated 2.9-4.0 GW of solar PV on the roofs of
Australian apartment buildings, equivalent to approximately half the existing
installed residential capacity. On average 1-2 storey buildings have capacity for
3.7kW per apartment, 3 storey have 2.0kW/apartment and higher buildings
average 16kW/apartment. Over 60% of apartments are in 1,2 or 3 storey
buildings.
On average, apartments use 79% of the electricity per occupant of detached
and semi-detached houses. Apartment loads show greater temporal variability,
and more diverse peak times than houses, resulting in greater benefits from
aggregating diverse loads.
Apartment building common property loads are highly building specific. Daily
demand varies from 2 to 15 kWh/day/apartment, while load profiles often
have higher daytime load and are flatter than household loads.
The Challenges
Despite a range of potential benefits over stand-alone housing, including potential
economies of scale, aggregation of diverse household loads, and established
governance arrangements for shared ownership, there are multiple challenges to
deployment of solar PV on apartment buildings.
Many apartment buildings have physical constraints on solar installation,
including rooftop obstructions, competition for roof space, overshadowing,
outdated wiring installations and structural issues, as well as access
requirements that can significantly increase installation costs.
Split incentives, high turnover of residents and owners, poor communication
and other organisational issues can present barriers to co-ordinated action.
Apartments are excluded from many solar incentive schemes and strata bodies
may have difficulty in accessing finance for investment in solar.
Strata Laws can present barriers to sustainability upgrades while electricity
market regulation can make it difficult for electricity consumers to co-ordinate
their energy supply arrangements.
Lack of objective information for residents and shortage of solar installers with
strata experience make decision making difficult.
Implementation Arrangements
Optimum arrangements for installing solar PV depends on the specific characteristics
of buildings, households, electricity loads and financial arrangements; there is no “one
size fits all” solution.
For buildings with significant common property (CP), PV systems installed by
the strata body to meet CP loads are less administratively and organisationally
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complex than other arrangements and have payback periods comparable to
those for residential houses. For buildings with relatively small roof areas (e.g.
high-rise), this is often the optimum arrangement.
PV installations for individual apartments face governance challenges and low
self-consumption but can be simpler to implement than shared systems and
can be financially optimal, particularly for smaller buildings.
Embedded networks have not always been beneficial for customers, and
retrofitting to some buildings can be expensive, but if they are owned and
operated in the interests of residents and owners, they can result in significant
cost savings.
A shared PV system applied to aggregated building load can significantly
increase PV self-consumption and building self-sufficiency compared to
individual systems. PV added to an embedded network can reduce costs for
consumers.
Shared PV purchased behind-the-meter through a solar PPA can also provide
significant benefits, while avoiding the regulatory challenges and upfront costs
of an embedded network.
Shared battery storage can further increase PV self-consumption and reduce
demand charges but is unlikely to be financially beneficially without a
substantial decrease in capital costs.
Off-site solar avoids many of the challenges and may be the best opportunity
for some residents to access solar generation, but financial benefits are
restricted by high network costs.
Policy Recommendations
Regulatory reforms in areas of Strata, Electricity and taxation Law, as well as targeted
financial incentives, could help apartment owners to access the benefits of solar
energy.
Changes to Strata decision-making processes and specific exemptions for
sustainable infrastructure.
Allowing strata bodies to use common property as collateral for loans.
Inclusion of apartment tenants in strata decision making.
Reversal of tax incentives for property investment.
Targeted government incentives for PV feasibility studies and installation in
apartment buildings
Allowable retail and embedded network exemptions for EN operators owned
by or constituted to benefit residential electricity consumers.
Restrictions on developers’ ability to enter into long-term energy supply
contracts.
Removal of unnecessary metering criteria and simplification of meter transfer
arrangements.
Introduction of cost-reflective pricing for use of local distribution networks.
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Research Team
Mike Roberts, Research Associate and Project Leader
Anna Bruce, Senior Lecturer
Iain MacGill, Associate Professor
Jessie Copper, Research Associate
Navid Haghdadi, Research Associate
Rob Passey, Senior Research Associate
Rebecca Hu, Research Assistant
Tyce Barton, Research Assistant
This report was prepared by researchers in the Centre for Energy and Environmental
Markets (CEEM), School of Photovoltaics and Renewable Energy Engineering (SPREE),
and the School of Electrical Engineering and Telecommunications at the University of
New South Wales (UNSW Sydney) as part of the Solar Apartments Project which was
made possible by a grant from Energy Consumers Australia (ECA), with additional
financial support from the CRC for Low Carbon Living.
Acknowledgements
The authors wish to thank the following for their help, advice and contributions to the
Solar Apartments project: Gareth Huxham (Energy Smart Strata), Murray Hogarth
(Wattwatchers), Glenn Beams (Beams Electrical), Amy Brand (hypvhype), Kerry
Connors and Jim Wellsomore (ECA), Cathy Sherry, Hazel Easthope, Tess Stafford,
Naoimi Stringer, Luke Marshall (UNSW). Special thanks are due to all interviewees and
project participants without whom this research would not have been possible,
particularly those residents installing solar on their buildings, despite the challenges,
and helping to drive change in this area.
While many people have contributed to the project, the analysis and conclusions in
the report are the responsibility of the authors alone.
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Citation
Please cite as: Roberts, M.B., A. Bruce, I. MacGill, J. Copper and N. Haghdadi.
Photovoltaics on Apartment Buildings - Project Report. 2019; Available from:
http://www.ceem.unsw.edu.au/publications.
Please note that some passages in this report have been reproduced verbatim from
[1]. A full list of the publications associated with research and analysis covered, at least
in part, by this report can be found in Appendix A.
Disclaimer
The authors have used all due care and skill to ensure the material is accurate.
However, CEEM, UNSW Sydney, ECA and the authors do not accept any responsibility
for any losses that may arise by anyone relying upon its contents. In particular, the
financial costs and benefits of PV installation are highly dependent on building and
household characteristics as well as on financial arrangements with retailers and other
stakeholders.
