This article about solar solutions for strata buildings has been supplied by Niamh Kennedy, HFM Asset Management.
Has the future of energy at your strata complex been considered? Has any consideration been made for safeguarding your complex against changing energy prices?
When we speak to Strata Managers or Council of Owners the general feeling is that there is uncertainty as to what can be done to reduce or safeguard future energy costs.
There are a number of items that can be considered for Strata Complexes across the country. The information we share here is generic as each complex is individual in their needs and makeup, our intent is to inform and generate discussion.
Individual electrical infrastructure for example would need to be considered as well as the by-laws for each complex.
So as a Strata complex, what can be done to safeguard the energy supply?
Energy from the sun, let’s do it! Solar sales were seen to have increased during the COVID-19 period as more people transitioned to working and schooling from home. Solar appears to be the solution to keeping the energy costs down. This will work out while the daytime usage is increased but the returns are likely to reduce once the household returns to the workplace and school.
For a Strata Complex the installation of solar may be more difficult as there will be additional considerations to be made, for example, roof space allocations, changes to by-lays, approvals from fellow owners. Achieving a combination of these items may prove difficult but it can be done with some persistence.
An alternative solution may be to consider the installation of solar for common area energy usage, this will reduce down the energy costs for the common areas which in turn may lower levies. Clever planning is required as we don’t want our clients to fall into the trap of “fill the roof”, we want their solar PV to fit their usage patterns and maximise their returns.
As with many multiunit residential complexes, individual units are commonly directly metered by the utility provider, with common area usage invoiced to the Strata and divvied up or covered within levies.
Has the term embedded network been passed around?
An embedded network is common in commercial properties and is becoming more sought after in residential complexes, but what is it? Basically, there is one main meter billed by the utility and the remaining unit meters are downstream and deemed to be private meters and are billed via the Strata Company.
What can this achieve? An embedded network can provide additional options to safeguard future energy costs as it increases the load at the utility meter. One way of achieving this is that an embedded network may open up more energy purchase options.
It may also mean that solar becomes more viable for a complex.
What we have seen is where solar is installed on an embedded network, residents continue to pay for their energy at the standard residential rates, but the reduced energy cost to the Strata Company provides a differential to the monies being recouped from the end users, thus the levies can be reduced.
Electric Vehicles (EV’s) are now a growing area of interest in Australia as greater numbers of EV models and charging stations spring up around the country. The increasing media and popularity of EV’s will have effects on the electrical infrastructure of properties and grids. It is likely that soon Strata Managers and COO will be approached by unit owners to request the installation of EV charging stations.
There are questions surrounding how to maximize this disruptive force, enhance local site electrical reliability and resilience and understand load profiles as more EVs join the grid in the coming years. Devoid of coordination, EV chargers could harm the site’s electric infrastructure without due consideration for the extra electrical capacity requirements. Complexes must develop comprehensive solutions for electric vehicle charging including consideration for on-charging of the energy consumed by the EV unit.
Batery Storage – a hot topic now. Presently, batteries are being installed to facilitate peak demand shaving and to provide reliability of supply in areas where reliability is low.
There are many ways in which batteries can be utilised to reduce energy costs at a complex, with due consideration of the energy usage patterns batteries can provide significant savings. At the moment, battery costs are high and despite achieving significant savings the return on investment is not favourable. This is expected to change in the coming years as battery technology advances, just as solar has done over the last number of years.
So, to wrap up, there are many ways with clever design and planning that Strata and Energy can produce favourable outcomes for Strata Companies and unit owners. Understanding the complexities of each complex is important to ensure that the best solution is implemented for the individual complex. It is important to remember, when it comes to Strata and Energy there is no one plan fits all.
This post appears in Strata News #374.
Have a question or something to add to the article? Leave a comment below.
The information contained in this article is general information only and not legal advice.
This article has been republished with permission from the author and first appeared on the HFM Asset Management website.
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