There are a handful of solar markets that we have given extra attention to in the past few years: the US, China, Germany, India, and Australia. There are a number of reasons why each of them has gotten so much attention. Below, I’m digging in a bit to why Australia solar* is so fascinating to us and gets so much of our internet ink.
1. Sunshine, Baby!
Australia, of course, has a lot of sunshine. Naturally, that boosts its solar energy potential. That isn’t its only card, or else it might not get a dime of our time, but it’s one worth mentioning. Oddly, though, its “Sunshine State” is on the north end of the country rather than the south end — crazy Australians.
2. “Attractive” Retail Electricity Prices
High electricity prices may not be considered “attractive” to most, but they are certainly attractive to solar installers, solar module manufacturers, and all of us who prefer that global warming not burn up our planet. By that definition of attractive, Australia has some of the best-looking electricity prices in the world.
3. The FiTs Were Wonderful
For a while, feed-in tariffs (FiTs) in Australia were very generous and helped to sprout the Australian solar market (wait a second, does anything sprout in Oz?). It’s easy to gloss over the effect this has had, but I see it like this: countries with strong FiTs for a long and steady enough period of time created mature (or at least teenage) solar markets that could stand on their own much better and benefit from the great economies of scale that came from market maturation.
4. Add Things Up
Sunshine + “attractive” electricity prices + good incentives & economies of scale = a solar bonanza. As reported earlier this month, Australia hit “socket parity” in 2013, according to the IEA.
5. Rooftop Penetration Is Unmatched
The results speak for themselves. Over 20% of Australian households now have solar power. Amongst detached homes in Queensland, the “Sunshine State,” 27% have solar power. Still, in January, it was reported that a new solar power system is installed every 2.8 minutes in Australia, and that rooftop solar PV in the country has passed 4 gigawatts of capacity!
But what does all of this translate into in terms of electricity generation? In December, it was found that 17% of household electricity needs in Queensland were coming from solar power. Furthermore, in the middle of the day on Boxing Day, solar provided at least 30% of the state’s electricity for several hours.
6. The Stereotype Fits: Off-Grid Attraction
Utilities haven’t responded with cartwheels and high fives. They’re eager to counter the trend to keep their huge profits. However, efforts opposed to rooftop solar look set to backfire. If electricity prices (including fixed costs) are raised or utility customers are blocked from going solar, there’s an incentive to go off the grid completely with energy storage. I’m not sure how likely it is that this will become a large segment of the market, but there’s a lot of talk about it, and the off-grid option certainly matches stereotypes about Australia, doesn’t it?
7. OK, Let’s Be Honest: It’s All About The Accent
Nuff said, mate.
*Full Disclosure: This article was kindly sponsored by Aussie Solar. (Thanks, mates!)