List of abbreviations
BESS Battery energy storage system
BTM Behind the meter
CEEM Centre for Energy and Environmental Markets
CP Common property
CRE Community renewable energy
DNSP Distribution Network Service Provider
PV Photovoltaic
ECA Energy Consumers Australia
EN Embedded network
ENM Embedded network manager
ENO Embedded network operator
FiT Feed-in tariff
LGA Local Government Area
PPA Power purchase agreement
TOU Time of use
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Contents
Project Report ............................................................................................................................................. i
Executive Summary .................................................................................................................................... ii
The Opportunity ...................................................................................................................................................... ii
The Challenges ......................................................................................................................................................... ii
Implementation Arrangements ............................................................................................................................... ii
Policy Recommendations ....................................................................................................................................... iii
Research Team .......................................................................................................................................... iv
Acknowledgements ................................................................................................................................... iv
Citation ....................................................................................................................................................... v
Disclaimer................................................................................................................................................... v
List of abbreviations ................................................................................................................................... v
Contents .................................................................................................................................................... vi
1. Introduction ...........................................................................................................................................1
1.1 Context............................................................................................................................................................... 1
1.2 Project aims, objectives and methods............................................................................................................... 3
2. The opportunity .....................................................................................................................................5
2.1 Solar potential of apartment rooftops .............................................................................................................. 5
2.2 Electricity loads in apartment buildings ............................................................................................................ 6
i) Apartment loads ..................................................................................................................................... 7
ii) Common property loads ......................................................................................................................... 7
3. Apartment PV – advantages and challenges ..........................................................................................9
3.1 Physical limitations of building stock ................................................................................................................. 9
3.2 Governance issues ........................................................................................................................................... 10
3.3 Financial issues ................................................................................................................................................ 10
3.4 Regulatory issues ............................................................................................................................................. 10
3.5 Information ...................................................................................................................................................... 11
4. Technical implementation arrangements ........................................................................................... 12
4.1 PV for common property only ......................................................................................................................... 12
4.2 PV for individual apartments ........................................................................................................................... 13
4.3 Benefits of shared PV....................................................................................................................................... 14
4.4 Shared PV with embedded network................................................................................................................ 15
4.5 Shared PV behind the meter ........................................................................................................................... 18
4.6 Battery energy storage system ........................................................................................................................ 18
4.7 Off-site PV ........................................................................................................................................................ 19
5. Decision making for strata bodies ....................................................................................................... 21
6. Policy recommendations ..................................................................................................................... 23
6.1 Strata law ......................................................................................................................................................... 23
6.2 Incentives / finance ......................................................................................................................................... 24
6.3 Energy regulation............................................................................................................................................. 24
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7. Conclusion ........................................................................................................................................... 26
References ............................................................................................................................................... 27
Appendix A: Publications and further information ................................................................................. 28
Appendix B: Case studies ........................................................................................................................ 29
Case study W ......................................................................................................................................................... 29
W.1. Solar PV for common property only ........................................................................................................ 29
W.2. Individual PV systems for apartments ..................................................................................................... 30
W.3. Embedded network with PV ................................................................................................................... 31
W.4. Shared PV ‘behind the meter’ ................................................................................................................. 32
W.5. Summary ................................................................................................................................................. 33
Case study T ........................................................................................................................................................... 33
T.1. Solar PV for common property only ......................................................................................................... 33
T.2. Comparison of PV arrangements for apartments..................................................................................... 34
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1. Introduction
1.1 Context
More than one in five Australian households (22%, a world-leading proportion) have
installed solar photovoltaic (PV) panels [2] on their roofs and are enjoying the benefits
of cheaper, cleaner electricity. Initially, this deployment was driven by high, state-
subsidised Feed-in Tariffs (FiTs) which have now been largely discontinued, but
dramatic reductions in the cost of PV systems, along with increasing electricity costs,
have maintained a buoyant market in residential PV, with householders motivated by
bill reduction, hedging against future electricity price rises, a greater measure of self-
sufficiency from electricity retailers, as well as by environmental concerns [3].
Meanwhile, along with renters, the 10% of Australians who live in apartments have
been almost entirely excluded from this residential solar revolution. The uneven
distribution of apartments (Figure 1) means that in some Local Government Areas
(LGAs), over 70% of the population are ‘locked out’ of access to solar energy.
Unlike owners of detached, semi-detached, and terraced houses and townhouses,
very few apartment residents have PV installed on their buildings. Although
apartment residents are as diverse as the building stock itself, young, single people,
overseas-born Australians and households with a low gross income are
disproportionately represented [4, 5]. These include people least able to deal with
escalating energy bills and arguably most in need of future price certainty.
The reasons apartments lag behind the rest of the residential sector for PV
deployment are many and varied [6]. They include physical limitations of the
apartment building stock, demographic factors and knowledge issues. However, a
number of regulatory factors, including governance of apartment buildings and
regulation of the energy market, also act to restrict the options available to apartment
Figure 1 Apartments in Australia by LGA
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residents. As with many aspects of apartment living, installing solar PV requires a
degree of co-operation between owners and residents that is vulnerable to
communication barriers and split incentives. A co-operative approach is not well
facilitated by energy regulations which assumes consumers act individually and
independently in their engagement with the electricity market. Moreover, apartment
residents are subject to a “fourth tier” of governance in the form of Strata Law, and
this is a significant factor in denying them the same access to renewable energy
opportunities enjoyed by house owners.
Given these challenges, it could be suggested that it would be more effective to focus
on the lower-hanging fruit of incentivising PV installation on the remaining 78% of
houses. However, as well as helping to address the equity issues discussed above,
increasing deployment of PV on apartment buildings has potential societal benefits,
including reducing carbon emissions and assisting Australia to meet its commitment
to the Paris Agreement. Moreover, as they are predominantly situated in urban areas,
apartment buildings are more likely than houses to be located close to commercial
daytime loads, where increased on-site generation may reduce the need for
augmentation of the electricity distribution network and consequently reduce costs
for all electricity consumers.
Apartment buildings also have a number of characteristics that might make them
more suited to PV deployment than houses: commonly owned roofs with the space to
install larger PV systems than individual houses and so benefit from economies of
scale; potential for aggregation of diverse, physically proximate household electricity
loads with possible benefits of flatter load profiles and increased self-consumption of
PV generation; and established structures for community organisation, collective
ownership, decision-making, and management of expenditure.
If deployment of PV on apartment buildings has a place in a future distributed energy
system, Australia, with its high solar resource, mature distributed PV industry and
world-leading residential PV penetration, might be a likely location. Yet the country
Figure 2 Potential benefits of increasing apartment PV deployment
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has almost no apartment PV.
There is a need for a greater understanding of the scale and nature of the opportunity
for deploying PV on apartment buildings and the technical and business models
available for implementation. Clear information about the costs and benefits of
different approaches can help decision making for apartment residents and inform
policy approaches for incentivising greater PV deployment on apartment buildings.
1.2 Project aims, objectives and methods
This report is the result of a two-year exploration of the opportunities for PV on
Australian apartment buildings. The stated aim of the project is
to improve investment decision making in relation to deployment of PV on Australian
apartment buildings, thereby enabling apartment residents to potentially share the financial
and other benefits of on-site renewable energy deployment, as well as increasing
competition in the retail energy market, and improving the efficiency of network investment
over the long term.
This has been approached through generating a strong evidence base outlining the
scale of the opportunity, the potential consumer benefit and, critically, the regulatory,
financial and organisational arrangements that could help facilitate deployment.
The project used multiple methodologies to develop this evidence base:
1. A series of semi-structured interviews of a diverse group of stakeholders
including apartment residents (predominantly owners), Executive Committee
members, consultant engineers, embedded network operators, community
energy advocates, academics, local government officers, strata / building
managers and strata resident advocates
2. Collection and analysis of apartment building load data. The existing Smart
Grid Smart City [7] dataset, containing annual half-hourly electricity load data
for 6000 households, was analysed to better understand the particular
characteristics of electricity use in apartment households. Common Property
load data for ten diverse Sydney buildings was also analysed. Additionally,
meters were installed in NSW apartment buildings to record highly granular
load data for apartments, common property and whole building over the
course of a year.
3. A techno-economic tool was created to model, electricity flows and financial
outcomes in apartment buildings with rooftop PV and battery storage. This
was used to model a range of technical implementations including individual
PV systems for common property and / or apartments, shared behind-the-
meter arrangements and embedded networks. The Python code for the tool
has been made open-source
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and is being further developed with an accessible
Graphical User Interface to enable it to be used by non-specialists.
4. A detailed review of the legislative environment affecting PV deployment on
apartment buildings was carried out, including jurisdictional strata law and
regulations relating to electricity retailing and embedded networks. A number
1
The Python tool can be downloaded from https://github.com/mike-b-roberts/morePVs and the accessible
version with user-friendly GUI will be available on the CEEM website (http://ceem.unsw.edu.au/open-
source-tools) in 2019.
4
of submissions were made to the regulatory processes of the Australian
Electricity Market Commission (AEMC).
5. An assessment of the rooftop solar potential of Australian apartment
buildings, combining GIS analysis techniques with building census data, was
carried out to better understand the scale and nature of the opportunity.
The findings of the project are summarised below. Section 2 presents the technical
opportunity, in terms of solar potential of apartment building roofs and the suitability
of apartment building loads to PV deployment. Section 3 describes the barriers faced
by apartment residents in installing rooftop PV. Section 4 introduces the possible
technical arrangements for deploying PV on apartment buildings, identifies the
advantages and disadvantages of each and analyses their costs and benefits. The
implications for strata body decision makers are outlined in Section 5 and in Section 6
we suggest some policy approaches that could help increase PV deployment in this
sector.
