Massive surge in rooftop solar would bring end to Australia's coal era | RenewEconomy

Massive surge in rooftop solar would bring end to Australia’s coal era

The biggest threat to Australia’s legacy coal fired generators is not the explosion of wind and solar farms, or even the settings of the country’s emissions policy: Right now, it’s the continued boom in rooftop solar.


The biggest threat to Australia’s legacy coal fired generators is not the explosion of wind and solar farms, or even the settings of the country’s emissions policy: Right now, it’s the continued boom in rooftop solar.

That’s the assessment of Bloomberg New Energy Finance, which is expecting a massive surge of “behind the meter” solar PV capacity, referring to the solar that is installed by homes and businesses mostly to supply their own electricity needs.

And the big driver of this over the next decade will not just be the household sector that will continue to grow from its current 7GW of capacity across more than 2 million homes, or the “commercial” sector, the smaller business sector that is currently booming and will install nearly as much.

It will also come from big industrial users, who are expected to account for nearly half of the 58GW that will be installed in Australia by 2050, and will be installing more than 2GW a year by the late 2020s (That’s the green shades and lines in the graph above).

“Consumers are going to be the most influential generator in terms of volume”, says Kobad Bhavnagri, the lead analyst from BloombergNEF Australia.

“There will be more capacity behind the meter than the total current capacity in the National Electricity Market (NEM),” he tells RenewEconomy after the presentation of the company’s New Energy Outlook in Sydney on Tuesday.

“It is a massive slab of capacity … and it will be the biggest single contributor to generation.”

Bhavnagri – interviewed before the ACCC recommended that rooftop solar subsidies be abolished by 2021, rather than progressively wound down by 2030 – says the rooftop solar uptake is happening quite separately from the dynamics of the wholesale market, and it will have consequences.

“The most significant is that it will have the biggest impact is pushing coal out of the system,” Bhavnagri says.

“You can forget about the carbon price, you can forget about the NEG (National Energy Guarantee), what will push coal out of system is rooftop solar PV.”

That’s because the “duck curve” created by solar PV will change the dynamic of the system, putting the emphasis on flexible and dispatch able power.

Coal generators simply don’t have that flexibility, and if the solar boom continues as planned, Australia will reach 40 per cent penetration of rooftop solar (as a percentage of total installed capacity) by 2030.

(Maybe this explains the ACCC recommendations to slow down the rollout of rooftop solar and enourage the government instead to provide contacts to new “dispatchable” generators, including coal and gas plants).

Bhavnagri expects rooftop solar owners will install battery storage, adding to the benefits of the system. BloombergNEF expects that rooftop solar capacity to be paired with 58GWh of behind the meter battery storage.

That’s because the falling cost of battery storage means the combination will soon be economic, with the pink lines indicating the spread between different states. In South Australia, for instance, it is already “economic”, which BloombergNEF says is less than a 10 year payback.

What Bhavnagri does want to see is  a change in tariff design, towards a “genuine’ time of use metering system, for electricity and solar exports, that will encourage households “to give system what it needs and therefore will lower  costs for everyone.”

This and the growth of rooftop solar will encourage users to shift their load to the middle of the day – be it industrial processes, electric vehicle charging or air conditioning.

“Actually we want the load shape to change. That will help renewables generally,” Bhavnagri says.

“By the mid 2020s it’s going to have as good a payback period as solar PV only. Therefore we expect to have material uptake from early to mid 2020s.”



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  1. Roger Franklin 2 years ago

    I think we need to start a prize fund payable to the solar company who installs solar panels plus batteries at Big Tony’s house in Sydney!

    • MaxG 2 years ago

      Honestly?! I would not donate a Cent!

      • Roger Franklin 2 years ago

        Zero to no chance of it ever getting paid!

    • IT67 2 years ago

      When it comes to Abbott you’d be more likely to get support for a prize fund to shove a lump of coal somewhere the sun doesn’t shine (irony intended) but the wind occasionally blows (irony absolutely intended)……. 😛

    • Ren Stimpy 2 years ago

      A free 6-month membership to the Ramsay Centre?

    • Joe 2 years ago

      He’d rip the panels down as soon as he sees them….those ugly looking panels ruining the view of his roof tiles.

  2. RobertO 2 years ago

    Hi All, Solar + Batteries, will certainly stress coal but wind then becomes the final nail. One disadvantage is that coal will have the ability to game the wholesale markets to keep alive (profitable) while they are dying. The most unprofitable one will depart and others will follow as we add numbers of solar + (some) batteries.

