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Rooftop solar nears 6GW milestone in Australia

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The rush to beat rising electricity prices and capitalise on falling rooftop solar costs has pushed Australia’s total installed small-scale renewable energy capacity to the 6GW (6,000 megawatt) mark, more than 5.9GW of which has come from PV panels installed on homes and businesses.

The Clean Energy Regulator, which released the data on Thursday, described it as a “remarkable milestone” that amounts to a collective generation capacity of around 11.2 million MWh of electricity a year. All those megawatt-hours displace fossil fuel capacity.

SRESchart

Led by Queensland, the so-called Sunshine State, Australian homes and businesses have installed almost 2.8 million small solar, wind, solar hot water or other renewable energy systems under the Small-scale Renewable Energy Scheme, the CER said.

CERdata

The new milestone comes after a bumper July for rooftop solar, when 93MW was installed on Australian homes and businesses across the month, as markets in every state continue to deliver the nation’s best year to date, with a total of 568MW installed for the first half of 2017.

According to The Australia Institute’s latest monthly Electricity Update of the National Energy Emissions Audit for August, rooftop solar accounted for more than 3 per cent of Australia’s electricity consumption in July.

“More than one in five Australian households now have solar panels installed on their roof, and that’s the highest rate per capita in the world,” said CER executive general manager Mark Williamson.

“We’ve also recorded a trend in larger systems being installed over the past few years, with the average capacity of a system increasing by 12 per cent from 2015 to 2016.

“More households, schools, community groups and businesses are looking to install solar panel systems. On top of this, prices are reducing to allow families to afford bigger systems”, Williamson said.

Small-scale systems include capacity of up to 100 kilowatts, or about 20 times the size of the average household system.

The SRES provides incentives to households and businesses by issuing small-scale technology certificates for every megawatt-hour of renewable energy generated or displaced by an accredited solar panel, wind, hydro system, solar water heater or air source heat pump.

On top of this incentive, Australian households and businesses have access to some of the lowest solar system and installation prices around.

It is not all good news, however. The booming market has led to a sudden drop in small-scale renewable energy certificate (STC) prices – which, as we reported here in July, caught many PV installers off-guard and pushed up the cost of installing solar by around 10 per cent for households and small business.

And while this may not have too much of a dampening effect on installation rates, there is some concern it will increase pressure on solar installers, already feeling the pinch of wafer-thin profit margins ranging from around 17 per cent to 26 per cent.

Further concerns were raised by market analyst IHS last week, when it warned that the unexpected solar boom in China could undermine Australia’s surging solar sector, by causing a bottleneck in module supplies and price rises by the end of the year.  

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  • riley222

    Got ours this month, a 5 kilowatt enphase system. Next step batteries but happy for now. When the sun shines, even a little bit, we’re effectively off grid.We can now run anything in the house at no cost for electricity any time the sun is shining. Fantastically satisfying, especially given the recent price rises

    • Joe

      Riley, welcome to the solar family!

      • riley222

        Thanks

  • Chris Drongers

    6,000,000kW of rooftop solar
    X 50% to allow for shading, aspect and weather
    =3000,000kW
    X 15% capacity factor x 24 hours (=3.6 hours at rated power per day)
    =1,800,000kWhr/day
    X 25c/kWhr retail
    =$450,000/day less retail sales
    X 365 days
    =$164M less in annual retail power sales a year.
    Not a lot of loss for retailers.

    • Andy Saunders

      You’re slightly undercooking each of the multipliers (except days/year). So your total is a considerable underestimate.

      • Chris Drongers

        Ok, raising actual/nameplate output to 75% and raising capacity factor from 15% to an ambitious 20% doubles actual output (75/50*20/15) and raises lost retail revenue to $2Bn/year. But unless you can show me actual regional output data I think the revised ratios are too high for real life situations

        • Andy Saunders

          50% shading is too low. And average retail is more like 27-28c

          But these are just quibbles, your overall message is well-taken!

    • Lee

      I love this funny idea that we need the same amount of power all day long every day! As if that’s how electricity is consumed and priced too. These numbers have no correlation to reality and demand and are completely meaningless.

      • Chris Drongers

        Thanks Lee for pointing out why keeping a big, old ‘baseload’ generator going makes so little sense.

        If you have a better way of estimating how much retail revenue rooftop PV has displaced, please share it.

        Anyway, most Australian homes are on flat rate tariffs for their electricity. If they use their PV generation in their home my figures are in the right ballpark.

  • Did all these people save money doing so? Did they instead spend that money on other things which generate greenhouse gases? Probably. Is this energy-efficiency just a feel good thing or does it really off-set what would have been otherwise emitted as a heat-trapping gas?

    “Every gain in energy-efficiency has been undercut by an increase in the use of energy.” – Paul Roberts

    • Chris Drongers

      Keeping people alive by having electricity raises the amount of consumers and hence the amount of greenhouse gases, and around and around. So reducto ad absurdum

      • You missed the point of my comment. Please investigate Jevons
        paradox
        . I’m just drawing attention to an outcome or lack thereof. Please think it through. If I save money on electricity I can go overseas more often or buy another big tv.

        Others, including many environmental economists, doubt this ‘efficiency strategy’ towards sustainability, and worry that efficiency gains may in fact lead to higher production and consumption.

        • Chris Drongers

          I understand Jevon’s paradox. I was trying to say that because of the defacto equivalence of energy and money in macroeconomic systems, decreasing energy consumption by increasing efficiency merely makes an equivalent amount of energy consumption possible in some other activity. It shoul be close to a zero sum game overall.

          • But status quo is not the outcome we want. We want much less ghg emissions, not the roughly the same.

    • Joe

      You just have to look at yearly new car sales. 1 million plus new cars sold last year and it has been like that for a number of years now. With our dumbass NSW State Govt. building new mega roads all the time it just invites more and more cars. Air travel is another boom industry. Our transport choices are just fuelling more and more emissions.