How far behind is Australia lagging in the global solar race? As part of its report this week on Australia’s outdated, fossil fuel-heavy electricity sector, the Climate Council has taken the opportunity to remind us that Australia – “the sunny country” – barely cracks the global top 10 for installed solar PV capacity, with the chart below showing Australia ranked 9th in 2012, according to data from REN21.
And while these figures are not the most up to date – 2013 saw China and Japan add the most new PV capacity, with 11.3GW connected to the grid in China and around 6.9GW in Japan – Australia is still lagging, despite reaching the milestone 3GW mark of solar PV in December last year, as Queensland nudged 1GW and states like South Australia reached household penetration rates of 25 per cent.
But there is huge potential. The Climate Council report quotes predictions from industry experts that by 2020, solar PV systems installed in Australia could double or quadruple, to between 6-12GW. But recent actual installations, it notes, suggest outcomes at the higher end of this range.
Considering the key drivers of PV growth – the ongoing reductions in product costs and to increasingly high-cost power bills – these predictions look increasingly probable. After all, a recent study on solar grid parity around the world found that Australia lead the world in energy savings from rooftop solar, thanks to its high electricity costs and its abundant sunshine – two factors that are unlikely to change in the near future.