Can you get solar panels as a renter?

It’s no secret there is huge potential for small-scale solar energy generation in Australia – just look at the three plus million homes that already have panels installed! While solar can save homeowners a stack of cash on their electricity bills, it begs the question; can renters get in on the action too?

With high upfront costs and installation being permanently fixed to a property, we take a look at whether or not tenants in rentals can harness the power of the sun through solar power. In this guide, Canstar Blue uncovers if renters can get solar panels installed in Australia. It also shares some of the options available to them when it comes to accessing greener energy sources at a property they don’t own.

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Can you get solar panels if you rent?

It is certainly possible to get solar panels when renting a property, but in the end it will come down to the landlord and what they are comfortable with being installed at the property. Some rentals may already come with rooftop solar panels, in which case, renters can start accessing solar energy straight away, although the landlord may have an agreement in place prior to signing the lease indicating how this transaction would work.

But, if you find yourself renting a property that doesn’t have solar panels installed already, there are a few ways you could go about accessing solar energy at the property, whether that’s through installing your own system or not.

Three ways renters can access solar at their property

Solar power for homeowners is pretty straightforward; they purchase a system, have it installed and start generating their own energy. Solar power for renters however, is more of a challenge, especially when landlords are brought into the equation. But that doesn’t necessarily mean it’s impossible. If you are a renter looking to access solar energy at your property, here are three ways in which you could go about this.

1.Ask your landlord to install solar panels

Depending on the relationship you have with your landlord, this may seem like an extremely daunting option. If you are only entering a short-term contract at the property, this request may be a bit of a stretch, but, if you have a long-term agreement, or a tight-knit relationship with your landlord, then it may be worth asking them to install solar panels at your home. Of course, this is probably going to be positively received if you support your request with some research around the benefits of solar energy (particularly the benefits it would have to their property) and how you would contribute financially to the installation.

Some things you could propose during this conversation include;

  • A split incentive: Perhaps you agree to a slight increase in rent in order to help cover the costs of the solar installation.
  • Landlord receives a solar-feed in tariff: Solar feed-in tariffs (FiT) generate a credit on your electricity bill for the unused solar energy sent back to the grid. If your landlord were to install solar on the property, it may be worth making an agreement where they receive the credits from solar exports to help pay off the upfront costs.
  • Renter purchases the solar system: If you are really keen to get solar installed at the property you are renting, it may be worth suggesting that you purchase the solar system. This may require a bit of negotiation however, to ensure that you can take the system with you once you move away. Keep in mind though, that this could be quite a pricey endeavour, as you’ll likely either have to leave the system you paid for at the property or fork out a lot to dismount the system and remount it at a new location when you move.

It may also be worth mentioning to your landlord that they may be eligible for a solar rebate or concession to help offset the cost of installing solar at their rental property.

2.Install a portable solar panel

Portable solar panel on the grass

Another way renters can access solar at their residence is through the use of portable solar panels. Often used for camping, boating or caravanning, portable solar panels are smaller, compact systems that allow for self-sufficient energy generation in temporary locations. These can come in the form of mats, blankets or a smaller version of the typical tile structure seen on rooftop designs.

If installing a full-sized system isn’t a viable option whilst renting, it may be worthwhile to install a portable solar panel in the yard or on the window sills of the property. Keep in mind however, that these portable systems will need to be connected to their own charge controller or generator to be fully functional.

Before setting up a portable solar panel system it may be worth just double checking with your landlord that you have permission to do so.

There are a handful of companies that sell temporary solar panels for renters, such as Solazone, which claims to offer solar installations with removable frames that won’t damage the roof. Portable solar systems for renters may also be available from fishing and camping stores.

3.Connect to a solar garden

Joining a solar garden, also known as a solar bank, can help renters gain access to solar energy. A solar garden is a collection of centrally-located, grid-connected solar panels which generate and export power. To join a bank or garden, residents purchase a plot within the collection. From here, the resident can receive financial credits from the energy generated by their plot within the garden.

It’s important to note that by joining a solar garden, the renter won’t always be receiving a direct source of solar energy to their home. Rather, they are contributing to the generation of solar energy for the grid as a whole. They will, however, receive bill credits for their contributions.

Some community solar gardens may be run by a collection of residents in a near-by area. If you live in an apartment building, you may even find that your complex will maintain its own solar bank as a way to access solar power. A select few retailers, such as Enova Energy, also run their own community solar garden programs for customers.

Do renters have access to a solar feed-in tariff if they get solar?

