This is a ground-breaking project to produce renewable energy in shared accommodation which traditionally has not been suited to the deployment of solar systems.
Gilbert + Tobin advised Stucco Co-operative Limited on this project. STUCCO is a University of Sydney student housing co-operative based in a converted factory in Newtown that has been operational for over 25 years and provides housing for 38 low-income University of Sydney students.
In an Australian first, the residents at STUCCO launched a project to produce, store and use electricity generated from solar panels installed on the premises. Gilbert + Tobin worked with STUCCO on the project to have a solar PV and battery storage system to power the communal areas and individual units installed on the premises. Each unit has its own meter and a power purchasing agreements were developed by Gilbert + Tobin and executed between STUCCO and its members to allow the electricity generated to be purchased by residents.
This involved a particularly interesting and innovative regulatory process that Gilbert + Tobin drove, with this being the first exemption given for an embedded storage facility in a multi-dwelling residential unit (i.e. a battery in unit complex).
The project was partially funded by an $80,000 grant from the City of Sydney in order to provide more affordable energy to the students living at the housing co-operative and to promote further investment and innovation in renewable energy solutions.
Gilbert + Tobin assisted STUCCO with all aspects of the 1.5 year long project, including advising on regulatory approvals and registrations required for the project, assisting with exemption applications to the Australian Energy Regulator, drafting the power purchasing agreements with members and advising on the implementation of the project within STUCCO's existing governance structure.
The Gilbert + Tobin team comprised Banking + Infrastructure partner Gail Christopher (herself a former resident of STUCCO during her time studying at the University of Sydney), working alongside Competition + Regulation partner Simon Muys and lawyer Natalie Stianos. Together, this team was able to leverage the firm's significant finance and environmental expertise in the commercial sector.
Gail Christopher commented: "the team at STUCCO and I hope this will become a model for other apartment body corporates and housing co-operatives which would like to switch to renewable energy. I am so delighted to have been given this opportunity to work with STUCCO on a project that is particularly close to my heart given my time as a member there".
Simon Muys added, "there has been a lot of discussion over recent years about the regulatory arrangements that are needed to promote solar PV and embedded storage. This was the first time that a multi-tenanted residential apartment obtained a regulatory exemption from the regulator to enable it to install and collectively supply large scale battery and solar to the units in the complex. It is the kind of complex, cutting edge project we love to be part of."
This work was undertaken as a pro-bono matter. In addition to Gilbert + Tobin's dedicated pro bono team, most of the firm's lawyers provide pro bono assistance with the firm opening more than 600 matters of pro bono work in 2015-16.