  3. bedlam bay 2 years ago

    We need to publicise the deception of Abbott and Team Turnbull for more than five years. This week the government has belatedly moved on the power companies who have the gamed the system for many years. Oily Fryberg and others have cynically blamed renewables for far too high power prices and the SA blackouts.

  4. Shilo 2 years ago

    The other thing it will bring is a seriously bad return for any large scale suppliers, if not managed, but simply allowed to flowing to grid.

  5. Jonathan Milford 2 years ago

    Payback periods are becoming irrelevant. A house that generates its own electricity (and warm water) for when it is needed is surely worth more than one that doesn’t. Solar hot water systems and solar panels are being joined by solar tiles, solar sheets, solar windows, etcetera, to make houses self sufficient in energy. With the efficiency of modern (Australian!) solar cells, shadowing is becoming less of a problem. (My new panels generate half the amount of electricity when it is raining than when it is sunny, which is not often.)

    If you haven’t got sufficient roof space (apartment dwellers or office blocks), join a Solar Gardens project or ‘virtual micro-grid’ These are being trialled all over the place, ably supported by Arena, though I guess not for much longer. Sydney Uni and the Community Power Agency are pushing Solar Gardens, mostly in NSW, the heaviest coal user.

    I liked the last Q&A when a public panellist handed Mat Coalavan her last electricity bill, which was in credit. And she is paying her up-front costs over time, like an extension to a mortgage. Cheers!

    • Joe 2 years ago

      Hi Jon, I also watched that Q&A show. When Matteo Coalavan was handed that electricity bill he could have given an endorsement of solar homes. But no, he just sticks to his songbook of Coal. The Coalition just refuse to acknowledge anything that is good about renewable energy. The punters ( 2 million solar installs ) across the country that have solar know what the score is.

    • Johan Rosman 2 years ago

      If you can show an electricity bill in credit, you must have a huge feed in tariff. With the pittance of 7 cents per kWh in WA and the high fixed costs this is unachievable. We need to focus on battieries instead of wasting it in the grid.

      • Jonathan Milford 2 years ago

        Agreed. With my old system from 2009 to 2016 I was getting 60c/kWh from the government, on top of a diminishing FIT from the retailer Origin, so even though it was only 1.5kW I was always in credit. I installed a solar hot water system at the same time, because I got massive rebates for both from all levels of government.
        My new 6kW system from Evergen (on the same roof space as the old 1.5kW system) has a battery and controller. Through most of the year I generate more than I use, so have racked up credit with new retailer Powershop. The FIT is irrelevant to a prosumer. As it happens Powershop have just reduced my FIT from 12.8c/kWh to 10.2. Why are they so mean in WA?

      • Greg Hudson 2 years ago

        I use about 12kWh/day now, and my 6.6kW PV array is arriving at end of Aug 2018). Average sunshine in Melb is 4.5 hours per day, so I can expect to generate 6kWh x 4 hours (rounded down to allow for losses and my usage).
        Export rate is currently 11.3c/kWh (supposedly increased on 1st July to 29c but I have yet to hear any confirmation on this). Lets just say I can export half (12kWh) per day. At 11.3c this is $1.36 (which covers distribution fees). By my back of envelope calcs, I should be bill free for the foreseeable future. Please tell me where I’m wrong (if I am)…

  6. phillyc 2 years ago

    I’ve been installing solar for a couple of months now. The average size has been around 6kW. I’ll be installing a 10kW system within two weeks on my own recently built home. I’d be crazy not to! Save money, save the planet, starting ASAP. 20kWh of batteries will be added in 2-3 years time.

    • Greg Hudson 2 years ago

      What brand of batteries have you decided upon ?

      • nakedChimp 2 years ago

        in 2-3 years time =!= decided.

        It’ll probably be Li-whatever.

