Around one in five residents at a national over 50s rental village operator are receiving free electricity, due to the installation of solar panels.
The results of the solar panel installation program by Eureka illustrate the potential for retirement living communities to deliver major sustainability outcomes which benefit both the environment and residents.
In conjunction with Queensland-based embedded electricity network provider PowerHub, Eureka has installed solar panels at 13 of its 41 villages, and plans to extend the rollout to a further five villages before June 2022.
It also plans to have solar energy as its main power source across all its villages by 2025.
Eureka already provides affordable housing, with its villages primarily accommodating age pensioners. The solar installation is further enhancing this affordability proposition.
According to figures from PowerHub, around 20 per cent of residents in the solar-powered Eureka villages not only avoided any electricity costs in the most recent billing cycle, but actually saw their electricity accounts in credit.
This is because the residents are also receiving a government energy rebate.
Overall, more than 85 per cent of tenants in the solar-powered villages paid less than $25 a month for electricity in the last billing cycle.
Eureka’s CEO Cameron Taylor said the company was able to fund the solar panel installation, without increasing resident rents, due to the fact the panels also reduced Eureka’s electricity costs for common areas.
“Being an ASX-listed company, it is clearly very important right now that we do the right thing by the environment and socially,” Mr Taylor said. “However, it is also an initiative which is also very beneficial for our residents.”
In May 2020, Janette Redfern moved into Eureka’s Wynnum village in Queensland, where solar panels had been installed in 2019.
After a few months’ living in the village, Janette approached the village manager to ask why she hadn’t received any power bills.
“When I moved in, I thought I would be paying for electricity. When I didn’t receive a bill, I thought I may have missed something,” Janette said.
It turned out that, with Janette’s modest power usage - combined with the solar installation and energy rebate - she didn’t need to pay for power and therefore wasn’t receiving a bill.
In fact, Janette’s electricity account was in credit - a credit she unlikely to ever need to call on.
Another Wynnum village resident, who unlike Janette uses an air conditioner and has modern appliances, has seen her current monthly power bill fall from $60 to $30 following the solar panel installation.
PowerHub’s managing director Mike Cirino said his company was currently discussing solar installations with at least one other retirement living operator and was also looking at moving into battery storage.
He said the installation of solar power had great potential in both existing and new retirement communities.
More than 2,500 Australian retirees live in Eureka’s villages across Queensland, NSW, Victoria, Tasmania and South Australia.