NSW displaces Queensland as Australia’s biggest solar market

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NSW overtakes Queensland as biggest solar market, as the overhang in small scale solar certificates looks about to disappear, meaning installer may finally get $40 for their STCs.

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Queensland, the so-called Sunshine State, has lost its mantle as the biggest market for rooftop solar installations, with NSW overtaking its northern neighbour in the month of February, thanks to a big boost in commercial-scale installations.

Queensland has long held the crown as the biggest market for rooftop solar, and now has more than 1.4GW – out of a country total of more than 4GW.

But on a monthly basis, it has now been overtaken by NSW, and may soon be overtaken by Victoria too. According to two different analyses, NSW became the biggest monthly market in February.

Green Energy Markets says 16.5MW of solar was installed in NSW in February, compared to 15.8MW in Queensland. Victoria followed close behind at 14.6MW. All told, nearly 13,000 homes and businesses signed up for solar in February across the country, for a total capacity of 61.3MW.

feb solar installs GEM

NSW’s prime position was almost entirely due to the strength of its commercial market, the businesses that install rooftop solar on their premises. Commercial scale solar – between 10kW and 100kW systems – now accounts for one third of total capacity in NSW, and more than 23 per cent of all small-scale solar installations in Australia in January and February.

monthly installs national GEM

This data is borne out by this graph from analyst services group SunWiz, whose graph shows that Queensland has been the biggest monthly market since May, 2011, apart from one blip in late 2013 when a surge in South Australian installations took it briefly to number one. South Australia remains the state with the highest penetration of solar per household, with more than 23 per cent of homes having rooftop solar.

solar staets sunwiz

SunWiz also point out another interesting development – the massive overhang in small scale certificates that has plagued the market in recent years may finally be about to be removed.

According to SunWiz head Warwick Johnston, the surplus could end as soon as April 28. If that occurs, it could mean that STCs – the name of the certificates – could finally sell for their nominated price of $40. The price fell to the low $20s at the height of the surplus, cutting the size of the rebate for many households.

Johnston says the surplus is almost certain to clear and could be in deficit. “This means … that $40 will be instantly available to new creators (after certificate validation) until the deficit is rebalanced,” he writes in his latest STC Market Intelligence publication.

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4 Comments
  1. RobS 4 years ago

    The numbers that surprise me the most are the average system sizes, greater than 4kw in every state and greater than 5 in two, that is rather stunning to me, it means that to balance out the 1.5kw to 3kw systems being installed there must be an equal number of 7-10kw systems going in. I expected with the decimation of feed in tariffs in so many regions average system sizes to stabilise around 3kw as that is a level for which most people can self consume 100% of output and achieve the best feed in tariff free return. Interesting times indeed.

    • Giles 4 years ago

      It’s really interesting. Those figures are distorted by commercial solar, but Energex, for intense, reckon that average size of household system now being installed is more than 4.5kW. Anecdotal evidence suggest many households putting on as much solar as they can, and then waiting for storage, possibly with intention of kissing grid goodbye.

      • Ronald Brakels 4 years ago

        Maybe it’s just a reflection on the people I hang out with, but a lot of people are kind of vague on the pay off time of their rooftop solar. They might start off with an idea of what sized system would quickly pay for itself by then go for a bigger system and end up with a longer payback time for one or more of the following reasons:

        – They want to produce as much electricity as they consume to “break even” on electricity CO2 emissions.
        – They simply want to help with saving lives and protecting the environment.
        – A general “bigger is better” bias. If 3 kilowatts pays itself off quickly then shouldn’t a larger system have an even faster payoff? (Posssibly influenced by friends or family who have the old 44 cent feed-in tariff.)
        – Rapidly falling solar costs result in surprise at how cheap systems are, resulting in people deciding to get a larger size.
        – They know the government and/or electricity companies hate rooftop solar and so purchase a larger system in order to make them suffer.
        – They suspect they, or the next set of inhabitants, will have higher electricity consumption in the future.
        – They can’t undestand their electricity bills and so don’t understand how much electricity they use. (Electricity retailers do intentionally confuse people.)
        – People don’t account for efficiency gains from changing behaviour and/or updating old appliances.

        Of the above, I think the desire to save lives and protect the environment might be the strongest motivator, or at least I like to think it is, but maybe the bigger is better bias is actualy the main reason. In my experience, while many people see solar as a way to get back at power companies, people don’t really seem to be hanging out for storage. It’s not really on most people’s radar yet. But I do suspect the people who are hanging out for storage are those who are most upset with the power companies and because they are so upset they tend to let people know about it and make a lot of noise.

        • Ronald Brakels 4 years ago

          And I should have mentioned that installers don’t exactly have an incentive to talk people into getting smaller systems.

          As far as quick payback times are concerned people are almost always going to err on the side of bigness. And as the cost of solar comes down people are going to have an incentive to increase the size of their systems to decrease the amount of high cost grid electricity they use. And provided we avoid evil regulations that are apparently intentionally designed to drown Bangladeshi children, such as those in Queensland barring electricity exports from larger systems so that coal is burned while clean solar electricity goes to waste, an increasing amount of our daytime electricity use will come from solar. We will see demand shifting to the day to take advantage of the cheap electricity prices at that time, and our existing hydro capacity and pumped storage will be almost entirely available for meeting evening and night time demand.

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