A survey conducted by the CSIRO has found that overwhelming support for solar technologies and the concept of “distributed generation” – generating and storing energy in the home – both by those who have them already installed and those who don’t.
The CSIRO study, funded by the Australian Solar Institute and prepared for the Australian Photovoltaic Association, looked at six technologies that allow generation and consumption of energy at local level – solar hot water systems , grid connected solar PV systems, grid connected solar PV systems with battery, battery alone systems, off-grid PV solar systems, and community PV systems.
“The survey results indicated that overall, there is general support by householders to participate in the distributed energy market, particularly through the installation of solar hot water heaters, solar photovoltaic systems connected to the grid for energy generation and with battery backup,” the report finds.
Australia has one of the highest levels of rooftop solar in the world, with more than one million homes having a system, and that number expected to at least treble by the end of the decade, despite the removal of most financial incentives.
The survey noted that home owners were also more likely to be supportive of solar PV with battery backup, and while any technology choice would be determined by various trade-offs, cost savings was the most valued. Interestingly, it said that householders who are more supportive of distributed technologies appear to be willing to give up some of the power reliability for additional environmental benefits.
These finding are interesting in the context of rising electricity bills. The average bill of those surveyed was around $1,600 a year, including those who already had rooftop systems.
“Cost savings are the most important feature perceived by respondents,” the survey found. The next most valued attributes included reliability and durability, meeting electricity needs and providing uninterrupted power, followed by benefits to the environment and reducing reliance of energy retailers. Visual appeal, increased safety levels and ease to install and maintain were the attributes least valued by respondents.
A couple of key conclusions were found:
Over 30 per cent of the 2641 respondents had solar PV or solar hot water installed at their homes, and 70 per cent of these were happy with the systems and would invest further in their system.
Over two-thirds of respondents who currently do not have such technologies at home were supportive of the distributed energy technologies presented to them in the survey, with most respondents’ indicating that they would consider installing solar PV systems in their homes.
The most preferred financing options for householders was to buy these technologies upfront. This was followed by buying with finance (borrowing), leasing the systems, and signing to Energy Service Company (ESCO) packages.
An ESCO is a package tailored to the household needs which might include an electronic energy manager that might switch on and off selected home appliances to reduce electricity use at times of high demand and high cost. Around 59 per cent indicated that they would be willing to sign a contract with ESCOs to obtain savings in electricity bills, while 26 per cent of survey respondents would not consider it at all.
When asked which home appliances respondents would be willing to let ESCOs manage, most respondents selected clothes dryers, pool pumps and dishwashers, while a third of respondents selected washing machines, electric heaters, air-conditioners and hot water systems.