Clean Power

Published on August 28th, 2014 | by Giles Parkinson


22.6% Of Homes Use Solar In South Australia

August 28th, 2014 by  


Nearly one in four homes in South Australia now has rooftop solar, as the share of renewable energy in the state neared 33 per cent in 2013/14 – delivering the state’s ambitious 2020 target six years ahead of schedule.

Official data released by the Australian Energy Market Operator shows that the share of wind and solar generation in South Australia jumped to 32.1 per cent in 2013/14. This exceed the state’s target, but doesn’t include the 275MW Snowtown II wind farm that was brought on line in July.

As RenewEconomy has pointed out, South Australia is well on its way to 50 per cent renewable energy – practically achieved that in the month of July, and given the AEMO forecasts for the uptake of solar and energy efficiency, it could even become the first mainland state to move towards 100 per cent renewable energy – possibly within a decade.

The first graph we will show here is from Spark Infrastructure, which owns SA Power Networks, the monopoly network distributor in the state. As the graph clearly shows, the penetration of rooftop solar jumped to 22.6 per cent from 19.2 per cent. Another 27,000 homes added rooftop solar during the financial year, taking the total to 168,000.

And, according, to the network operator, the addition of rooftop solar is having clear benefits to all: “(Rooftop solar) PV is shifting the peak, but also helping reduce stress on the network during heatwave,” it said in its presentation to analysts on Monday. We have previously written about this before.

powercor solar

The AEMO report is interesting because it breaks down just how South Australia’s generation has changed over the past few years, and from a decade ago.

In 2000, more than 50 per cent of South Australian generation capacity relied on gas, with coal and interconnector flows made up most of the balance.

But, in 2014, gas makes up 44 per cent of the state’s registered generation capacity, with wind capacity (at nearly 20 per cent, or 1,200MW – before the addition of Snowtown II) providing more capacity than coal. The interconnector import capacity is 9.5 per cent, lower than the capacity of rooftop PV capacity, which is just below 10 per cent, or 565MW.

As for generation, the change is even more dramatic.

The state has gone from nearly 80 per cent local gas and coal to just over 55 per cent. Wind accounted for 27 per cent of generation in 2013/14, and solar 5.1 per cent.

aemo sa generation

And here’s a graph to get rid of all the nonsense you hear from the anti-renewables brigades and their mouthpieces in the Murdoch media – that wind and solar do not reduce emissions.

This shows the progress of emissions reductions over the last few years, since the boom in renewable energy began. The trend is quite clear, and even the inclusion of imported electricity (mostly from brown coal generators in Victoria) does not affect the result – electricity emissions are down by one quarter over the last five years.

aemo sa emissions

Here is a graph showing the change in registered capacity since 2000. Wind and solar coming from no-where. Coal is still registered at 770MW, but Playford is effectively closed.

AEMO SA capacity

Source: RenewEconomy. Reproduced with permission.

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About the Author

is the founding editor of, an Australian-based website that provides news and analysis on cleantech, carbon, and climate issues. Giles is based in Sydney and is watching the (slow, but quickening) transformation of Australia's energy grid with great interest.

  • Jonny_K

    How can this be? That much roof-top solar is claimed to destabilize the grid. The Hawaiian utility HECO hit the brakes on permits at about 10% saying they couldn’t handle more but here these Australians seem to be fine with twice that.

    • Bob_Wallace

      HECO stated that they were having trouble incorporating roof-top solar at the level it had reached (or anticipating trouble if it grew larger). Whether that was true or not I don’t know, but I’m willing to cut them some slack.

      Especially since they announced in the last couple of days that they have now used the ‘time out’ to study the problem and have set a goal of having a 65% renewable energy grid by 2030 and, as well, dropping the price of electricity by 20%.

      • Jonny_K

        It was a serious question. What is the problem with distributed solar and the grid? I know what all those things they talk about are, voltage, power factor, phase noise, frequency stability etc. What is it that distributed solar messes up at 10% penetration or rather at 11%?

