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Rooftop solar now 2% of Australia’s total generation

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This graph below caught our eye – showing not just the increase in installed capacity of rooftop solar PV in Australia in recent years, but also the increase in individual household system size.

This data – included in the International Energy Agency’s Photovoltaic Systems Program annual report – is taken to the end of 2013, although recent figures show that the accumulated total is now 3.4GW on around 1.4 million homes.

A couple of key points emerge.  The first is that the size of residential rooftop solar PV systems increased from 1kW in 2009 to 4kW in 2013. In just the last three years, the size of the system has more than doubled, and the total capacity has risen three-fold.

The report says that around 850MW of solar PV was installed in 2013,  mainly small- scale residential systems. Despite increased restrictions on PV power exports to the grid, and low or zero rates now paid for exported power, solar PV system sizes have continued to increase.

The second major point is that rooftop solar PV now accounts for around 5% of electricity capacity and 2% of electricity generation in Australia. As we have seen, this is eating into the earnings of incumbent generators and is one of the main reasons they want support for rooftop solar to be removed.

The report notes that module prices continued to drop from $1.30 per watt in 2012 to around 75c/watt  and installed prices for small residential systems dropped from an average of around $3/watt to around $2.50 watt.

“With continued increases in grid electricity prices, PV is a cost effective option for homeowners across Australia and is of increasing interest to the commercial sector.”

However, the report warned that development of the commercial market is currently hampered by the lack of standardised procedures or rights to connect, while the residential market may be impacted by restrictions, fees and other disincentives. “If imposed, these could result in further market contraction in 2014.”

It also noted that there is increasing customer interest in on-site storage.

“Although not yet cost effective for most customers, a market for storage is already developing. This trend could exacerbate issues faced by incumbent electricity sector businesses, even if it offers a means to manage supply intermittency and peak demand, since it would facilitate the installation of larger PV systems and may also see a trend to self-sufficiency and disconnection of customers from main grids.”

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  • RobS

    How can you look at that graph and then use the term “further market contraction”! It’s ongoing exponential growth for gods sake. I get so sick of even the optimistic renewable watchers being so pessimistic all the time. Solar could reach 100% of grid generation and the next month when no further systems were installed because it was already at 100% the renewable blogs and energy agencies would be talking about the “catastrophic plunge” in solar installations.

    • nakedChimp

      I upped you (as I support the underlying goal of pointing out mis-fixation on growth rates), but looking at the graph it is indeed a shrinking growth rate, not being linear or even exponential.. The blue graph is nearly linear from Jan 2010 (500MW) to Jan 2014 (3200MW).. this makes 2700MW over 4 years or ~337MW/half year.
      Now if you calculate growth rate from that you get:

      Jun-2010 67%
      Jan-2011 40%
      Jun-2011 29%
      Jan-2012 22%
      Jun-2012 18%
      Jan-2013 15%
      Jun-2013 13%
      Jan-2014 12%

      And this is not good news for investors/financial dudes who rely on growth/profits.. sorry man, this is capitalism after all and it even can’t handle linear growth. Especially as the 337MW being added in Jan 2010 cost x times more than the 337MW that have been added in Jan 2014.

      • RobS

        Eh the investors and financial dudes can take their wet dreams of never ending exponential growth and do whatever they want with them. The reality is we have practically linear growth in solar installations I. An electricity market with consistent drops in total demand.

  • Chris Fraser

    That’s good news. If solar PV now accounts for around 5% of electricity capacity mainly from 12% of all householders, and we make a potentially bad generalisation that 1)everyone sleeps under an approximately equal roof area (& allow residents of flats with bodies corporate equal access to ‘their’ roof area), and 2) we have access to cheap storage to permit peaks and troughs of energy demand to be catered for without wasting a drop of PV … then households will potentially control 40% of new energy generation. They’d have to rewrite the old business model of supply and distribution to cater for control going to households and businesses with PV.

    • Motorshack

      Given that the profit margins for big businesses are often in single digits, and only rarely get beyond the low double digits, you won’t need a 40% switch to PV before the old business model of the power industry is wrecked. The current penetration of 2% is already causing screams of pain and fear in the industry, and 5% is quite possibly the end of all profits, for all time.

      Point is: no profits, no investors.

      And that lack of willing investors is what will kill the industry as we know it.

      And that in turn will kill the coal industry as we know it.

      This is not to say that the whole fight will be over in another year or two, but only that the power industry will have to change radically if it is to continue to exist as anything other than a corpse propped up with government subsidies.

      Also, clearly, the people running the industry do not care where their profits come from. Money is money. So, getting their profits in the form of subsidies is something they will be willing to settle for.

      But even that will not work for long, as PV continues to eat into their market share in completely relentless fashion.

      In short, I think PV is much closer to dominating the market than most people think.

      • DoRightThing

        The Government also won’t be able to ban the “neighbour net” word-of-mouth recommendations for solar either. It is going or is on the cusp of going viral.
        What could be better than personal energy independence?

    • Peter Campbell

      Interesting that you mention Body Corporates. A majority at ‘Wybalena Grove’, a set of townhouses in the ACT, voted to install a PV system on a large shared common property carport roof in 2009. Certain owners took legal action to prevent it going ahead, took it to the local paper etc and had it stopped. In the end our experience resulted in my submission to the review of the ACT Unit Titles Act. The ACT’s Unit Titles (Management) Act 2011 now has a section (s.23) that permits sustainability equipment to be installed on common property by ordinary resolution (simple majority) if certain matters are covered in a proposal. After it was put to a third general meeting, having got an increasing majorities in favour across the 3 meetings, we eventually got our PV system installed just over a year ago. We get a gross FIT. I applied mid-afternoon on the last day it was available in the ACT. Our PV system now puts as much energy into the grid by day as we consume by night for path and parking area lighting on the common property by night. As treasurer, I am about to report the first complete year’s financial figures in which electricity appears in the accounts as a negative expense. Blocks of flats with underground parking and corridor lighting could do very well with net metering and an unshaded roof.

      Some other wrinkles became apparent along the way. EG. it matters that the the owners corporation/body corporate resolves to ‘hold the PV system ‘in trust’ for the owners’ if there is feed-in tariff income. See: http://tinyurl.com/9yufydw
      For private roofs of individual townhouse units, another section of the Act prohibits rules (AKA by-laws or articles) that would prevent the installation of sustainability equipment. We now have quite a few units with private PV and solar hot water systems as well as the larger system on common property. Also, it means it is not possible to ban clothes lines, the most cost-effective solar equipment you can get.

      • David Osmond

        Glad you got it built in the end, nice work Peter

      • Chris Fraser

        Great outcome. I’m hoping simple majorities will suffice. Also, majorities or perhaps 60% majorities could be considered for demolition and rebuilding (to keep up with modern building technologies, savings and amenity of course :-)

  • Beat Odermatt

    Roofs do not digging up farms, forests and National Parks! Every roof in Australia should should be used to harvest solar power. Why burn fuel on earth when it is already done on the sun?