Electrification powers up energy data requirements for strata

Apartment building image ex Canva for Wattwatchers blog post feature image

SNAPSHOT: With nearly 350,000 residential strata buildings around Australia, housing an estimated 6 million people, it’s not surprising that the ‘electrification of everything’ trend is catching the attention of tenants and body corporates alike. With some notable (and award-winning) exceptions, many strata sites have struggled to join the rooftop solar revolution, but electrification is inevitable and getting more granular site data on electricity can be a key first step. Wattwatchers can help!

‘I live in a strata complex. We are interested in learning more about our electricity loads on several of our distribution boards to help us manage requests for installations of EV chargers and induction stoves.’

This is the opening two sentences of a recent email to Wattwatchers, and the content is becoming more common by the day, which isn’t surprising given that over a fifth of all Australians are living in strata properties.

Growing pressure for installation of electric vehicle (EV) charging in strata site parking areas, which often are served by ‘common property area’ electricity supplies that are billed to the body corporate, is becoming impossible for building management to ignore.

Perhaps less well-known is the impact on pre-existing electrical supply capacity in apartment buildings of de-gasification, especially moving from gas cooktops to electric induction cooktops.

Imagine dozens or even hundreds of apartment building occupants arriving home in the early evening, putting their EVs on to charge, and then going upstairs and powering up their induction cooktops to prepare dinner.

Demand management is required, and that can start with energy monitoring like Wattwatchers to better understand current loads on distribution boards, and the available capacity to accommodate new electrical loads like EV charging and induction cooking.

Electrify my strata

One of Wattwatchers’ go-to partners in the sustainability for strata space, expert advisory startup Wattblock, has launched a new electrification initiative in the North Sydney local government area (LGA), which is dominated by strata apartment buildings.

It’s called Electrify Strata North Sydney 2060, and is inspired in part by Dr Saul Griffith, Australia’s leading ‘electrify everything’ guru, who created the national campaign Rewiring Australia and the Electrify 2515 campaign for houses in the northern beach suburbs of Wollongong.

Wattblock CEO Brent Clark explains: ‘We thought we would kickstart Electrify Strata for North Sydney. We’ve mapped 2,400 strata schemes across the LGA and which ones have installed: solar, battery, EV charging, heat pumps for domestic hot water (not heat pumps for pools); electricity monitoring devices, embedded networks, NABERS for Apartment Buildings Energy/Water ratings, and EV carshare.’

Of eight buildings that Wattblock recorded as having energy monitoring devices, seven of them were using Wattwatchers. (Wattwatchers and Wattblock have previously collaborated to make a special offer for strata buildings to monitor their common property area electrical circuits, under the My Energy Marketplace consumer data project.)

Living the dream

Tim Prosser, a sustainability innovation and digital transformation expert who volunteers with Zero Emissions Sydney North and Climate Salad, lives in one of the North Sydney LGA strata complexes that has Wattwatchers monitoring installed.

Prosser has recently published a (thus far) two-part blog post series on renewables and electrification in strata, based in part on experience with the small apartment complex (seven townhouses) that he lives in at Neutral Bay, and which has Wattwatchers monitoring in place.

Blog Part 1 – Communal Solar Power for Strata – Roadmap for $1 million in Savings & Added Value

B;og Part 2 – Pledges to Progress – Electrifying Strata and the Role of Finance

For EV charging preparations in stratas, Prosser puts installation of energy monitoring such as Wattwatchers front and centre, recommending that body corporates start a strata discussion committee and pass a by-law before the first EV arrives on the scene, followed by a three-stage ‘project’ for body corporates: 1) Install & enable electricity monitoring device to better understand existing capacity and usage; 2) Design & Install base infrastructure + Wi-Fi; and, finally, 3) Individual lot owner Charge Point install (this phase at time and cost of owners choosing).

Prosser told Wattwatchers that there is ‘definitely a generational skew’ in strata communities in regard to sustainability, renewables and electrification: ‘Younger tenants are more switched on to the issues. Some owners can be obstinate, and the whole finance thing is not resolved. But councils are being pretty active.’

Solar in strata

Sharing in the rooftop solar revolution remains a major challenge for strata communities, with Prosser writing in the first of his blog series: Earlier this year I read a statement that left me a bit baffled ‘10% of Australian homes are part of a strata plan but only 0.6% of these have rooftop solar’. A figure in stark contrast with 30% of Australian homes already benefiting from rooftop solar and part of the world leading 3 million solar systems on Aussie homes.

One body corporate in Queensland has come up with an award-winning business model for rooftop solar, which includes Wattwatchers solutions for energy monitoring and approved metering for customer billing across 70+ townhouses at the Noosa Lakes Resort on the Sunshine Coast.

As One Step Off The Grid reported recently, the Noosa Lakes Resort project has won the Strata Community Environmental & Engagement Award at the 2022-2023 Strata Community Australasia Awards Gala.

Wattwatchers also recognises the leadership of fellow Australian energy technology scale-up Allume Energy in the solar for apartments/multi-dwelling building space, with its award-winning SolShare technology that literally enables solar sharing between apartments in multiple-occupancy dwellings.