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2. The opportunity
2.1 Solar potential of apartment rooftops
There are in excess of 1.4 million apartments in Australia, housing 10% of the
population [8] while a third of all new residential dwellings given building approval are
apartments [9]. However, these headline statistics obscure the uneven distribution of
apartment buildings across the country and that apartment residents are in the
majority in some urban Local Government Areas (LGAs) (see Table 1).
Table 1 LGAs with highest % of
apartment dwellers
LGA
%
population
in
apartments
North Sydney
66.8%
Melbourne
62.2%
Perth
61.6%
Sydney
59.2%
Port Phillip
56.6%
Waverley
53.4%
Strathfield
46.2%
Woollahra
45.8%
Botany Bay
45.8%
Randwick
45.1%
Canada Bay
44.7%
Lane Cove
41.1%
Stonnington
40.9%
Mosman
40.4%
Yarra
39.1%
Burwood
38.2%
Willoughby
37.8%
Rockdale
36.8%
Inner West
33.0%
Parramatta
32.8%
Australian apartment buildings are is diverse in height and structure, with consequent
variability in their rooftop solar potential. High-rise apartment buildings have very low
rooftop generating potential compared to the building loads (but can still benefit from
installing PV on the available area). However, 61% of apartments are in buildings of
three storeys or less, with potential PV capacity to make a significant contribution to
the building load.
Our analysis of the solar potential of apartment building roofs in the City of Melbourne
[10] found that, on average, apartment buildings have a greater proportion of total
roof area suitable for PV installation than houses but, more importantly, that the
average potential PV capacity on three-storey apartment buildings is 3.2kW per
dwelling, slightly more than half the average potential on stand-alone houses in the
LGA, and that buildings with four or more storeys have an average potential PV
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capacity of 1.6kW per apartment (see Table 2). Note that these are average figures
and that, as with houses, solar potential is highly variable (as shown by the high
standard deviation in Table 2) and dependent on specific building characteristics as
well as shading. Nevertheless, this suggests that many apartment buildings have
sufficient PV capacity to make a significant contribution to household loads.
Table 2. Mean usable area and PV potential per dwelling in City of Melbourne by dwelling type
Dwelling Type
Mean usable area
per dwelling
Mean PV per
dwelling
Standard deviation
of PV per dwelling
House
40.3 m2
6.0kW
3.8 kW
Townhouse
35.5 m2
5.4 kW
3.3 kW
1 or 2 storey apartment
34.9 m2
5.3 kW
3.7 kW
3 storey apartment
20.8 m2
3.2 kW
2.0 kW
4 or more storey apartment
10.3 m2
1.6 kW
1.4 kW
The same study estimated that there is sufficient roof area on Australia’s apartment
buildings to install a total of between 2.9GW and 4.0GW of PV, nearly half of which is
in NSW (see Figure 3).
Although this potential is small compared to the unutilised potential on houses
(estimated by the same study to be 43GW 61GW) or to the potential capacity on
commercial buildings which often have proximate daytime loads, it is certainly
significant about half the total amount of rooftop PV currently installed in Australia
(8.1GW).
2.2 Electricity loads in apartment buildings
One of the challenges to understanding the opportunity for deploying PV on
apartment buildings is a lack of published data about apartment building electricity
loads. This project included detailed analysis of these loads [11], using annual load
profiles with 30-minute interval data from a published dataset of 6000 NSW
households [7], including 2000 apartments, and common property loads from 25
Figure 3 Estimated potential PV capacity on apartment roofs
0
500
1000
1500
2000
NSW VIC QLD WA SA TAS ACT NT
Potential Rooftop Capacity (MW)
1 or 2 storey Apartment
3 storey Apartment
4 or more storey Apartment
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Sydney buildings. The findings are summarised below.
i) Apartment loads
It would be expected that apartments use less electricity than houses, and the study
found that the median daily load for apartment households to be half that for
detached and semi-detached houses (8.8 kWh/day compared to 17.7 kW/day) [11],
which is only partially explained by the lower average occupancy rates of apartments
(1.9 compared to 2.7 for houses) [12]. The daily energy use per occupant is also 21%
lower for apartments at 5.7kWh/day compared to 7.2kWh, though it is unclear
whether this is due to the smaller floor area per occupant reducing heating and
cooling loads, the lower proportion of outside walls (and floors / ceilings) reducing
thermal losses and gains, lower ownership of air-conditioning, or other factors.
Figure 4 Frequency distribution of (a) average daily total load, (b) average daily load normalised for
occupant and (c) average time of daily peak [11]
Like other households, electricity use in apartments typically has a small morning peak
and a higher evening peak. However, the study also found that apartment load profiles
typically show more variation through the day, and lower load factor (ratio of average
load to peak load). Greater diversity of peak time and of daily variability was observed
between apartments than between houses. One consequence of this greater diversity
is that the ‘flattening’ effect of aggregating loads from multiple households is more
pronounced for apartments than for houses. This results in potential customer
benefits when peak demand or capacity charges are applied to aggregated building
loads, as is typical for embedded networks.
ii) Common property loads
The Australian apartment building stock is highly diverse in terms of height, age,
construction and facilities. Consequently, the electricity loads associated with
common property (CP) vary considerably between buildings. These loads can include
lighting for common areas, stairwells and carparks; lifts; water heating and pumping
for centralised hot water and/or for pools; heating, ventilation and air conditioning
(HVAC) for common areas and sometimes centralised HVAC for all units, as well as
additional facilities such as centralised laundry, gym, sauna, etc. Although CP energy
use can be relatively small in low-rise walk-up apartment buildings, it can account for
over half of the total building energy usage in some high and medium rise buildings
where vertical transportation and communal service area requirements increase
markedly. A study of CP load data for 25 Sydney apartment buildings [13] found
average daily CP loads between 2.0 and 15.1 kWh/day/apartment.
Similar to other residential loads, common property loads typically have morning and
evening peaks, but some buildings have continuous loads that result in load profiles
that are flatter (and more suited to PV deployment) than apartment loads (Figure 5).
8
Figure 5 Average weekday CP load profiles (kW) for 25 NSW buildings 2
In many buildings, there is considerable scope for energy efficiency (EE) improvements
to the common property to reduce and/or shift demand through installation of
efficient devices (LED lighting, low torque lift motors, efficient extraction fans) and to
improve demand management through motion sensors, carbon monoxide sensors
and time switches, with some buildings reporting bill savings up to 40%.
It would be useful to extend this research to gain a greater understanding of the
relationship between apartment load profile and climate zone as well as a wider range
of building and household characteristics (including floor area, appliance ownership,
building structure, resident demographics and lifestyle).
2
Data courtesy of Energy Smart Strata
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3. Apartment PV – advantages and challenges
Apartment buildings have a number of characteristics that might give them an
advantage over stand-alone houses in deploying rooftop PV.
Their commonly-owned roofs often have the space to install larger PV systems
than individual houses, enabling them to benefit from economies of scale and
so reduce capital costs.
There is potential for aggregation of diverse, physically proximate household
loads with possible benefits of flatter load profiles and increased self-
consumption of PV generation, as well as for co-ordinated engagement in the
retail electricity market to access lower commercial tariffs.
Strata bodies represent established structures for community organisation,
decision-making, and management of expenditure.
Despite these advantages, and Australia’s high solar resource, mature distributed PV
industry and world-leading residential PV penetration, the country has almost no
apartment PV. This is due to a wide range of factors [6] which disadvantage apartment
residents compared to house dwellers. These are summarised below.
3.1 Physical limitations of building stock
The diverse apartment building stock can create multiple challenges:
Insufficient roof-space (particularly high-rise)
Alternate use of roof space (common areas, gardens, pools, etc.)
Roof access issues, increasing installation costs
Overshadowing from nearby buildings
Rooftop fixtures causing shading or reducing space (e.g. solar hot water, air
conditioning units, aerials, phone masts, housings for lift motors and safety
harness fixing points)
Fixings causing damage to waterproof membranes
Internal cabling compromising fire separation
Old switchboards or internal wiring need upgrading to meet standards
Figure 6 Rooftop obstructions and shading (clockwise from left): Roof gardens and pools, air-con,
safety harness fixing points, shading, air-con.
