Solar Energy Market in Australia
The renewable energy market down under is up and running!
Yes, solar energy has found its place in Australia on the rooftops of residential and commercial buildings.
According to the 2019 Energy Transition Index by the World Economic Forum, Australia ranked 43rd in the list of 115 countries. This report focuses on the rates at which the energy performance of the countries improve and their readiness to embrace sustainable energy.
In the index, Australia, Canada, and South Korea were the only major economies that scored outside the top 25% of countries.
The renewable energy industry in Australia is on course to install more than 10 GW of new solar and wind power during 2018-19.
Fig.1: Annual Solar PV Installations in Australia 2018 (Source: assets.cleanenergycouncil.org.au)
In 2018, 2 million households in Australia installed rooftop solar panels. It means that one in every five households now have solar power to bring down their electricity bills.
If this rate of solar installations remains, the country will reach 50% renewable capacity in 2025.
According to the Australian Energy Market Operator, rooftop solar will generate 85% more power than the 2017-18 financial year.
On the other hand, solar farms will supply nearly 5,000MW of power, which is an increase from just a few hundred megawatts of power in 2017-18.
A report by Green Energy Markets states that in the first three months of 2019, a record number of solar capacity has been installed in residential and commercial buildings. It is an increase of 46% during the same period last year.
Also, investments in large-scale clean energy projects doubled to become over $20 billion in 2018 as 38 projects were completed in that year.
At the beginning of 2019, already 87 large-scale renewable energy projects are underway or financially committed.
In the energy storage segment, numerous new utility-scale batteries were installed all over the country in 2018.
According to calculations, due to solar installations, customers will save nearly $600 million on their electricity bills over the next decade. The scheme is providing benefits in other areas as well by creating new jobs in the renewable energy sector.
Leading Australian States in Solar Energy in 2019
The renewable energy boom is accelerating in Australia and across the world. State and territory governments are leading Australia’s electricity transition from fossil fuels to renewable energy and storage.
In December 2018, 22,010 PV systems were installed in the states across Australia.
The state-wise breakdown for rooftop solar PV installations are:
- New South Wales (NSW) and the Australian Capital Territory (ACT): Nearly 5,700 PV systems;
- Victoria: 5,400 PV systems
- Queensland: 5,300 PV systems
- Western Australia: 3,150 PV systems;
- South Australia: 1,900 PV systems
- Northern Territory: 269 PV systems, and
- Tasmania: 262 PV systems.
Also, the combined numbers of household and commercial PV system installation up to 100 KW can be seen from the chart below:
Fig.2: Combined Household & Commercial PV Installations in the Australian States (Source: assets.cleanenergycouncil.org.au)
A report called “Powering Progress: States Renewable Energy Race” has listed states and territories in Australia according to their renewable energy performance based on various parameters.
The parameters include the percentage of renewable electricity, the proportion of households with solar and policies supporting renewable energy in each state.
Fig 3: State-wise Renewable Energy Performance 2018 (Source: climatecouncil.org.au)
The scorecard above shows that the states such as Tasmania (TAS), the Australian Capital Territory (ACT) and South Australia (SA) are leading in terms of renewable energy measures.
Victoria (VIC) and Queensland (QLD) are in second place based on performance.
New South Wales (NSW), the Northern Territory (NT), and Western Australia (WA) have fallen behind compared to other states.
Except for Western Australia, all other states and territories have a commitment to their renewable energy targets and reducing carbon emissions.
Tasmania (TAS), the Australian Capital Territory (ACT), and South Australia (SA) have the highest proportion of renewable electricity.
South Australia has the maximum amount of installed wind and solar capacity with 1,831 MW, followed by New South Wales (NSW) with 1,759 MW, and Victoria (VIC) with 1,634 MW.
Queensland and South Australia have the highest percentage of residential buildings with rooftop solar at 32.9% and 32.3% respectively. Western Australia ranked third with 26.7% of residential buildings with rooftop solar.
Solar Growth Statistics
The solar industry is witnessing rapid growth in Australia with an increasing demand for solar panels, especially rooftop modules.
