Tania Thompson scratches her head when she sees sunlight covering the empty roof space on her social housing block.
Underneath, most of the block's 170 residents in inner Sydney are struggling with rising living costs, with some forgoing showers and giving up cooking on gas stovetops.
"They're looking for alternatives, but unfortunately some people just go without," Ms Thompson tells AAP.
"They're going without anything that uses any sort of energy.
"I find it quite sad to walk into someone's home, especially in the country that we live in, and see people going without and really stretching that money as far as it can go."
While energy bill concessions and one-off relief packages are available for residents, Ms Thompson wonders why solar panelling was not a feature of the new building to help cut bills.
"I scratched my head when I moved in here ... because they have all these roof spaces that are not used by anyone," she said.
"They could probably give energy to everyone in the Glebe, Pyrmont, Ultimo area - there's so much wasted space."
Rooftop solar generation has surged 30 per cent in the past year, reducing pressure on the national electricity grid, the Australian Energy Market Operator reported on Thursday.
Newly connected or commissioned utility-scale renewable energy introduced since April has also helped reduce wholesale prices and greenhouse gas emissions.
Yet renters are commonly locked out of the most effective long-term solution to reduce energy bills, community organisation Solar Citizens says.
"When you get a solar PV (photovoltaic) system on your roof, you're talking 20 years of savings, which is much better than a single one-off $500 rebate from the government," national director Heidi Lee Douglas told AAP.
The community group says more could be done to help private and public renters.
A Queensland trial in 2020 saved tenants about $600 a year by incentivising not-for-profit providers and other landlords to install solar panels in exchange for modest rent increases.
The Sunshine State is also setting the example for public renters by co-funding the federal government's $300 million social housing energy upgrade package.
Ms Douglas urged all states to come on board, particularly NSW ahead of its budget in September.
She emphasised the need for funding to go to solar and other smart technologies, rather than to supplement the state's social housing maintenance budgets.
"We don't want to see that money squandered, we want to see that money used for long-term cost-of-living benefits," Ms Douglas said.
It comes after a report into NSW's energy transition last week recommended the state use social housing and other government-owned buildings to build a steady pipeline of solar-panel "power plants''.
Report author Tim Buckley said solar could replace half of the capacity lost when NSW coal-fired power stations Eraring and Vales Point retire in 2025 and 2029 respectively.
"It requires next to no grid upgrades, so no cost-of-living pressure, and it can be done really bloody quickly," he told AAP.
About one in 20 of government-owned social homes in NSW have access to solar power.
The federal government said specific technologies used in the $300 million social housing energy upgrade fund would be determined in partnership with states and territories.
Assistant Energy Minister Jenny McAllister says the program is designed to fund a range of improvements to social housing, which could include everything from rooftop solar and household appliances to draught-proofing and double-glazing, with the aim of delivering energy and cost-saving benefits to a household.
"Australia's climate varies so much across our vast continent, and the type of housing varies along with it," she told AAP in a statement.
"The kinds of upgrades that are helpful for a fibro house in our north are often different from an apartment in our south."
NSW Energy Minister Penny Sharpe said she and the state housing minister were developing a response to the federal package.
"It's a great opportunity and we're working through how we can partner with the Commonwealth to deliver more renewable energy, particularly to social housing tenants and others," she told reporters on Thursday.
Ms Thompson remains hopeful rooftop solar will be in her community's future, or at least could be considered for future social housing builds.
"We're supposed to be a new model (for social housing), but I think we forgot a few things," she said.
Australian Associated Press