Origin Energy, the country’s biggest energy retailer, and the largest installer of rooftop solar PV, said its solar business contracted by nearly 50 per cent in the December half as changes to government incentives such as feed in tariffs and certificate multipliers took effect.
The company emerged with the leading position in the solar PV market in the last financial year, when it installed 55MW of rooftop solar, generating sale of more than $300 million and taking a market share of between 10 and 15 per cent.
In the first half of 2011/12, however, Origin Energy says the number of rooftop solar PV installations fell to 10,606 installations compared to 18,028 in the same period a year earlier. This suggests that the installation rate fell to around 15MW in the half from around 30MW previously.
This helped cause revenue to fall by more than one third to $136 million from the “non commodities business” – which also includes solar hot water and heat pumps, and electric vehicle charging stations, although the company said these businesses are performing well. Profit from the division fell 41 per cent to $18 million from $31 million.
Still, the slump in revenue from solar PV was not as dramatic as that of rival solar PV companies, which have reported slumps of up to 70 and 80 per cent. Of the listed companies that have reported detailed figures, Silex Systems reported a near two thirds slump in revenue, while WA-based said sales for the year would be around 40 per cent below the previous year.
Origin Energy said the sliver solar PV technology business, which is now housed within the Transform Solar joint venture in the US with Micron Technologies, has completed its first 20MW manufacturing plant. Origin said it was looking at “alternative pathways to scale Sliver technology”, but there was no word on its potential rollout in Australia, which had previously been predicted to occur by the end of last year. It recently announced the launch of a “solar roof tile” in Japan.
Of its other non-commodity business, Origin Energy said it was preparing for a “mass market rollout” of its Tendril home energy manager. The company has been conducting trials of the technology developed by the Colorado-based Tendril, which provides an in-home display that allows customers monitor their energy usage, including personalised estimates of monthly electricity bills and the ability to control household consumption. It allows communications over the web, mobile phone and home area networks, and can link with smart appliances and electric vehicles.
Exactly how that business model will evolve is not yet clear, because regulatory changes will need to be made on issues such as time-of-use pricing. But Origin has said it intends to roll out the displays to all its 4.6 million customers.
On EVs, Origin Energy said it had already negotiated an exclusive deal with Nissan Australia for its battery charging facilities, and it was in negotiations with other EV manufacturers.