Roads increase household electricity bills

New research into household electricity use shows black roads, no trees and dark roofs drive up household electricity bills.

In what may be a first, the electricity use of ten Sydney households located in or near a city block was closely monitored for 12 months along with the temperatures in the nearby roads and gardens.

The research, by a not-for-profit company, Street Coolers, set up by Michael Mobbs, includes houses with and without air conditioning. 

If you’re interested in cooling our cities we’re delighted to provide a link to the Street Coolers website ( where you may download a copy of our report on this research and design development to the NSW Office of Environment and Heritage.  We welcome partnerships and stakeholders who wish to share data and project information and we invite you to contact us at Street Coolers.

“We now know that houses with no air conditioning pay higher electricity bills”, said Street Coolers Project Manager, Marianna Verlage.  “I’m returning to Texas to work and I’ll be taking this research back there where it gets hot, too.”

“A very conservative estimate is that roads cause an annual additional electricity cost to Sydney householders without aircon of over $40m.  Once houses and offices with aircon are added in I roughly estimate our roads are driving up electricity bills by over $200m a year. Other city-wide research, which is in the report, confirms this and puts the cost even higher’, said Marianna.

The research covers the second year of a ten year project by Street Coolers to trial options for cooling a city block. 

Two cooling options are underway.

One is a trial street garden with the prototype in Newtown designed by Michael Mobbs to irrigate street trees with street rainwater and increase the height and shade of trees as well as reduce street water pollution of harbours and rivers.  The other option is to change the colour of a road from black to pale and two trials are underway, one in Chippendale (the photo shows pale media being laid there in Myrtle Street) and one in Marrickville.  Street Coolers is analysing temperature and other data collected from these two options, and will continue to make the data and analysis freely available. 

Street Cooler’s goal is to cool Australian cities by 2 degrees by 2020 and is sharing its research freely with government and the private sector to enable any person in the private and public sectors to use the data in their projects.  A recent residential flats project by the large developer Mirvac in Alexandria, Sydney, has focussed on reducing the urban heat at the site and large plantings of trees and vegetation will be fed by rainwater harvested there; story on the Sydney Morning Herald's site.

Information and enquiries about how to cool your streets, including installing Michael’s streetgardens are here.