This article originally posted at The Climate Group. View the original post here.
LONDON: Despite a change in government policy, Australia’s solar industry has expanded considerably in recent years, and today some 2.6 million Australians are getting some of their electricity from solar power.
So says a new report from the Australia Institute, which analyzes the development of the burgeoning sector. Drawing on data released by the Australian Climate Commission, Will We Let the Sun Shine in? highlights that the rate of increase in installed capacity has been rapid, growing from just half a megawatt (MW) in 2001 to over 3,200 MW in 2014.
Furthermore, 2.6 million people, or 11% of the Australian population, are now using the technology to meet some of their power needs.
Thanks to a decline in panel price, combined with financial assistance from previous government administrations, there are now over one million solar PV systems – compared to just 8,000 in 2007. Based on this conducive environment, solar PV is predicted to account for close to 30% of Australia’s power needs by 2050.
And solar isn’t just powering homes, it’s also kick-starting the economy. Worldwide solar is the largest employment sector in the renewable energy industry, and in Australia solar PV supports 13,300 people across 4,300 businesses.
Because soaring solar panel installions will drive plummeting costs, greater productivity and more jobs, solar PV is naturally popular among Australian citizens, with the paper highlighting a recent survey which shows an overwhelming 90% of people want more solar power in Australia’s electricity mix.
Such an increase would cut prices for consumers, the report’s researchers assert. However, the Institute recognizes that the upfront costs of installation can also deter customers, despite the near zero operating costs. To this end innovative financing systems which facilitate a gradual pay-back in lieu of a high initial investment are suggested as a workable solution.
But pointing to a study from the University of New South Wales which argues renewable energy rates of 75% by 2030 would produce the lowest electricity costs for consumers, the Australia Institute maintains there is a significant economic advantage to the sustainable energy.
As the report concludes: “While the rate of growth of the solar industry can be curtailed in the short term by poorly designed public policy in the long run it is highly likely that solar energy will expand at the expense of coal and gas fired electricity”.
Libby Ferguson, States & Regions Director at The Climate Group stressed: “Australia has the potential to be a leader in renewable energy but it requires political will. At the sub-national level, many Australian states such as South Australia are realizing the advantages of the low carbon economy – by creating the right policy framework South Australia achieved its 2020 target of 33% renewables a full six years ahead of schedule.
“This report shows that at the national level solar power is an immense area of opportunity. It is not too late for the Abbott administration to recognize and replicate the solar initiatives its sub-national partners are implementing right now. With the right commitment a 30% national solar power share is achievable.”
Graphs courtesy of Australia Institute