A St Vincent de Paul report released in 2016 spotlighting high levels of energy use in the western region of NSW has sparked an innovative ‘tenant-centred’ response from the NSW Aboriginal Housing Office (AHO).
AHO Chief Executive Shane Hamilton says, when his organisation first reviewed the report, they immediately considered the findings alarming, particularly as many tenants were reporting energy debt of $3,000 or more, which was having a direct effect on their tenancy. Shane and his team believed this issue needed to be addressed in a creative way and the report – coupled with other AHO data – provided the basis for the organisation to consolidate its existing thinking around tenant support.
“We’d already been doing some work in the background across that region – looking at an air conditioning policy, for instance – and a better understanding of our market in western NSW,” explains Shane. “We also knew that we wanted to bring some benefit to our tenants through solar use. Then we came across the Eddy energy management system, devised by the CSIRO, which was being used in commercial environments. It occurred to us that this system could also translate to other settings.”
As a result, the AHO is rolling out three key measures to over 100 of their properties in the Dubbo region of NSW: The first measure is focused on tenant education and providing information on energy efficiency, linked to available supports and programs. The second is the installation of Eddy across its properties that, as an energy management system, empowers tenants to manage, monitor and control their own energy use. The third is the installation of solar panels to offset energy use and directly reduce energy costs.
The AHO proposes that a key feature of the approach is that the organisation is multifaceted, and acknowledges that increasing tenant control, awareness and education is critical to success.
As Shane Hamilton describes, “It’s not just hoping tenants know what’s happening at their property, it’s actually giving them the tools to know. Our approach is unique because it really empowers the tenants to take control of their understanding of the systems. It allows them to see what is drawing on their power so they can make informed decisions about their own activity. We’re not only driving down the costs but actively empowering them to manage it themselves.”
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