Origin Energy has given a bullish estimate of rooftop solar deployment in coming years, and repeated its ambition to be No. 1 in the solar market, but its latest figures show just how far it needs to travel to meet that target.
Origin this year rolled out its first solar power purchase agreement products, where it builds, owns and maintains rooftop solar installations and charges a rate to the homeowner. In Queensland, and for those with 15-year contracts, it is as low as 11c/kWh.
Australia’s biggest retailer is making a renewed push into rooftop solar because it believes that is where the future lies. As large generators are closed down, Australian households and businesses will continue to install around 800MW of rooftop solar a year.
And companies such as Origin and AGL Energy are keen to own as much of that equipment as they can, so they can not only retain customers, but have a key role to play in a future of distributed energy.
Since the launch of the solar PPA product in May, Origin installed around 700kW of rooftop solar until the end of June, barely one per cent of the market in that time. It says it ranks No 7 in the solar installation market.
It is also trialling battery storage, although CEO Grant King is not expecting a mass movement to battery storage technology any time soon.
“Battery storage is a long journey,” King said in response to a question from RenewEconomy at a media briefing on Thursday. “Batteries are still expensive. There is a long way to go before they have a material impact on the market.”
King said that Origin Energy will be “happy to help” any customer that wants to install rooftop solar. And because it does not have huge capacity of coal-fired generators, it does not have much large-scale generation at risk of a shift to distributed generation.
“We are not defending a long generation position. We are in a short position. We don’t fear the change that the future brings.”
Origin Energy is pushing hard in the distributed energy market through its newly created solar and emerging business division, led by Phil Mackey.
Its emerging business division, which includes LPG, lost $42 million in the latest year, including $17 million from “remediation costs for early model solar PV inverters”.