10
3.2 Governance issues
Strata law means that apartment owners are subject to an additional layer of
government (the “fourth tier”) compared to other homeowners which, combined with
other organisational challenges of collective ownership, can restrict their access to
solar energy, as well as to other sustainability improvements. Because apartment
owners do not own their own roof, they are not able to act independently to install
PV without agreement from the strata body.
The requirement for a by-law to allow use of roof space can prevent apartment
owners installing individual PV systems.
Poor communication and lack of engagement within strata bodies can create
obstacles to decision making, particularly where large majorities are required
to authorise expenditure.
Split incentives between owners (likely responsible for investment in PV) and
tenants (likely to benefit from reduced bills) and between different types of
household (with uneven benefit from cheap daytime electricity) can impact
decision making.
Split incentives between developers and apartment owners can result in the
establishment of strata bodies and electricity supply arrangements that are
not beneficial to owners or residents.
The high proportion of investor-owners may result in aversion to expenditure
beyond essential maintenance.
High turnover of residents and owners can result in ‘short-termism’ requiring
short payback periods on investment.
3.3 Financial issues
Access to finance to invest in apartment PV can be problematic for a number of
reasons:
Apartment residents are excluded from many of the state government
schemes providing grants or low-cost loans for householders to install PV.
Because strata bodies cannot use common property as collateral against loans,
borrowing for infrastructure upgrades (including PV) is unsecured and so likely
to be higher cost than for house owners.
Use of a special levy to fund PV deployment can create inequity, while sinking
funds are sometimes inadequate and are often reserved for essential
maintenance.
The lower tariffs paid by strata bodies for large common property loads or
aggregated building loads can reduce the financial savings and increase the
payback period for PV.
3.4 Regulatory issues
Apartment living requires a degree of co-ordination and co-operation that is
sometimes at odds with the underlying assumptions of legislative arrangements. In
particular, the assumption underlying regulation of the National Energy Market, that
consumers are always best served by engaging individually in a competitive retail
market, may act against apartment residents acting collectively to co-ordinate their
engagement in the market and their deployment of rooftop PV. This is evident in the
11
administrative barriers to installing embedded networks.
3.5 Information
There is a lack of accessible information about the options available to apartment
residents for installing PV and their relative costs and benefits. Solar installers without
experience of apartment buildings are sometimes averse to working with strata
bodies and may provide conflicting advice.
12
4. Technical implementation arrangements
Most residential PV is installed on the roof of a single house and used to supply the
electricity load for the household. For apartment buildings, a range of implementation
arrangements are possible, with residents and strata bodies needing to choose the
most appropriate for their particular circumstances. These alternative arrangements
are described below.
The project included extensive techno-economic modelling of energy and financial
flows in apartment buildings in order to compare the costs and benefits of these
different implementation arrangements [14]. Broad findings are presented below
while detailed analysis for some case study buildings is found in Appendix B.
4.1 PV for common property only
The simplest implementation of apartment PV is for the strata body to buy and install
a single PV system to meet common property demand (Figure 7). In the most common
business model, the strata body pays the capital costs of PV installation on the
commonly-owned roof, and the benefits (in the form of reduced CP electricity bills)
flow back to the strata body and can be passed on to apartment owners as reduced
strata fees.
Where CP loads are significant and roof-space is limited, as in most high-rise
apartment buildings, this arrangement is likely to fully utilise the rooftop solar
potential, achieve high levels of self-consumption and maximise the financial benefits
to owners.
Installation is likely to benefit from economies of scale, compared to typically smaller
residential systems, but may attract additional costs including issues relating to
limitations of the building (section 3). Where larger CP loads attract commercial retail
tariffs, the financial savings from offsetting CP load will be less than for smaller loads
with residential tariffs. Typical payback periods are variable and building-dependent,
Figure 7 PV for common property load
13
but of a similar order (three to eight years for the sites modelled) to those achieved
by house owners for systems sized to maximise self-consumption, while larger
installations can deliver savings over the lifetime of the system if a Feed-in Tariff (FiT)
is available for exported generation.
There are several potential sources of finance for strata bodies to meet the capital
costs of PV installation:
use of the Sinking Fund - often the most equitable solution, although may have
to compete for funds with planned and emergency maintenance needs;
a special levy on strata members requires strata approval which may be
difficult to obtain;
a bank loan, likely to be unsecured and therefore at higher interest rates than
homeowner borrowing (as strata law prohibits strata bodies from using the
buildings as loan collateral);
grants and subsidies from local, state or federal government.
Where strata bodies face difficulties gaining membership approval or accessing
finance, alternative business models are possible where a third party pays for PV
installation and either leases it to the strata body or sells the generated PV through a
power purchase agreement (PPA). This could be a commercial entity or a community
renewable energy (CRE) organisation. In the latter case, capital could be raised
through a share offer available to residents and owners, helping to overcome the split-
incentive issue.
4.2 PV for individual apartments
The installation model used by most of Australia’s two million solar households is for
an owner-occupier to purchase and install a PV system behind the meter’ to supply
their own residential load. This model is also possible for apartment buildings, either
for individual apartments or with separate systems installed for each apartment in a
building (Figure 8).
For the small proportion of top-floor apartments where the roof is owned by the
apartment owner, this arrangement is as straightforward as for house owners but, for
most strata-owned apartments, this involves installing individually-owned PV systems
on roof area collectively owned by the strata body.
In most jurisdictions, a bylaw must be passed at an AGM or special meeting of the
strata body
3
. An apartment owner wishing to retrofit PV to their building to meet their
own household load therefore has to persuade a significant proportion of other
apartment owners to allow use of the roof. This can act as a significant barrier to PV
deployment on brownfield sites.
For greenfield sites, the by-law can be included in the initial strata title, and equity can
be addressed by allocating an equal share of the suitable roof area to each apartment.
Some new developments have implemented this arrangement, either installing
individual PV systems for each apartment or simply allocating space for PV modules
and inverters with pre-installed conduit for cable runs, to simplify the process for any
owner choosing to install PV.
3
Requirements vary between jurisdictions, e.g., in NSW, not more than 25% of votes against the bylaw;
in VIC, 75% of votes in favour [6].
14
Where the governance issues can be overcome, the financial benefits of individual PV
for apartment residents is dependent on matching the system size to the
characteristics of the household load, and on the retail tariffs (and feed-in-tariffs)
available, but payback periods similar to those for systems on houses (4-7 years) can
be expected [15].
Although self-consumption is likely to be lower than arrangements with shared PV
systems, this arrangement may be the most financially advantageous for some smaller
apartment buildings as it avoids the capital outlay on additional distribution
infrastructure.
For the 60% of apartments that are rented [12], the split incentive between owner
and tenant is an additional barrier as landlords are unlikely to invest in solar if the
benefit of reduced electricity bills flow to the tenant. Although startups such as
SunTenants [16] and SunYield [17] are addressing this issue for rented houses, their
solutions are not currently being used for apartments.
4.3 Benefits of shared PV
Because tariffs paid for imported electricity are typically much greater than Feed-in-
tariffs paid for exports, it is beneficial to maximise self-consumption of PV generation
rather than export it to the grid. Where apartments have individual PV systems, there
are likely to be times when excess PV generation is exported to the grid at the same
time as electricity is being imported to meet the building load. Figure 9 shows how a
shared PV system can avoid this as on-site generation is applied first to the aggregated
building load, thus increasing self-consumption.
Figure 8 Individual PV for apartments
15
Figure 10 shows how self-consumption and energy self-sufficiency are increased by
using shared PV systems compared to individual systems for a range of buildings with
different sized PV systems.
