Rooftop solar penetration rises to 19.2% in South Australia

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One in five homes in South Australia has rooftop solar. In Melbourne, adoption rates in western suburbs outstrips inner city by a factor of 5:1.

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One in five homes in South Australia has rooftop solar. In Melbourne, adoption rates in western suburbs outstrips inner city by a factor of 5:1

Some interesting data on the penetration of rooftop solar PV in the southern states of Australia was included in the interim results of one of the major private network operators, Spark Infrastructure.

According to Spark, the main electricity distributor in the state, the level of residential solar penetration in South Australia has grown to 19.2 per cent as at June 30, confirming anecdotal estimates that one in five houses in the state now have rooftop solar in the state.

The level of penetration rose from 17.2 per cent a year earlier, and helped contribute to another 4 per cent fall in electricity volumes from residential customers, along with a 9 per cent fall in hot water. Spark has 835,000 customers in South Australia, most of them residential.

The story in Victoria was quite different. Spark owns two distribution networks in that state, one based on the western suburbs of Melbourne  (Powercor) and the central and western regional districts, and another on the inner suburbs of Melbourne and the CBD (CitiPower).

The penetration of rooftop solar in PowerCor’s area (it has 774,000 customers and accounts for more than one quarter of the state’s electricity users  rose to 10.4 per cent of homes from 8.0 per cent a year earlier, while in CitiPower’s area, the penetration in the inner city rose to just 2.3 per cent from 1.8 per cent.

Powercor’s electricity volumes from homes were down 3.3 per cent over the year, while CitiPower’s were relatively muted because of the low penetration, but fell 0.8 per cent.

In all three areas, the consumption of electricity by small and large business increased, offsetting the decline in residential consumption.

Screen Shot 2013-08-26 at 7.39.01 PMDespite the fall in consumption and the impact of solar PV, Spark’s revenues are protected because the bulk of them are regulated under setting from the Australian Energy Regulator.

The latest five year period, which has shown consistent over-estimates of consumption, will conclude in 2015. From then on, it could get more interesting for the network operator.



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  1. RobS 6 years ago

    “Despite the fall in consumption and the impact of solar PV, Spark’s revenues are protected because the bulk of them are regulated under setting from the Australian Energy Regulator.”

    CAn you please explain this? Does the AER pay them the difference of any profit shortfall?

    • Giles 6 years ago

      Network charges are major component of the residential bill, and locked in by the AER ruling for allowable investment and returns, and in turn by the local pricing regulator. So network operators get their money back regardless how much electricity is consumed. Read “death spiral” for one vision of future, or our interview with Vector for a smarter future.

      • RobS 6 years ago

        This suggests that customers save nothing on their bills if they install solar if pricing structure is such that revenue is unaffected? This surely cant be the case otherwise why would so many be installing solar?

        • Chris Fraser 6 years ago

          Alas, there are fixed costs. However, the PV will enable a saving in the variable energy consumption component.

      • Luan Hung 6 years ago

        Network costs within the citipower and powercor networks are only around 30% of household Victorian bills. Compared to other states (up to 50%).

  2. Chris Fraser 6 years ago

    Even if Spark’s revenues are protected, they are themselves still responsible for the design and maintenance of the network to carry the consumption load. Well, that’s unfortunate, because if they get paid per kWh of energy sourced from central generators, distributed storage would likely reduce needed grid augmentations, reduce consumption from central generators – and cause them cash-flow disadvantage. We still need an uninterested broker who can facilitate batteries in the home whose energy output is managed by a form of AEMO.

    • Luan Hung 6 years ago

      Distributed storage will reduce grid augmentations but currently would be costlier then say upgrading a transformer and also grid infrastructure last a lot longer than battery’s so replacement costs would have to be factored in. And storage doesn’t create electricity or reduce consumption, it will merely shift the time of the loading of central generators.

      • Chris Fraser 6 years ago

        Yes, and batteries need to be cycled carefully to get their replacement cost down to about 5c/kwh @ 10,000 cycles. But i think we need to run this distributed storage scenario a bit more. What savings could we make on having other generators running on 90% utilisation rather than 30% ? We need to get either Mike Sandiford or the UNSW team onto that one !

        • Luan Hung 6 years ago

          That would make the entire system used more efficiently. Though for example network costs have actually declined in Vic since 2007 so wouldn’t procure much savings at all. It would benefit in making Coal plants more efficiently used though I really think they could solve that by shutting down over capacity. We can manage the system without adding new infrastructure such as storage and substations. Efficiency and more efficient generation would be a great option as well as time of use tarrifs and controllable loading. Demand side participation as such.

  3. picoallen 6 years ago

    I live in Northcote, which is serviced by CityPower. I have a 4.6kw system installed, which for much of the year generates twice our consumption. City Power are’t going out of their way to support solar or help customers manage their power use. If we want to have access to our genation/ usage data they say they will extract and send it on request, but will charge several hundred $ for it. So much for the idea of a ‘smart’ meter allowing residents to better understand and take control of their usage. I’d like to know on what basis these companies get to control our network. If we are unsatisfied with their service, there is no way to instead chose a different provider. I can switch my retailer whenever I like, but I’m forced to pay these people the distribution charge regardless of what I think of them.

  4. Luan Hung 6 years ago

    Solar is a contributor to falling demand but is not the main culprit. The main culprit is rising power prices. When Victorias electricity demand peaked in 2007, Powercor had 690,000 customers. Where as now 77,000 of their 774,000 customers have solar meaning about 697,000 dont have solar despite demand falling, and those solar households still use energy during the night. I think energy efficiency is also a massive contributor.

  5. Bartleby 6 years ago

    Is there significant solar hot water in Australia?

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