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SA community housing tenants access cheaper electricity in Australian-first partnership

In an Australian first, 1,750 community housing tenants are being invited to access the lowest electricity prices in South Australia through a virtual power plant previously accessible only to public housing residents.

Unity Housing, one of the state’s largest community housing providers (CHP), in partnership with Tesla, will be the first CHP to provide tenants access to South Australia’s Virtual Power Plant (SAVPP) – the largest VPP in the nation.

This is the first time the SAVPP – set up by Tesla in 2017 with support from the State Government initially for public housing tenants – is being opened to low to moderate income tenants in community housing.

Unity Housing CEO, Matthew Woodward, said the partnership was a game-changer for the national community housing sector, benefiting tenant households and the environment.

Mr Woodward said Tesla would install batteries and/or solar panels to the homes of eligible Unity Housing tenants so they could generate and store green energy, returning excess into the grid, at no cost to the tenant.

“Unity Housing tenants will be the first in the community housing sector to share the benefits of cheaper and renewable energy at scale by participating in this scheme at a time when household budgets are under increasing pressure from rising living costs,” he said.

“That’s what makes this initiative so important – it provides people in greatest need with no-cost green energy infrastructure that will help manage the household budget, reducing stress and anxiety and improving health and wellbeing, while helping the environment. It’s a win, win, win.”

Minster for Housing and Urban Development, Nick Champion, said this initiative would provide real savings to lower income earners.

“The increasing cost of living is a real issue being felt across Adelaide and initiatives like the SA Virtual Power Plant will make a genuine difference to the tenants at Unity Housing,” he said.

“It’s important we continue to look at various ways to make housing more affordable and this partnership is an example of what can be achieved when the Government works with community housing providers to change the lives of South Australians doing it tough.”

Tesla, through Energy Locals, shares the benefits of savings from energy produced via the solar and battery systems by providing tenants the lowest energy prices in SA.

Unity Housing tenants could save up to $562 a year – or 25 per cent off the South Australian Default Market Offer based on average tenant household usage.

To date, more than 250 Unity Housing tenants, located predominantly across Adelaide’s western suburbs, have registered to join the SAVPP and more than 150 have been benefitting from cheaper electricity over the past three months through the installation of batteries and/or solar panels.

The combined yearly impact of all 7,000 SAVPP sites installed by the end of 2024 amounts to an indicative reduction in emissions of 20,825 tonnes of CO2-e per year.*

Unity Housing provides safe, secure and sustainable homes for South Australians with diverse needs including those on low to moderate incomes; at risk of or experiencing homelessness; and/or living with disability – all of whom may have difficulty obtaining or maintaining housing in the public or private market.


*Calculated using average SAVPP solar generation data per site per year, average yearly electricity consumption in South Australian homes and a scope 2 emissions factor for the South Australian grid from 2020 National Greenhouse Accounts Factor data.