Australian money placed on top of a solar PV panel

If there is solar installed at a rental property then it should be eligible for a solar feed-in tariff. Whether or not the renter will be able to claim any credits on their bills via the FiT will depend on the arrangement they have with their landlord.

Some landlords may simply decide to leave the electricity account in the name of the tenant, allowing them to pay for their energy usage and receive any credits from exporting electricity. Other landlords, however, may decide to keep the electricity account in their name in order to keep track of the credits earnt from exporting power. If this is the case, the landlord may make an agreement with their tenant similar to the following:

  • The landlord pays the electricity bill on the tenant’s behalf and asks the renter to pay back the full amount, including what the credits would have subsidised. This means the renter will not benefit from the credits and the landlord can absorb the credit for their own use.
  • The landlord pays the electricity bill on the tenant’s behalf and asks the renter to pay back the full amount minus the credits earnt. This way the tenant still receives a small discount.
  • The landlord pays the electricity on the tenant’s behalf, absorbs the credits earnt from the solar exports and includes the electricity costs as part of the rent.

These arrangements are usually discussed prior to leasing or within the rental period, so unless otherwise specified, it is safe to assume that a renter would be receiving the credits from exporting electricity.

To see which retailers are rated best by Aussies, check out our report on Best Solar Energy Providers.

Solar Plans & Prices

Here is a handful of solar deals available in New South Wales, Victoria, Queensland and South Australia. These plans are marketed towards customers with solar panels and normally come with a higher feed-in tariff than standard electricity plans. While a high FiT is great, just be sure to check it isn’t concealing higher base rates as this can make any credits received from solar void.

Here are some of the cheapest solar-specific deals from the retailers on our database. These costs are based on the Ausgrid network in Sydney but prices will vary depending on your circumstances. We show one product per retailer, listed in order of lowest price first. Annual price estimates assume general energy usage of 3900kWh/year for a residential customer on a single rate tariff. Price estimates exclude solar feed-in tariff credits. These are products from referral partners†. Our database may not cover all deals in your area, and please check retailer websites for up to date information.

Here are some of the cheapest solar-specific deals from the retailers on our database. These costs are based on the Citipower network in Melbourne but prices will vary depending on your circumstances. We show one product per retailer, listed in order of lowest price first. Annual price estimates assume general energy usage of 4000kWh/year for a residential customer on a single rate tariff. Price estimates exclude solar feed-in tariff credits. These are products from referral partners†. Our database may not cover all deals in your area, and please check retailer websites for up to date information.

Here are some of the cheapest solar-specific deals from the retailers on our database. These costs are based on the Energex network in Brisbane but prices will vary depending on your circumstances. We show one product per retailer, listed in order of lowest price first. Annual price estimates assume general energy usage of 4600kWh/year for a residential customer on a single rate tariff. Price estimates exclude solar feed-in tariff credits. These are products from referral partners†. Our database may not cover all deals in your area, and please check retailer websites for up to date information.

Here are some of the cheapest solar-specific deals from the retailers on our database. These costs are based on SA Power network in Adelaide but prices will vary depending on your circumstances. We show one product per retailer, listed in order of lowest price first. Annual price estimates assume general energy usage of 4000kWh/year for a residential customer on a single rate tariff. Price estimates exclude solar feed-in tariff credits. These are products from referral partners†. Our database may not cover all deals in your area, and please check retailer websites for up to date information.

Can you apply for a solar rebate as a renter?

While there are a few solar rebates on offer for homeowners across different states and territories, there doesn’t seem to be any solar rebates for renters. There may be solar concessions and schemes in the future that target renters, but for now, there are no specific rebates on offer for tenants.

How else can I access greener energy as a renter?

If you can’t get solar as a renter, there are still a few other ways in which you can use greener energy in your home. For example, it may be worth checking out a carbon neutral or GreenPower energy plan.

Carbon neutral energy plans offset the emissions generated from your electricity usage, usually at no extra cost. With GreenPower plans, you can elect a percentage of your power usage that you would like your retailer to match with credits from a government-funded renewable energy generator. This, however, may come at an additional charge. You may also find it useful to purchase energy efficient appliances. These could help you to reduce your power usage, as well as your carbon footprint and potentially even your energy bills.

To check out some of the greener energy options on offer in Australia, head to our comparison tool below. You’ll be able to compare a variety of retailers on factors such as price and solar feed-in tariffs, plus much more. Best of all, it’s also completely free! Just type in your postcode and you are good to go.


Image credit: Roy Pedersen/Shutterstock.com, Ben Jeayes/Shutterstock.com, simez78/Shutterstock.com.

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