In 2018, a total of 218,195 rooftop solar panels were installed, which was 43,599 more than in 2017.
A further breakdown shows that an additional 838 systems were installed per week, or five solar systems an hour.
Nearly 1.5 GW of additional solar capacity was added at the national level, which took the total national rooftop solar capacity to well over 8.1 GW.
Overall, rooftop solar panels delivered 4.2% of Australia’s total energy generation in 2018.
Fig 4: Commercial and Residential Solar Installation Snapshot 2018 (Source: assets.cleanenergycouncil.org.au)
Small-scale solar projects contributed 1/5th or 19.6% of total renewable energy production, which was third behind hydro with 35.2% and wind with 33.5%.
Due to so many projects underway, the competition will remain high for construction resources and workers, and it is good news for the regional areas where most projects are located.
In 2018, over 10,800 direct jobs were created from the large-scale renewable energy construction boom. Another 3000 jobs were created in operations and maintenance.
These jobs and investments have provided indirect benefits, including higher demand for accommodation and services in the regional areas.
Due to a record number of solar panel installation, the number of authorized solar installers went up to 5864, up by nearly 1000 since 2017.
The average capacity of solar systems also increased from 6.39 kW to 7.13 kW. It reflects the drop in the overall system cost and the increasing number of small-to-medium businesses installing solar.
According to a report by the Clean Energy Regulator, during 2018 and 2019, Australia is about to install nearly 10,400MW of new renewable energy. It will comprise 7,200MW of large-scale renewables and 3,200MW of rooftop solar.
This represents a per-capita rate of 224 watts per person per year, which is among the highest of any nation.
If the current growth rate of renewable energy continues, Australia will go beyond the large-scale Renewable Energy Target (LRET), and likely to reach 29% of renewable power capacity in 2020 and 50% in 2025.
The current rate of investments may continue because:
- The Clean Energy Regulator will keep issuing large-scale solar generation certificates to accredited new renewables generators until 2030.
- Investment opportunities in the renewable energy market are expanding beyond the wholesale electricity market. Companies that see economic benefits and green profile of renewable energy contracts may find the market lucrative.
- Pricing of solar PV will continue to drop and will create more market opportunities.
- The use of electric vehicles and electric heat pumps for water and spacing heating will increase the demand for solar energy.
- PV plants will replace the existing coal power stations.
Government support in large-scale storage projects can make it possible to integrate 50-100% renewables into the Australian grid. In this context, government policies are crucial as they will enable the renewable industry to live up to its potential to deliver deep emissions cuts.
What are the reasons behind the surge in Australia’s solar industry?
A report by Green Energy Markets shows that the contribution of solar PV to the electricity generation mix of Australia reached a record high in 2018.
In the same year, the overall share of renewable energy was 21.3% of Australia’s total electricity. It made it to 20% for the first time in four decades.
One of the reasons behind the surge of solar energy is that many state and territory governments have realized the significance of renewable to bring down power bills. They are now rolling out their own policies in the absence of any federal action.
An increasing number of consumers and businesses are also switching to renewable energy to reduce their power bills.
Particularly, businesses are leading the way with an 83% increase in the capacity of commercial solar installations between 100 KW and 5 MW.
On the other hand, small-scale commercial installations below 100kW went up by 25% in 2018. Also, residential rooftop solar installations had gone up by 17%.
In 2018, the fastest growing technology was large-scale solar plants with more than 100kW capacity that nearly tripled their energy generation capacity.
Now in 2019, the installed capacity of solar energy in Australia is expected to double (18 GW) in the next two years as several new large-scale projects will be completed.
In addition, residential and commercial consumers will continue to have solar energy demand to reduce their electricity bills.
Fig.5: Solar PV Capacity in Australia by 2020 (Source: reneweconomy.com.au)
By the end of 2020, solar energy capacity will be double to 18GW, along with another 4GW of large-scale solar, 4GW of small rooftop solar, and another 1GW of large rooftop solar installations.
In recent times, rooftop solar installation for commercial usage has witnessed a substantial spike. It is because businesses, agricultural farms, and others tend to install their own solar panels. At the current pace, 90% of businesses would have solar panels on their rooftops by 2030.