4.4 Shared PV with embedded network
One way to distribute generation from a shared PV system is to use an embedded
network (EN). The embedded network operator (ENO) purchases electricity from a
retailer, via the single grid connection at the ‘parent’ or ‘gate’ meter, and sells it on to
Figure 9 Total apartment building import and export over two days for business as usual (BAU),
PV for common property (CP) only, individual PV behind-the-meter (BTM), or
PV shared through embedded network (EN) or BTM
Figure 10 Energy self-sufficiency and PV self-consumption for shared and individual PV [14]
16
residents through a ‘child’ meter for each apartment (Figure 11). If a shared PV system
is connected between the parent and child meters, the on-site generation can also be
sold to residents.
This arrangement has a number of advantages over individual PV systems for each
apartment:
installation of a shared PV system on shared roof space avoids equity issues
and does not require a bylaw,
installation of a single larger system may reduce capital costs through
economies of scale,
applying PV generation to the aggregated building load increases self-
consumption of onsite generation,
the size of the aggregated building load may trigger access to a commercial
retail tariff at the parent meter, with typically lower volumetric rates (as well
as higher fixed or capacity charges).
However, as well as installation of a parent meter, retrofitting an EN may require
replacement of all the meters in the building and significant upgrades to existing
switchboards and infrastructure, and can therefore be expensive. Costs are highly
building-specific and dependent on the requirements of the local Distribution
Network Service Provider (DNSP). Some DNSPs, for example, impose significant
‘abolishment charges’ for the removal of existing meters.
Operating costs for an EN comprise electricity costs and charges for metering, billing
and compliance. The commercial tariff paid at the parent meter is made up of a
regulated network component, dependent on the total annual demand, and a market
rate for wholesale and retail charges. Volumetric charges are typically much lower
than residential rates, but with significant variability in the market component
(typically 9 15 c/kWh), often combined with demand or capacity charges. Metering
and compliance costs are of the order of $3 and $2 per meter per month, respectively,
Figure 11 Shared distributed via an embedded network
17
while billing charges can vary between $15 and $35 per meter per month. The
economic benefit of an EN to the strata body therefore depends on the relationship
with the ENO, on successful negotiation with the retailer and on effective
management of the common property and aggregated apartment load to minimise
demand spikes.
There are also significant administrative challenges to establishing an EN. Currently,
an exemption framework allows ENO’s to onsell electricity to customers, although the
process for achieving exemption can be challenging. However, the Australian
Electricity Market Commission (AEMC) has recommended discontinuing this
framework and restricting EN operation to authorised retailers [18]. Although the
intent is to increase consumer protections for EN customers, this is likely to reduce
opportunities for smaller, more innovative operators or strata bodies to use an EN as
a means of distributing PV generation for the benefit of residents.
For smaller buildings, the costs and challenges of EN installation are likely to outweigh
the benefits, but for larger buildings an EN has the potential to generate considerable
bill savings for residents. In low-rise buildings with sufficient rooftop PV potential to
make a significant contribution to the building load, PV can increase the customer
savings from the EN. However, because PV generation is displacing grid electricity
purchased at commercial rates, PV payback periods are generally longer than for
typical residential systems.
Despite their potential benefits, ENs are not always operated to the benefit of
customers and have been used to lock tenants into disadvantageous long-term energy
contracts. A range of potential business arrangements exists in theory at least - with
different levels of risk, benefit and administrative complexity for the strata body.
These range from ENOs operating in a purely commercial capacity, taking on the risk
and also the benefits of the EN with the strata body and residents simply being
Figure 12 Cost factors for embedded networks
18
customers, to the strata body retaining ownership of the EN and applying for EN and
retail exemptions to operate it, employing an ENO on a service basis to provide billing,
compliance and administrative support. In between these poles a range of options are
possible and establishing the right distribution of risk, cost and benefits between an
ENO and the strata body is critical to ensuring owners and residents enjoy the benefits
of an EN and shared PV. Some innovative ENOs, ENMs and engineering consultants
([19-21], for example) are working with strata bodies and community housing
organisations to facilitate equitable arrangements.
4.5 Shared PV behind the meter
Distribution of generation from a shared PV system to meet apartment loads can also
be achieved without the administrative complexity and capital costs of an embedded
network. In this shared ‘behind-the-meter’ (BTM) arrangement (Figure 13), residents
retain their existing contract for grid electricity with a market retailer, and purchase
PV generation through a solar PPA from a solar retailer via a secondary distribution
and metering system.
Because the solar metering system does not require NMI Pattern Approval, it can be
retrofitted to existing buildings at relatively low cost compared to an EN. The PPA,
which removes the need for owners or the strata body to secure finance for the
installation costs, is only applied to PV generation used on site while the FiT from any
exported generation is paid to the solar retailer. Residents are able to benefit from
the shared PV system according to their daytime usage, but do not receive the
additional EN benefit of a reduced tariff for their imported electricity.
4.6 Battery energy storage system
A battery energy storage systems (BESS) added to a residential PV system can be used
to increase self-consumption of on-site generation, reduce peak demand and shift
demand to off-peak periods, thus reducing customer bills. In an apartment building,
Figure 13 Shared PV distributed ‘behind-the-meter’
19
BESS can be added to individual PV systems for apartments or common property
(Figure 14(a)) or as a shared resource to an embedded network (Figure 14(b)),
provided a suitable location is available for installation.
(a) Individual behind the meter BESS
(b) Shared BESS in an embedded network
Figure 14 Possible technical arrangements for PV and BESS
The financial benefits of BESS added to individual CP or apartment PV systems are
marginal with battery installation capital costs, even with capital costs repaid over 20
years [22]. The economic case for adding a shared BESS to an embedded network is
even less compelling, due to the lower tariffs and lower TOU differential of the
commercial tariff payable at the parent meter. Use of shared BESS in apartment
buildings is unlikely to be financially beneficial without substantial reductions in
capital costs, or targeted government incentives.
4.7 Off-site PV
An alternative approach for apartment residents in buildings with insufficient rooftop
potential, or where the organisational and other barriers to onsite deployment are
insurmountable or involve significant cost penalties, is for apartment residents to
access the benefits of PV generated off-site, either on roofs of other buildings or by
ground-mounted arrays, offer opportunities.
The simplest option is ‘Green Power’ whereby an electricity retailer offsets a
customer’s energy use with utility-scale renewable energy, in exchange for a
premium retail tariff. This option requires minimal effort from residents
wishing to reduce their emissions, but does not offer financial savings;
Figure 15 BESS optimal control strategies, sizes and cost thresholds
20
An off-site Solar PPA involves the purchase of energy from utility-scale PV
generation but differs from Green Power in that the PPA relates to a specific
generator. In a ‘Community Solar Garden’, consumers own a share of a solar
farm, with a proportion of the PV generated offset against their bill;
Local energy trading (LET) or peer to peer trading (P2P) enable consumers with
PV to sell excess generation to other customers on the distribution network,
allowing, for example, apartment residents to buy solar generation from
houseowners with rooftop PV.
Under existing network rules, the network charges applied to purchase of off-site PV
generation are the same as for generation from any other source, even if the PV is
located in the same part of the distribution network. This reduces the savings available
through solar PPAs or LET.
21
5. Decision making for strata bodies
Table 3 summarises the advantages and challenges of each of the PV installation
arrangements described.
Table 3 Summary of technical implementation arrangements
Technical
Arrangement
Advantages
Challenges
Most suited for
PV for common
property
Simplest
arrangement: Costs
and benefits flow to
strata body
Requires agreement of
strata body; may
underutilise roof space.
High-rise buildings
without embedded
network
PV for individual
apartments
Simplicity
Requires strata by-law;
Split incentives;
Low self-consumption.
Greenfield sites with
equitable pre-allocation
of roofspace; Brownfield
sites if only one or 2
residents want PV and a
bylaw can be passed
Shared PV with
embedded network
Increased self-
consumption
Access to commercial
tariffs
Regulatory barriers;
Split incentives;
Organisational
complexity; Interests of
ENO and strata body
may conflict
Good solution for larger
buildings if
implemented in
interests of residents
and owners.