        I can see EPRI from my house. Maybe I should go sit in the cafeteria for a week and ask everyone who sits down until I understand the answer.

        • Ronald Brakels

          Rooftop solar cuts off when the voltage reaches either the Australian standard or a lower local standard such as in regional Queensland, etc. (As you can probably guess I am in Australia.) So rooftop solar cannot damage the grid. They will shut down long before that happens. There is no real way a modern rooftop systems can destabilize the grid. They tend to increase stability by providing electricity when its needed most which is generally hot summer days. So basically Haiwaii, or anywhere else, can install as much rooftop solar as they want. What rooftop solar does do is push down wholesale electricity prices and that’s a good thing for everyone, unless you happen to own a fossil fuel power plant. (And even then it’s good for your soul.)

          • Mike Shurtleff

            Thanks for the comments. Very interesting to here SA has none of the problems HECO claims to have. Two different stories here. Why?

          • Ronald Brakels

            Mike, South Australia has no coal industry. Just one low quality mine for local use in an inconvenient location. That is the main reason why there is less hostility to renewables here than in the other mainland Australian states. I presume the resistance in Hawaii is because current fossil fuel generators/distributors stand to lose money if people generate their own electricity. And even where powerful actors don’t stand to lose money they can oppose renewable energy for ideological or tribal reasons.

        • Bob_Wallace

          I can’t get a handle on what the problem was with HECO and solar. I find various articles talking about things such as over voltage, but none are very convincing.

          It may be that solar came on very quickly in Hawaii (as one might expect with their expensive electricity and lots of sunshine) and the utility was caught off guard.

          They might have needed a bit of time to think things through. Or there might have been resistance coming from those loyal to the oil importing/burning business.

          Regardless, it seems to be worked out and Hawaii on the way to be the state with the largest penetration of non-hydro renewables.

          • Mike Shurtleff

            Yes, they claim they are seeing over-voltage problems of the type Ron says are not possible. Maybe they need to take a trip down to SA and learn how to operate an electricity grid properly. …growl.

        • JamesWimberley

          Craig Morris’ Renewables International covers a Fraunhofer (Kassel)study on a 100% renewables scenario (link) . Unfortunately it’s only available in German. They go into some detail on the grid stability issue. Short take: the big risk to voltage stability is what happens when a big generator suddenly shuts down somewhere in Europe. At present the first buffer is provided by the spinning mass of large rotors in other traditional plants. Without this, you have to rely on clever electronics. But it’s entirely doable, as shown by the absence of the blackouts implied by Forbes, WSJ etc, when renewable penetration hit 50% on August 18, with a peak at 75%.

      • Mike Shurtleff

        No slack from me. They have stalled solar PV installations there for how many months. Now they’ve come out with a plan only after a judge ordered them to do so. They’re still saying they may need to slow down solar install rates at times in some places. I remain suspicious.

        • Bob_Wallace

          65% by 2030. That’s an outstanding goal. I’m sure not all will go smoothly, never does.

          Mai ka lâ hiki a ka lâ kau.

    • Ronald Brakels

      Well, Jonny, rooftop solar doesn’t destabilize the grid. Anyone who tells you it does is full of digested fish salad. What rooftop solar does destabilize is utility monopolies and they tend not to like that. Anyway, on Saturday rooftop solar was supplying about 40% or so of total electricity use in South Australia at around noon and we had no problem and are installing more.

  • DGW

    How about solar water heating units next? I believe Israel requires most homes to have one which also cuts way down on the fossil fools. Hmm…
    Climate Denier or Fossil Fool?

    • Ronald Brakels

      There are some solar hot water systems but over the past three years solar hot water system sales have fallen by about two-thirds. This has been the result of a reduction in subsidy and competition from solar PV. It’s explained here:

      Solar hot water systems still have some advantages. One is they save on roofspace, another is they provide hot water when the gird is down, and another is to get around restrictions on permissible amounts of solar PV. A drawback is it’s not possible to export excess hot water to the hotwater grid,

  • No way

    Brilliant… 🙂 Is there any hope for some of the other Australian states to do the same?

