November 2012 will be remembered by Australian sunlovers for two noteworthy events: 1) a solar eclipse visible across most of Australia, and 2) the month cumulative Australian PV installations reached 2 gigawatts (GW) (equivalent to 2,000 Megawatts or 2,000,000 kilowatts).
This threshold has been reached in previously only-dreamed of rapidity, and has been paradoxically accellerated rather than decelerated by the removal of government incentives. (Politicians take notice, there are tens of thousands of solar voters in your electorate.)
Take, for example, the case of Queensland. The graph below shows Clean Energy Regulator data released this time last year (red dotted lines), compared with the finalised figures once all installations were accounted for (solid red line), compared with installations registered so far this year. A few things are noteworthy: 1) July-December 2011 were very steady, at comparably low levels; 2) installations in January-June 2012 were significantly greater than at the same point last year, even before all installations are accounted for. So what led to these conditions, and how is this relevant to today?
This is important in today’s context. The Climate Change Authority is seeking a way to contain SRES costs (SunWiz was honoured to be invited by the CCA to represent the PV industry at its RET Review roundtable). We have argued that the solar booms have been caused by tariff and multiplier reductions which have (finally) almost played out, but the CCA is still fearful of an overheated PV industry acting to impact on retail electricity prices (even while it acknowledges that the impact is offset by a near-equivalent reduction in wholesale electricity prices). However, the main problem with the CCA’s proposal to apply a solar ‘divisor’ to the entire system capacity (not just the first 1.5kW) is that it will need to be fore-communicated by the minister well in advance so that the PV industry can advertise updated pricing to new customers.
Whatever happens, there must remain an incentive to use accredited product and installers, and to register systems so we can bring you good news like today’s. For with 2GW on the grid, PV now has a material impact upon the electricity market (in which 25-50GW of generation may be active at any time). To successfully operate the market, the Australian Electricity Market Operator (and its participants) need detailed understanding at 5-minute intervals of the volume and performance of PV.