Shared PV ‘behind
the meter’
Low risk for owners,
residents and strata
body; increased self-
consumption
compared to
individual systems.
No beneficial tariff
arrangements;
Residents pay two bills;
Limited availability
Brownfield sites where
EN costs would be high
The optimum arrangement for any particular building is dependent on multiple site
characteristics, including type of building, roof form, roof obstructions and shading,
common property facilities, age of the building and electrical installation,
demographics and lifestyle of occupants, proportion of renters / owner-occupiers and
level of engagement in the strata body. However, the number of apartments has a
significant influence on the total building load, while the height of the building will
help determine the potential PV capacity per apartment. These two factors are
therefore important indicators of which arrangements would be most appropriate, as
summarised in Table 4 and Figure 16.
For buildings with reduced roof area (e.g. high rise), installation of a shared PV to meet
common property is the simplest and may be the most financially beneficial option.
The viability of an EN is highly building-specific. For buildings with 100 apartments or
above, the economic benefits of an EN are likely sufficient to provide significant
benefits to the strata body as well as commercial opportunity for the ENO, while
retrofitting an EN to a building with less than 30 apartments is unlikely to be cost
effective, although the threshold for greenfield sites may be lower. However, onsite
generation can reduce electricity costs and the addition of PV can make an EN cost
effective for some borderline properties, just as an EN can act as an enabler for PV on
others.
22
Table 4 Optimum solutions for different sized buildings
Number of
Apartments
Building Height
Possible Optimum Solution9s)
1 30
PV for individual apartments;
PV for Common property if high CP
load
30 100
Low medium
rise
Embedded Network;
Shared PV behind the Meter;
PV for individual apartments;
PV for Common property if high CP
load
30 100
High rise
PV for Common property;
Embedded network with PV
Over 100
Low medium
rise
Embedded network with PV
Over 100
High rise
PV for Common property;
Embedded network with PV
Shared BTM PV with a solar PPA may be an economically preferable alternative,
particularly for smaller buildings, as the reduced capital expenditure and risk offsets
the higher retail tariff. For the smallest apartment buildings, the benefits of shared PV
may be less than the costs of additional distribution infrastructure under either model.
Figure 16 PV deployment for different sizes of apartment buildings
23
6. Policy recommendations
Although some of the barriers to apartment PV are inherent to the buildings or to the
organizational challenges of multi-occupancy living, regulatory policy reform could
make a significant contribution to increasing access to rooftop PV for apartment
residents.
6.1 Strata law
Some aspects of strata law act to restrict access to solar energy (as well as to other
sustainability improvements), creating inequity for apartment residents. Although
limited in their scope, legislative changes introduced in some states have
demonstrated potential approaches to avoid unnecessary legal constraints on
sustainability improvements.
The following changes to state and territory strata laws would help reduce the barriers:
Exemption of PV installation from the requirement for an Exclusive Use By-Law
for individual use of shared roof area. This should be subject to conditions
restricting use to a ‘fair’ share of the suitable area, mandating post-installation
roof inspection and allowing only qualified installers carrying insurance against
roof-damage.
A reduced threshold for strata resolutions to allow installation of strata-owned
PV on common roof area or for other sustainability upgrades.
Restrictions on the ground allowed for objections to PV installations or other
sustainability upgrades, prohibiting objections on the grounds of physical
appearance (similar to the ‘ban the banners’ amendment in QLD Planning Law
[23, 24]).
Specific inclusion of new sustainability infrastructure in allowable Sinking Fund
expenditure
Allowing strata bodies to use common property as collateral for loans used to
upgrade the property, including sustainability improvements, and therefore
access lower interest rates
More generally, with tax incentives fuelling property investment and thereby pricing
apartment ownership beyond the means of a large proportion of the population, it is
questionable whether the processes of strata governance are still fit for purpose.
Whilst some laws are drafted with the apparent assumption of house ownership being
the default Australian condition, Strata Law seems designed for a community of
owner-occupiers which bears little relation to the reality of many apartment buildings.
While apartment owners are subject to greater restrictions than house owners, the
situation is even worse for the growing numbers of apartment tenants who have no
legal role in influencing the strata decisions which govern their daily lives, while
managing agents have increasing control.
Although detailed critiques either of strata law or Taxation policy are beyond the
scope of this report, there are strong arguments in favour of increasing representation
of tenants in strata governance, and of reforming tax arrangements to support higher
levels of owner-occupation. Rental tenants are subject to high household electricity
bills (and often high CP bills passed on in rental costs) and one of the benefits of
allowing them a role in strata decision making (beyond being allowed a representative
24
to observe strata meetings) would be enabling them some degree of control over their
energy supply.
6.2 Incentives / finance
Access to finance can be a barrier to strata bodies deploying PV on their buildings, and
strata residents are often excluded from incentive schemes for increasing residential
PV.
Access to finance could be improved through:
Reforming legislation to allow strata bodies to use common property as
collateral for secured loans towards PV or other sustainability upgrades.
Local or state government providing or underwriting low-cost finance for
environmental upgrades.
Local or state government providing grant incentives to strata bodies to
subsidise installation costs for PV or BESS.
Local or state government providing grants to strata bodies to cover costs of
feasibility studies for PV, embedded networks or BESS installation. (e.g. similar
to existing City of Sydney Innovation Grants). Because no two apartment
buildings are alike and optimal solutions are building-specific, the need for
feasibility grants will continue beyond a few ‘early adopter’ projects).
Clarification and simplification of tax regulation to allow strata bodies to
generate income from electricity sales to residents without affecting tax
arrangements for individual members.
6.3 Energy regulation
As discussed in section 4.4, installing an embedded network (EN) is one way of
apartment residents acting together to access renewable energy and reduce their
energy bills. It allows residents to combine their electricity usage to ‘bulk buy’
electricity at commercial tariffs and enables a greater proportion of PV generation to
be ‘self-consumed’ within the building, rather than exporting it to the grid at a
relatively low feed-in tariff.
However, where customers are obliged to participate in an EN, there is an opportunity
for the ENO to take advantage of a captive customer base, with the result that EN
customers sometimes pay higher prices than retail market customers in return for
lower standards of service. To address this, and in response to the ‘Power of Choice’
review [25], policy reform measures have been aimed at increasing access to the retail
market for EN customers. The latest AEMC proposals [18, 26] to remove the
exemption framework for ENs and restrict the sale of electricity within an EN to
authorised retailers are likely to remove some unscrupulous operators from the
market, but may also increase barriers to small, innovative ENOs, strata bodies and
community organisations aiming to operate ENs for the benefit of residents, including
to distribute PV.
Although the AEMC takes the view that “competition remains effective for retail
electricity and gas markets in New South Wales, Victoria and South Australia, and
South East Queensland” [27], the ACCC identified that “retail electricity markets in the
NEM remain very concentrated” and that “one sign that competition has so far failed
to meaningfully challenge the large retailers is limited erosion of their market shares
25
in the past five years.” [28] It is by no means certain that the presence of large retailers
in the EN market will automatically reduce bills.
Indeed, by increasing opportunities for existing electricity retailers to operate in the
EN market, it may be that changes intended to increase consumer choices could,
paradoxically, reduce consumers’ access to innovative business models, diminish their
ability to co-ordinate both market engagement and deployment of PV, and
consequently reduce their energy choices.
Rather than seeing ENs as inherently contrary to the interests of energy consumers,
an alternative approach is to recognize that they can be beneficial but need
appropriate regulation. Instead of relying on administrative hurdles and market
contestability to protect consumers, existing EN and retail exemption frameworks for
establishment of an EN should be retained, with specific exemption class(es) for
residential strata bodies or community energy organisations owned by or constituted
to benefit consumers, while strengthening protection for residential customers.
