Trevor Greenham doesn’t have to go far to remind you that he can’t own solar panels.
Current public housing residents don’t have access to solar panel rebates More than 23,000 public housing units are being encouraged to install panels. The panels will save residents more than $500 a year.
A few steps through his back door usually does the trick.
Mr Greenham lives in government-owned public housing in Hamilton, three hours west of Melbourne.
He is a conscious energy user and, by his own admission, lives an economical lifestyle on a tight budget.
He was delighted to learn that installing solar panels on his facility could save him enough to almost completely cover his annual electricity bill.
But his joy was short-lived.
As a resident of a government-owned public housing property, he was quickly informed that he could not take advantage of the discounts that would make the panels affordable for most residents.
“It’s not fair that the people who need them the most are being left behind,” Mr Grinham said.
“Knowing that anyone can buy a new one [solar panel] or contribute to a greener environment … but you can’t do anything because it’s not available to you.”
Push for panels
The peak body representing public housing residents has been defending people like Mr Grinham for years.
Katelyn Butters says installing the panels will help prevent energy problems. (ABC News: Simon Tucci)
Public Tenants Association of Victoria chief executive Katelyn Butters said a long list of residents would love to see the panels installed.
“Existing public housing tenants remain the last group of Victorians without access to help to install solar panels on their homes,” Ms Butters said.
“This is despite the fact that these houses are among the least thermally efficient apartments.”
His organization joined forces with the Victorian Council of Social Services to develop a plan to reduce electrical pain for social housing residents.
The groups have released details of a $117 million proposal that would result in solar panels being installed on more than 23,000 existing public housing units.
More than 20 per cent of homes in Victoria have solar panels installed.(Supplied)
As a result, each resident is expected to save more than $500 on electricity.
Victorian Council of Social Services chief executive Emma King said people should not have to choose between staying warm and feeding their families.
Both advocacy groups urged both sides of politics to stick to the plan ahead of November’s state election.
Mr Grinham said the relief it would provide would be “life-changing”.
“I’d be happier for one,” he said.
“I’d have more money for my other bills, which were all going up and up, and I’d be able to buy myself nicer food.”
Big construction makes big profits
The state government is no stranger to promoting the environmental and financial benefits of green energy.
It spent $111 million to improve energy efficiency in public housing, including installing better heating and cooling units and installing more efficient hot water systems.
“Our government is funding energy efficiency upgrades for tens of thousands of social and public housing facilities,” a government spokesman said.
“These improvements will help social housing tenants save up to $300 in heating costs each year.”
Trevor Greenham is frustrated at not being able to take advantage of solar rebates. (ABC South West Victoria: Daniel Miles)
However, the government’s Energy Efficiency in Social Homes program does not include solar panels.
Mr Grinham said he would not be able to install the panels without a discount.
He said he could also be charged with removing them if he ever moves out of his unit.
“It all gets you down a little bit,” he said.
“Walking around the city, you see more and more progress every day.
“It just doesn’t make sense to me.”