The City of Sydney is injecting $750,000 towards an innovative campaign by network owner Ausgrid to encourage more rooftop solar in the council area, along with other demand management initiatives that could avoid costly grid upgrades.
Sydney’s decision will lift the money available to subsidise rooftop solar and other initiatives by 50 per cent – to a total of $2.25 million.
As we reported last November, the decision by Ausgrid to seek more solar in its local network turns many of the arguments against solar subsidies on their head.
While they are invariably branded by conservative think tanks like the Grattan Institute as a cost burden – and it was at it again this week in both the Guardian, and the ABC – Ausgrid insists that the benefits from avoided network upgrades will vastly outweighs the costs.
A similar conclusion has been reached from the contribution of rooftop solar to reducing and delaying the peaks in heatwaves in Queensland, where AEMO noted its key role in “remarkable” circumstances, as well as NSW, South Australia and West Australia, and for making a huge dent in wholesale pricing peaks at the same time.
Ausgrid CEO Richard Gross says the network has the second lowest rate of solar take-up by customers in the country, with just 7 per cent of customers having solar – due mostly to the high number of apartments and businesses.
This initiative is designed to encourage those building owners to install solar on apartment blocks and commercial sites. It will help Ausgrid lower demand on the grid and reduce the need for Ausgrid to replace ageing infrastructure.
“This is an exciting opportunity for Ausgrid customers to be part of an innovative program that will help reduce electricity use, make the grid more sustainable, improve affordability and benefit the environment,” Gross says.
“Our network has the second lowest rate of solar take-up by customers due to the high number of apartments and businesses in our footprint, but this project could realise a solution that would possibly increase the number of solar installations on apartment buildings and leased commercial properties.”
The grant program is available for rooftop solar installations, as well as LED lighting, variable speed pumps and smart building control systems.
Lord Mayor Clover Moore said the initiative would help the City of Sydney reach its targets to reduce emissions by 70 per cent and source half of the electricity supply in our area from renewables.
“We’re covering as many of our own buildings with solar PV as we can, but we can’t control the buildings we don’t own. Initiatives like this encourage building owners across the city to invest in renewables and energy efficiency measures.”
The initiative offered incentives of $250 per kilowatt installed on rooftops of warehouses and other industrial and commercial facilities in Sydney suburbs such as Auburn, Erskineville, Alexandria, Redfern, Randwick, Waterloo and Kingsford Smith.
It is understood that the list of suburbs may have been adjusted since that time. Four service providers have been shortlisted as a result of that tender.
The $2.25 million provided by Ausgrid and City of Sydney cited in their release relates to the suburbs within that city council area. Suburbs in other councils will presumably access the remainder of the $500,000 funding outlined by Ausgrid in its original tender document.
Rooftop solar is being targeted because it will coincide with the actual demand from the business activities that take place under the rooftop. And it may lead the way to more innovative solutions such as peer-to-peer trading and local micro-grids.