Increased regulation to protect EN customers should include effective and meaningful
price control, with prices tied to discounted average market tariffs (instead of standing
offers as at present). The distinction between strata bodies acting on behalf of
developers and those comprising individual apartment owners is an important one,
although they have equal legal standing. The length of service contracts between
developers and ENOs should be limited, and restrictions placed on the incentives
offered to developers by ENOs or retailers, though enforcement may present
challenges.
Current metering rules are also problematic. The cost and complexity of transferring
meter ownership results in unnecessary churn with additional costs for consumers.
Moreover, as increasingly high-quality, high precision metering equipment with high
temporal resolution and versatile connectivity is available, the cost of metering
hardware is artificially inflated by an NMI Pattern Approval process which stipulates
redundant functionality.
Finally, a range of opportunities for apartment residents, including use of local energy
trading or peer to peer selling arrangements (whether between prosumers in a single
building or strata complex or to allow residents to access PV generation from a solar
garden) are hampered by current network pricing arrangements. A move towards
effective cost-reflective pricing of the local distribution network could increase
opportunities for DER deployment, including on apartment buildings, with potential
benefits for networks (through deferred augmentation) as well as for consumers.
26
7. Conclusion
There is a clear and significant opportunity for deployment of rooftop PV on Australia’s
apartment buildings, which could contribute an estimated 2.9GW 4.0GW of peak
power capacity to the electricity network, reduce household bills, increase equity for
the growing proportion of Australians living in apartment buildings, and may also
reduce grid augmentation costs and so contribute to savings for all electricity users.
The technical, financial, organisational and regulatory barriers that have hitherto
largely prevented this deployment are by no means insurmountable, but neither are
the solutions simple and there is no single implementation model will work for all
buildings.
Sharing PV generation and applying it to aggregated building loads increases self-
consumption and can create additional value for residents, whether distributed
through an embedded network or a separate behind-the-meter distribution
arrangement. Embedded networks have higher capital costs, particularly when
retrofitted to existing sites, but, for larger buildings, can maximise customer benefits
through access to lower tariffs, if the business model can overcome administrative
barriers and operates in the interests of residents and owners. However, costs and
benefits are highly building-specific and, for some buildings, smaller systems applied
to common property or to individual apartment loads, or off-site generation, may be
preferable.
This research highlights an important role for policy in supporting increased PV
deployment on apartment buildings. As much as the Strata Laws governing apartment
buildings need to adapt to changing circumstances and to increasing sustainability
priorities, greater consideration of multi-occupancy buildings is also needed
throughout many other areas of legislation. For apartment residents, accessing the
benefits of renewable energy, like many other aspects of medium- and high-density
living, requires co-ordination. While residents have been ill-served by embedded
networks in the past, new business models for combining ENs with solar PV, operated
in the interests of apartment owners and residents, are emerging and in need of
incentives and regulatory support.
An inclusive energy transition needs to move beyond a narrow vision of individual
market engagement to facilitate and encourage such co-ordinated engagement of
energy users.
Customers and strata bodies need comprehensive and unbiased information to help
them navigate the available options, and it is hoped that the open-source tool
developed through this research can contribute.
Further research is needed, particularly in assessing the potential benefits of
increasing self-consumption through managing and shifting loads (including water
heating, air-conditioning and electric vehicle charging), analysing the impact of a wide
range of possible future financial settings and reviewing international best practice to
develop legal and social settings for new collaborative business models.
27
References
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photovoltaics on Australian apartment buildings (PhD Thesis), 2019, School of Photovoltaic and
Renewable Energy Engineering, Faculty of Engineering, University of New South Wales, Sydney.
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resources/Postcode-data-for-small-scale-installations.
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2019. 102: p. 95-110.
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Buildings, in Asia Pacific Solar Research Conference. 2018: Sydney.
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demand and its implications for low-carbon cities. Energy, revisions submitted 30/3/2019.
12. ABS. Census of Population and Housing. 2016; Available from:
https://auth.censusdata.abs.gov.au/webapi/jsf/dataCatalogueExplorer.xhtml.
13. Roberts, M.B., G. Huxham, A. Bruce, and I. MacGill, Using PV to help meet common property energy
demand in residential apartment buildings, in Australian Summer Study in Energy Productivity. 2016:
Sydney.
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and maximising the value of distributed photovoltaics on apartment buildings. Solar Energy, under
review.
15. Roberts, M.B., J. Copper, A. Bruce, T. Barton, et al. Solar Trends Report 2018. 2018.
16. SunTenants. We make solar work for rentals. Fair and simple. 2018 Accessed: 14/12/2018; Available
from: https://www.suntenants.com/.
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28
Appendix A: Publications and further information
More detail of the analysis described in this report, particularly regarding the
methodology, results and regulatory environment and policy implications can be
found in the following publications, from which much of the content of the report has
been taken:
Roberts, M.B., The value of co-operation: Opportunities for deployment of distributed
rooftop photovoltaics on Australian apartment buildings, (PhD Thesis) 2019, University
of New South Wales: Sydney.
Roberts, M.B., A. Bruce and I. MacGill, Opportunities and barriers for photovoltaics on
multi-unit residential buildings: Reviewing the Australian experience. Renewable and
Sustainable Energy Reviews, 2019. 102: p. 95-110.
Roberts, M.B., A. Bruce and I. MacGill, A comparison of arrangements for increasing
self-consumption and maximising the value of distributed photovoltaics on apartment
buildings. Solar Energy, under review.
Roberts, M.B., A. Bruce and I. MacGill, Impact of shared battery energy storage systems
on photovoltaic self-consumption and electricity bills in apartment buildings. Applied
Energy, revisions submitted 24/3/2019.
Roberts, M.B., N. Haghdadi, A. Bruce and I. MacGill, Characterisation of Australian
apartment electricity demand and its implications for low-carbon cities. Energy,
revisions submitted 30/3/2019
Roberts, M.B., J. Copper and A. Bruce, Analysis of Rooftop Solar Potential on Australian
Residential Buildings, Asia Pacific Solar Research Conference. 2018: Sydney.
Roberts, M.B., A. Bruce and I. MacGill, Collective Prosumerism - Accessing the Potential
of Embedded Networks to Increase the Deployment of Distributed Generation on
Australian Apartment Buildings, EnergyCon. 2018: Cyprus.
Roberts, M.B., A. Bruce and I. MacGill, PV for Apartment Buildings: Which Side of the
Meter?, Asia Pacific Solar Research Conference. 2017: Melbourne.
Roberts, M.B., G. Huxham, A. Bruce and I. MacGill, Using PV to help meet common
property energy demand in residential apartment buildings, Australian Summer Study in
Energy Productivity. 2016: Sydney.
Roberts, M.B., A. Bruce and I. MacGill, PV in Australian apartment buildings
opportunities and barriers, Asia Pacific Solar Research Conference. 2015: Brisbane.
Roberts, M.B., R. Passey, A. Bruce and I. MacGill. APVI / CEEM Submission to AEMC draft
report on embedded networks 2017.
Roberts, M.B., R. Passey, A. Bruce and I. MacGill. Submission to AEMC review of
regulatory arrangements for embedded networks. 2017.
Roberts, M.B., I. MacGill and R. Passey. APVI CEEM Submission to NSW Consumer
Protections Review. 2017.
Roberts, M.B. APVI Submission to the Victorian Government on the review of the
General Exemption Order in response to the Draft Position Paper. 2017.
Where copyright allows, these publications can be downloaded from the Centre for
Energy and Environmental Markets website at ceem.unsw.edu.au/publications.
29
Appendix B: Case studies
Case study W
Number of Apartments: 72 in three buildings
Metering Installed: 44 apartments plus common property (3-phase) and whole-of-site
(3-phase)
Six different arrangements were modelled:
Business as Usual (bau)
PV for common property load only (cp_only)
Individual PV systems for each apartment (btm_i)
Embedded network (en) without PV
Embedded network with PV (en_pv)
PV shared behind the meter with a solar PPA (btm_p)
Figure W1 shows the potential total annual savings
4
for the building under each
arrangement, using the optimum PV system size for each arrangement, if capital costs
are repaid over 20 years, and with assumed financial settings).
