Rooftop solar market ends tricky 2020 by smashing records, surpassing 13GW total capacity

rooftop solar

Australia’s rooftop solar market has defied a challenging 2020 to set a number of new installation records, with the market overcoming disruptions to grow by a massive 39 per cent year-on-year, new analysis from consultancy SunWiz has detailed.

In its latest annual assessment of the rooftop solar market, SunWiz found that the industry had overcome disruptions caused by the Covid-19 pandemic, and some tricky government policy settings, to record almost 3,000MW of new installations throughout 2020, with installation rates increasing as the year progressed.

According to data collected on system registrations, 2020 ended the year with its strongest ever rate of new rooftop solar installations, with virtually every Australian state and territory recording the highest level of new small-scale solar installations in the month of December.

Registration data was collected for systems with a capacity of up to 100kW based on the registration of Small-scale Technology Certificates (STCs), with SunWiz noting that when medium scale commercial systems were taken into account, which are eligible for Large-scale Generation Certificates (LGCs), the rooftop solar market would have well exceeded the 3,000MW milestone in 2020.

Credit: SunWiz
Credit: SunWiz

“The year ended on a massive high, with a record-smashing 324 MW registered in December. Over 100MW of this was in NSW, and every major state contributed a record monthly tally,” SunWiz managing director Warwick Johnston told RenewEconomy.

“The capacity registered in the sub-100kW STC market fell a whisker short of 3GW, at 2.97GW. However, when you add in the commercial LGC rooftop market, well over 3GW of rooftop capacity was installed in 2020.”

The end of year surge meant that several jurisdictions, including New South Wales, Western Australia and the ACT setting new installation records for their second consecutive month, having already achieved unprecedented highs in November. New South Wales became the first state to register more than 100MW of new rooftop solar installations in a single month, surpassing the milestone in December.

Source: SunWiz
Credit: SunWiz

SunWiz noted that the trend towards larger rooftop solar installations also continued throughout 2020, with growth in the number of commercial scale installations, as well as residential customers opting for larger systems as prices continue to fall, seeing the average system size approach 9kW.

“As occurs each year, average system size also skyrocketed in December, as solar companies rushed to complete commercial installations before the STC subsidy reduced. COVID impacted commercial solar far greater than residential solar, so businesses servicing this segment will be glad of the strong end to the year,” Johnston added.

Sunwiz’s analysis shows that while the Covid-19 pandemic had slowed installation rates in the first few months of the year, rooftop solar installations had quickly returned to normal levels, and continued their surge throughout the second half of the year.

Data shows that Victorian solar installations had been more significantly impacted by stricter Covid-19 related lockdowns throughout the state between July and October, but install rates had successfully recovered to normal levels once restrictions were eased, reaching a record high in December with around 68MW of new rooftop solar capacity added in the month.

The analysis mirrors the predictions of the Clean Energy Regulator, with cumulative installed capacity across Australia’s rooftop solar systems to have surpassed 13GW in December. The Clean Energy Regulator expects this pace to be maintained over the next few years, with an additional 13GW of new rooftop solar capacity predicted to be added over the next four years.

Michael Mazengarb is a climate and energy policy analyst with more than 15 years of professional experience, including as a contributor to Renew Economy. He writes at Tempests and Terawatts.

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