  7. Graeme Harrison 2 years ago

    The gentailers are now trying a new form of gold-plating. We’ve been with PowerShop for a few years, as per recommendation from John Hewson if one is against coal. Last year we switched (in Sydney) to three-phase supply as required for number of GPOs (drawing nothing – but calculated as if there was a 2400w heater on each) in our rebuild. Our actual electricity needs are low, with double-glazing, 6kW PV, 10kW evacuated tubes for solar-thermal into hydronic heating, heat-pump hws & small Daikin high-efficiency reverse cycle aircon.
    But with the switch to three-phase, we got a new Ausgrid smart-meter. But since 2017, the retailers have refused to share smart meter readings, as a way of reducing churn. So PowerShop sent out someone to install an ‘identical’ three-phase smartmeter, that is the same as the Ausgrid one, but has like a different SIM card, so it will send the monthly totals to PowerShop, instead of Ausgrid? So, a new c$400 computer+GSM three-phase meter gets swapped out, just because retailers can no longer access meter readings? The whole purpose of Ausgrid was to allow one meter installer, but encourage consumers to use which retailer they wanted. Instead consumers of very little electricity are now causing $400 churn costs that have to be recouped from somewhere.
    I suspect that the new ‘scam’ is that gentailers go to pricing regulators, like iPART in NSW and say, our asset base is now X billion dollars, and we need a satisfactory return on that, so pricing must be Y dollars per day and Z cents per kWh to allow us to achieve that return. So the gentailers are spending money freely on wasteful exercises, knowing that they can charge the market a statutory type return on all assets employed. No sane individual would throw out a $400 laptop and buy a new one, if the changed to a new ISP for their internet service, yet this is PRECISELY the waste that is not going on in NSW at least, due to the majors seeking to defeat account portability. This most recent move (proprietary meters) is the opposite of the ‘number portability’ forced on telcos, in order to make it easier for consumers to switch supplier if they wished. We are now overdue for an RC into the power industry.

    • juxx0r 2 years ago

      you poor bastard, they pushed you onto three phase so you can use less of your generated solar. You should tell them to get stuffed

      • sendai 2 years ago

        While being on 3Φ does change how a PV system may be connected, it’s balanced at the meter and you don’t miss out on “using” your generation.

        • juxx0r 2 years ago

          thanks for that, sure doesn’t feel like it though.

          • sendai 2 years ago

            If you do notice a discrepancy between how it’s actually measure and how it should be measured, definitely chase it up.

            The metre should negate consumption equal to PV production on any/all phases.

        • solarguy 2 years ago


          • Greg Hudson 2 years ago

            Depends on how the panels are wired. If all on one phase, it does not help much.

        • Graeme Harrison 2 years ago

          Well actually, being ‘forced’ to three-phase for a six-star energy house does negatively impact how I can use my solar – in a second-order kinda way. I opted for a more expensive SunGrow ‘hybrid inverter’, that includes its own ‘current sensor’ to go on ONE PHASE at your boundary. The system then seeks to keep that meter on zero. So, if someone turns on four appliances mid-morning (before sun at azimuth), inverter will seek to draw any shortfall from solar by discharging the battery during that short period of high usage – ie using the last kWh you just put into your battery is cheaper than buying 1kWh off the grid. Then at end of day, it will use (to max 5kW rate) as much of your battery capacity to power the house after sunset, before reverting to grid-power if battery depleted to your pre-specified SOC (state of charge). This system is somewhat defeated when your load is spread over three phases, as required by electricity authority. All I could do is to place as much of the high-kWh-per-year appliances on PhaseA and put the solar on that same phase. The bulk of the never-to-be-used GPOs (two double-GPOs at side of every bed & in most corners of most rooms are on the non-solar phases. I had to explain to electrician, while he was taught to normally ‘balance’ the loads over the phases, my having a hybrid inverter meant I needed to concentrate them!

          • nakedChimp 2 years ago

            Get 3 phase solar then?
            The bigger units (>5kW) have it.

      • solarguy 2 years ago


  8. RobertO 2 years ago

    Hi Graeme Harrison, log this with the ACCC (you just might met a person who is just one of the many cogs in the wheels of ACCC) who happen to understand what is happening in the real world.
    A few years ago I was invited to a presentation by the Minister of Social Security in the NSW Gov. He welcomed all the attendees and promptly handed it over to the head of the department (his word were So & so is responsible for the day to day running of the Dept)
    45 minute later I left the meeting knowing that it is so important that gov dept must never let the left hand know what the right hand is doing. It was later described to me as a “airy fairy crap”. The dept heads have no clue as to what we are doing, what we are trying to do and what we have to put up with. This was the same person who rang me one morning and when I said I could not help him threatened to go to the NSW premier Bob Carr cause they wanted phone lines in his electorate over the hail storm that had done lots of damage to Sydney.

    Also try talking to Dept Fair Trading, they may have some angle which allows them to help.

  9. Tint Depot 2 years ago

    Australian solar rooftop energy is great news. Good job aussies!

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