Right now smaller state-funded projects are on course to achieve their renewable energy targets.
The renewable energy target for Victoria is 25% by 2020 and 40% by 2025, whereas Queensland’s target is 50% energy by 2030.
If the small-scale projects do not face any regulatory intervention across Australian states, their commercial viability may increase the energy demand. In addition, due to increased competition, energy prices are likely to fall.
Related article: Top Solar Statistics You Need to Know in 2019
The Economic Index of the Solar Industry
As stated earlier, in 2018, Australia added more than 2.3 GW of new renewable energy capacity, and 38 projects were completed that year.
Overall, by the end of 2018, 14.8 GW of new energy capacity was under construction or financially committed with the total investment of $24.5 billion and created more than 13,000 jobs.
Fig.6: Total Energy Growth, Investments & Job Creation (Source: assets.cleanenergycouncil.org.au)
All this added capacity led to 21% of the total power generation from renewable energy, which is more than adequate to power every residential building in Australia.
According to a report by Energy Matters, the landmark figure of 2 million installations is “an achievement for the relatively new solar industry. Other milestones along the way are below:
- More than 20,000 jobs were created in the renewable energy industry in the areas such as operation, construction, and maintenance and rooftop solar installation.
- As many as 28 large-scale solar projects were completed, with 14 times higher solar capacity installed than the previous best.
- A total of 20 corporate power purchase agreements (PPAs) of 931 MW and supporting projects with a total capacity of 2600 MW were signed across various states.
According to a report by the Australia Institute in 2018, a fast transition to renewable energy will create 58,554 jobs every year for 11 years.
In the current energy scenario, clean energy investments do not require any additional subsidies. However, they need long-term energy policy certainty.
Also, in the context of reducing carbon emission, Federal Labor has promised more constructive action on climate and renewables. There is a proposed target of 50% renewable energy by 2030 can be a strong market signal for investors.
The Council of Australian Governments Energy Council is the key forum for developing consensus on a national energy strategy. It is expected that the economic outcome will be positive for the solar industry.
Solar Energy Production Statistics
Australia has an ideal climate for generating plenty of solar energy because of the total amount of irradiation the country receives.
Due to the abundance of sunlight and clear skies, Australia is capable of generating 60% of the total energy needs from solar alone.
In March 2019, Australia produced a combined capacity of 12,035 MW, out of which 4,068 MW was generated in 2018.
As of 2019 only, 59 solar PV projects with a capacity of 2,881 MW are either under construction, completed or about to start construction.
Also, earlier in December of 2018, the solar energy production energy in the country reached its maximum market share in the National Electricity Market (NEM). Data shows that solar energy peaked at 17% on December 10, and there was still a lot of demand left to keep other generators busy.
Fig.7: Detailed Breakdown of Renewable Energy Production Australia 2018 (Source: assets.cleanenergycouncil.org.au)
So, keeping in mind the year 2021, what will be the scenario in the solar industry? The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) has suggested scrapping the solar rebate by then.
According to the Australian Energy Market Operator, by 2021, rooftop solar will produce 85% more electricity than 2017-18. Additionally, solar farms will supply nearly 5,000MW of power, way above the production capacity in 2017-18.
According to projections, large- and small-scale solar PV will continue to get installed at their current rates of 2,000MW and 1,600MW per year in the coming years.
Also, large- and small-scale solar PV will continue to have capacity factors of 21% and 15% respectively.
The mentioned production capacity will further consolidate the position of solar energy as the mainstream energy resource in Australia.
As of June 2019, Australia is among the top 10 leading solar energy markets in the world. However, there are still a few areas that the government needs to pay attention to.
One of the areas is a lack of any permanent national energy policy to regulate high-energy prices that consumers and businesses in Australia have been paying.
To resolve this issue, states and territories have started their own initiatives to create jobs and investments.
Also, there is a lack of federal energy and climate policy to reduce carbon footprints in the country.
The good news is that the much-needed reforms are underway and will help address these issues and have all the bases covered in the solar industry.