The latest data on the uptake of rooftop solar tells us something that conservative governments and the owners and operators of fossil fuel power generators would rather not let on: the biggest uptake of rooftop solar comes in suburbs with lower than average incomes.
This point has been made by numerous surveys in the past, although state governments and their media commentators pushing to wind back the renewable energy target insist that rooftop solar is an indulgence of the wealthy.
A new survey of the top 50 postcodes in WA by installation and penetration – using data compiled by Clean Energy Regulator as at January, 2014 – shows that more than 151,000 West Australian households now have solar on their roofs.
This makes a total of 350MW. This is the equivalent of about almost 392,000 people being powered by solar, or 15 per cent of the WA population. (The uptake of solar is percentage terms is probably lower than in Queensland and South Australia, but is till growing rapidly despite the winding back of feed-in-tariffs. The top 20 post-codes have penetration rates of just under 25 per cent on average)
The findings are interesting in the context of the review of the WA grid which has been announced by state energy minister Mike Nahan, and with a re-run of the WA Senate count early next month.
Among other findings of the report (prepared by the office of WA Greens Senator Scott Ludlam – who made a huge splash with his “welcome to WA” speech to Tony Abbott, and who is up for re-election).
- The top postcode for total solar installation is Mandurah (postcode 6210), with 7362 total units installed. Mandurah residents earn $681 less than the average wage in WA. (see table 1 below).
- The top 20 postcodes for solar pV installation earn $2289 less than the average WA income.
- The top postcode in WA for percentage uptake is is 6171 – the suburb of Baldivis in Rockingham, where 37 per cent of households have solar. (see table 2 below)
- The second spot goes to postcode 6208 – the shire of Murray – including suburbs of Blythewood, Fairbridge, Meelon, Nirimba, North Yunderup, Oakley, Pinjarra, Point Grey, Ravenswood, South Yunderup, and West Pinjarra – where a total of almost 32 per cent of households have solar.
- WA’s top 20 solar postcodes have reached penetration of just under 25 per cent – that is – almost one quarter of residents have solar PV.
- The top 20 postcodes for solar uptake earn $1021 less than the WA average.