Report: Positive outlook for Australian solar, says Climate Change Commission

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Solar PV and wind could be the cheapest forms of power in Australia for retail users by 2030, according to the Australian Climate Change Commission (ACCC).

The ACCC,  an independent body which provides information on climate change to the Australian public, said in its 15th  annual report that the development could happen sooner than 2030 depending on the increase in carbon prices.

The authors, Professor Tim Flannery, Chief Climate Commissioner and Professor Veena Sahajwalla, Climate Commissioner, said that, although renewables only make up around 10% of the country’s energy mix, as of July 2012 almost 754,000 Australian households and businesses had installed solar panels.

However, this increase in solar installations could be attributed to “Mad Monday”, which resulted in a rush to apply for solar systems before the government’s 80% cuts to feed-in tariffs were enforced.

The report also noted that Queensland is leading in solar PV system installation and has doubled its use of solar energy in less than two years.

However, in September, the Queensland governing body announced proposals to introduce a gross net metering scheme which the Clean Energy Council argued would increase costs to householders, making PV less financially attractive and thereby reducing the rate of solar installation in Queensland.

The Queensland government also withdrew AUD$75 million (US$77 million) in funding for the 250MW Solar Dawn project in Chinchilla this summer.

The Australian federal government will be implementing the phase-out of its Solar Credits mechanism for small-scale, mostly residential, installations six months ahead of schedule.

Fortunately, the number of obstacles faced by the solar industry appears to be on par with the level of support it is receiving.

According to installer network Solar Choice, the beginning of November saw a noticeable reduction in the price of premium solar PV systems compared to the previous month, with the average price for all system sizes decreasing by around A$200 (US$209).

In October 2012, Australia’s first utility-scale solar PV facility, the 10MW Greenough River solar farm near Geraldton, Western Australia, was opened.

In Southern Australia, the Victorian Coalition Government announced in September that it will introduce a new and fairer feed-in-tariff for rooftop solar.

The report also states that increases in diesel costs in the coming years has led to an increase in cost-competitive solar in off-grid areas. Earlier this month, the Australian Renewable Energy Agency launched a new programme under its inaugural General Funding Strategy aiming to drive renewable energy adoption in regional and remote areas in Australia.

The total new solar PV capacity added in Australia in 2011 was 837MW with the country now able to boast a 2,000MW total installed capacity, which is comparable to the capacity of a large coal-fired power station.

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