    • Will E

      Utility prices high
      Solar prices low
      Wind prices low
      what do you think???

    • Ronald Brakels

      While South Australia is ahead on solar per capita, other states are definitely expanding capacity. Queensland is big growth state for solar, but interestingly last I saw South Australia was still installing at a faster rate per person. It appears that the more solar there is in a region the more people are likely to install it.

      • Calamity_Jean

        The idea is contagious. Person A tells friends & neighbors how pleased s/he is with his/her solar power, person B gets some installed, and the process repeats.

    • Alen

      Another state/territory in Australia with promising renewable goals is the ACT, which has an ambitious 90% renewable energy target by 2020. Recently the state of NSW also announced it plans to be Australia’s California when it comes to renewable energy, although this could just as easily be another empty promise by the LNP in an attempt to win over voters, who according to recent polls overwhelmingly support RE. Notably the states of QLD and WA have a big rooftop solar market, but the governments there are unashamedly anti-renewables so growth there will continue to come from the public in small-scale installations.

      • No way

        90% renewable electricity I assume. 90% renewable energy is a totally different thing and very few states and countries are even close to that number.
        I really hope that is true for NSW, home of 1/3 of the population. How about Victoria? With 1/4 of the population it’s important to get them on the train too.

        I wonder how you/they can have suchs RE hating politicians while the people seems to be pretty positive to it.

        • Alen

          Yes it refers to electricity, electricity currently is Australia’s single largest GHG emission source so although ideally more could be done towards reducing GHGs, in the present Australian environment it is a promising move.

          Simple answer to you question about anti-RE politicians is that here in Australia we have an extremely powerful and wealthy FF industry and lobby group, further backed by one of Australia’s main newspapers (controlled by Rupert Murdoch) which constantly spreads climate change denying drivel and advocates an anti-RE stance. As far as Victoria is concerned, I have to admit I do know too much about any developments there except that again they have a powerful FF industry/utility (brown coal especially) which are very influential there, and have even managed to persuaded the government there to halt its very successful energy efficiency scheme which will cause thousands of job losses in state that will be plagued with unemployment in the near future as the car sector and industries supplying these begin their planned shut down of operations.

          Note: there will be an election down there later this year and if there is a change away from the conservative government ( early polls indicate this will be the case) this efficiency scheme will be left in place and even expanded. From memory Victoria has some very good wind resources, so if there is change to a Labour government and it adopts a scheme like the ACT Labor government has in its 90% RE (electricity) it could become ‘cleaner’ in its power sector quickly.

          • No way

            Interesting. Thank you very much for that informative comment. 🙂

            I hope the government, politicians and companies in Australia understand the importance of change, going away from fossil fuels.
            Not only for the environment but for the Australian economy and the situation of the people. I mean, the coal industri is huge in Australia and since people in Australian homes will get wind and solar, companies will get wind and solar because it’s cheaper the need will be shrinking fast domestically.
            A large part of the Australian exports are from coal. Isn’t it like 20% of total exports?
            That business can almost be shut down overnight, China and India will be looking to domestic energy. And it’s not like Japan and South Korea will live on imported coal forever (even though right now little change seems to be done).

            That will cause mass unemployment and massive economic problems. Politicians looking at it from a long term perspective should see that you need a massive migration of workers and companies from the fossil fuel business to other businesses at a rapid pace to not cause caos in a not that distant future.

          • Alen

            Follow up on my previous comment, as I was saying (hoping) another state government if Labor party wins the forthcoming election, is choosing to embrace RE


  • spec9

    Can you say “Utility Death Spiral”?

    The Aussies messed up by over-investing in their grid infrastructure and generation facilities. This caused them to raise prices to pay for it all. The high utility prices are making people defect to solar PV thus making the situation worse for the utilities who then lose customers . . . so they have to raise prices more . . . . Rinse & repeat.

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