Crowdfunded solar energy for low-income housing

January 22, 2016
The Give Tanks crowdfund aims to raise $100,000.

Families struggling on low incomes and the environment will benefit from an innovative crowdfunding campaign to install solar hot water systems made by the Earthworker Cooperative in homes. The campaign is supported by organisations such as the Father Bob Maguire Foundation, Aboriginal Housing Victoria and Common Equity NSW.

The first installation of a solar system funded by the "Give Tanks" campaign took place on January 12 in a home managed by Aboriginal Housing Victoria.

Director of Operations at Aboriginal Housing Victoria Des Rogers said: "This opportunity to crowdfund the installation of hot water systems into some of our properties is very exciting.

“Most of our tenants are on low incomes and many have disabilities. So building and providing appropriate, affordable and sustainable accommodation for our tenants, who are in vulnerable situations a lot of the time, is really important to us and obviously to our tenants as well.

"We're very glad to partner with the Earthworker Cooperative, not just in this crowdfund, but in looking at Aboriginal employment and training."

The Give Tanks initiative, being run in partnership with Australia's first worker-owned green technology manufacturing cooperative, Eureka's Future, has been devised as a tangible way to help those excluded from the benefits of government subsidies for home energy-efficiency measures, reduce carbon emissions and support local jobs in manufacturing.

Improving residential energy efficiency has been identified as a key strategy for reducing Australia's contribution to greenhouse gas emissions, but significant barriers prevent low-income households from investing in green technology and joining in the renewable energy revolution, according to the Australian Council of Social Service.

Water heating is the second-largest source of household greenhouse emissions, comprising about a quarter of all emissions produced by the average Australian home, according to the Australian Bureau of Statistics. But only 10% of households have a solar hot water installation, compared to 14% who have taken up government incentives to install rooftop photovoltaic systems.

The energy saved by this low proportion of solar hot-water installations is estimated by the Clean Energy Council to be equivalent to 8.2% of the nation's clean energy generation.

The Give Tanks crowdfund aims to raise $100,000. With matching support from partner organisations, solar installation can help up to 50 tenants hit hardest by rising gas and electricity energy costs.

Eureka's Future, which makes solar hot-water tanks in Dandenong, is the first of what is hoped to be a nationwide network of cooperative enterprises meeting economic, social and environmental needs in a sustainable way.

The Earthworker Cooperative, an initiative bringing together people from diverse backgrounds to address the interconnected challenges of climate change, local job creation, manufacturing industry decline and social equity, supports the establishment of the manufacturing cooperative.

Peak environmental group Environment Victoria awarded Earthworker with the 2015 Community Environment Recognition Award, "for walking the talk, and for bringing a tangible worker-focused solution to the climate crisis".

Earthworker general secretary Dan Musil describes the cooperative's vision as innovative and practical action for the empowerment and prosperity of local communities.

"As part of this, we need to make sure that noone is left behind in the renewable energy revolution, and that we are putting in place the dignified green workplaces to achieve a just transition from old to new energy industries,” he said.

"Indeed, as the dust settles on the Paris climate talks, we are still left with the question of what are we actually going to do? The Earthworker cooperative is one innovative and proactive answer."

The Give Tanks campaign is entirely volunteer run, so all proceeds go towards installing solar hot water systems in low-income housing. For more information and to make a donation, click here.

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