Figure W1 Comparison of technical arrangements for case study W
W.1. Solar PV for common property only
Installation of a PV system by the Owners Corporation to meet common property load
is the simplest solution. Two systems were considered: 30kW and 15kW, installed on
North-facing roofs, with estimated capital costs of $18150 and $33600 respectively.
With a typical time of use tariff, the 30kW system gives the greatest annual savings,
4
Savings are calculated on a Net Present Value basis (i.e. allowing for the decreased future value of
money) with a discount rate of 6% pa. Future increases in electricity prices have not been included.
30
except where no feed-in-tariff (FiT) is available from the retailer and capital costs must
be repaid within 5 years. With the larger system and a FiT of 12c/kWh, estimated
annual savings for the OC are $4,100 with capital repayment over 10 years, or $1,900
with repayment over 5 years (and greater savings for the remainder of the system
lifetime)
5
.
Figure W2 Annual savings for Strata Body with 30kW PV system applied to common property
W.2. Individual PV systems for apartments
Figure W3 Annual savings for households with 1kW PV system
5
Savings are calculated on a Net Present Value basis (i.e. allowing for the decreased future value of
money) with a discount rate of 6% pa. Future increases in electricity prices have not been included.
31
W.3. Embedded network with PV
Installation of an embedded network (EN) has the potential to create the biggest
savings for The Manor residents. Adding a shared PV system to the embedded
network could increase the savings significantly.
The savings from an EN are dependent on a large number of variable cost factors:
Capital costs for PV System installation. This is estimated at $84,000 for a
$74,000kW system (based on average NSW cost for commercial systems
6
)
including GST and STC rebates. There may be additional costs for access
equipment for installation and for grid protection costs due to the size of the
installation.
capital costs for installation of the EN (which may include upgrades to the
switchboard and meter rooms). These are estimated at between $30,000 and
$80,000. A figure of $48,000 was used for the modelling shown.
operating costs of the EN, the commercial tariff for ‘bulk-buying’ electricity for
the whole building (agreed by negotiation with a retailer),
the cost of borrowing and the period allowed for repayment of capital costs.
Three potential PV systems were modelled: one using the whole roof area (143kW),
one using north and west facing roofs (109kW), and one using north facing roofs only
(74kW).
The greatest savings are generated by the 74kW PV system, with an estimated capital
cost of $84,000 (based on typical NSW installed costs, but excluding the cost of grid
protection required for all systems above 30kW). Over twenty years, we estimate
potential savings across the building of $13,000 - $16000 per year, on a NPV basis. A
range of business models are possible with the risks, costs and benefits of the
embedded network and the PV shared in different ways between the ENO, the
Owners Corporation, apartment owners and residents.
Residents cannot be obliged to join an embedded network and must be able to opt
out at any time. The electricity tariff charged to EN customers therefore has to be
competitive with a market retail tariff, to encourage participation from all residents.
It may also be beneficial to design the tariff to encourage residents to use cheap
daytime solar electricity.
Figure W4 shows estimated annual savings for each metered household, plotted
against their total annual energy use, for an embedded network with two potential
internal tariffs. The red line shows an internal EN tariff equivalent to the retailer
standing offer TOU tariff with a 20% discount applied. The blue line shows a ‘solar TOU’
tariff which has an additional off-peak period between 10am and 2pm (to encourage
residents to use the cheap daytime solar generation). Note that residents with higher
energy use make higher savings, but with the ‘solar TOU’ tariff, greater savings can be
achieved by moving energy use to the middle of the day. The average net annual
income available to be shared between the Embedded Network Operator and Owners
Corporation is approximately $156 per customer for the TOU tariff and $124 per
customer for the ‘solar TOU’.
6
https://www.solarchoice.net.au/commercial-solar-power-system-prices
32
Figure W4 NPV of Annual household savings in EN with 74kW PV under different tariff arrangements
Addition of a shared battery to the EN can further reduce electricity bills, but at
current capital costs, it would not be cost effective, even with repayment over 20
years.
W.4. Shared PV ‘behind the meter’
To avoid the administrative complexity and potentially high installation costs of an
embedded network, a shared PV system could be installed with a secondary metering
arrangement to distribute the solar generation ‘behind the meter’. Each resident
would keep their existing retail electricity arrangement and enter into a ‘power
purchase agreement’ with a solar retailer (e.g. Allume Energy) for cheap PV generation.
Figure W5 shows potential savings for the 28 metered households under this
arrangement. Note that this arrangement is new to the market and may not be
available, while the terms of the PPA will be at the discretion of the retailer and may
be less advantageous than those modelled here.
33
Figure W5 NPV of Annual household savings with shared behind-the-meter PV on a solar PPA
W.5. Summary
A PV system of 30kW installed to meet common property demand at an
estimated cost of $34,000 (inc. GST and STC rebates, but excluding access costs
and grid protection if required) is the simplest option and would generate
savings for the OC even with capital costs repaid over 5 years.
An embedded network with PV of 74kW would cost between $110,000 and
$200,000 and could generate the greatest savings for householders over the
longer term, dependant on how the risks, costs and benefits are shared
between the OC and the Embedded network Operator, but there are
administrative complexities in applying for retailer and EN exemptions.
A ‘behind the meter’ sharing arrangement with a solar PPA could also generate
savings for households and is worth further exploration.
Case study T
Number of Apartments: 15
Metering Installed: 11 apartments plus common property and whole-of-site
T.1. Solar PV for common property only
Installation of a PV system by the Owners Corporation to meet common property load
is the simplest solution. Common property load for the building is low (less than
4MWh/year), so relatively small PV systems (1,2 and 4kW) were modelled, using a
typical time of use tariff.
With no feed-in-tariff (FiT), only the 1kW system gave modest savings over ten years.
With a FiT of 8c/kWh, however, the 4kW system gives the best outcome, with annual
savings of approx. $200 (on an NPV basis over 10 years).
34
T.2. Comparison of PV arrangements for apartments
Four different arrangements for supplying PV generation to apartments were
modelled and compared to Business as Usual (bau)
Individual PV systems for each apartment (btm_i) (2.0kW / unit)
Embedded network (en)
Embedded network with PV (en_pv)
PV shared behind the meter with a solar PPA (btm_p)
Figure T1 shows the estimated potential total annual savings for the building under
each arrangement, using the optimum PV system size for each arrangement if capital
costs are repaid (top) over 20 years (on an NPV basis with a discount rate of 6%), and
(bottom) over 10 years.
Figure T1 Comparison of technical arrangements for case study T
With capital costs repaid over 20 years (top) and 10 years (bottom)
The installation and administrative costs of an embedded network, shared between a
small number of apartments, is likely to make an embedded network the least cost-
effective option. To avoid the administrative complexity and potentially high
35
installation costs of an embedded network, a shared PV system could be installed with
a secondary metering arrangement to distribute the solar generation ‘behind the
meter’. Each resident would keep their existing retail electricity arrangement and
enter into a ‘power purchase agreement’ with a solar retailer (e.g. Allume Energy) for
cheap PV generation. However, the terms modelled here may not be available given
the small size of the building, as the benefits for the solar retailer would be marginal
over the medium term.
All apartments would benefit from individual PV systems of 1.5kW 2kW. The NPV of
annual savings are shown in Figure 3, assuming repayment of capital costs over ten
years (with an assumed discount rate of 6%) on a typical time-of-use retail tariff with
a feed in tariff (FiT) of 8c/kWh paid for excess generation exported to the grid. Greater
benefits would be available, particularly for apartments with lower energy use, if a
higher FiT can be accessed, or if lower installation rates can be achieved through a
group purchase.
Figure T2 Annual savings for households with individual PV systems
ResearchGate has not been able to resolve any citations for this publication.
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