Australian Solar Industry Receives Public Support And Academic Criticism

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A new survey found that 77% of Australians believe large-scale solar facilities can be of great help to the future, but the news comes at the same time as a separate report criticizing the Australian Government’s solar industry subsidies.

Solar Receives Public Support

Commissioned by the Australian Renewable Energy Agency, and conducted by independent market research company Ipsos, the survey found that “Australians are enthusiastic about large-scale solar energy,” but “many don’t feel informed about its efficacy and ability to become a significant provider of energy.”

Specifically, “77% of Australians agree that large-scale solar facilities can be a significant source of energy to meet the nation’s energy needs.” Furthermore, “63% agree that large-scale solar can provide a consistent supply of electricity, more than a quarter (28%) neither agree nor disagree, or don’t know.”

“The results show Australians strongly support renewable energy and demonstrate the importance of involving and consulting locals,” Mr Frischknecht said.

But despite the good news, there is still concern that more education is required for renewable energy technologies such as large-scale solar to be popularly adopted as the necessary and obvious next choice for Australian energy supply.

“While supportive of large-scale solar energy facilities, community backing is often dependent on clear communication from project stakeholders about the efficiency of large scale solar power,” said Ipsos Research Director Jennifer Brook.

“Details of any potential employment opportunities, project timelines and information about the area of land required to establish a large scale solar energy facility are also important factors in establishing community support. Early and ongoing opportunities for consultation and engagement with local communities about proposed large-scale solar projects is vital to ensuring communities fully support these projects.”

Most popular sources of energy for Australia: somewhat or strongly in favor…



Large-Scale Solar Potential Drops By 80%

However, despite public support for large-scale solar, John Grimes, chief executive of the Australian Solar Council, speaking to PV Tech, explained that the newly agreed-upon Renewable Energy Target will hamstring large-scale solar development.

“We have probably seen the potential for big solar scaled back by about 80% as a result of the reduction in the target,” Grimes said in an interview published Monday. “There will be some large-scale solar projects but nothing like what would have been delivered under a 41,000GWh target to 2020, which provided a lot of head room.”

There is good news for wind, however, according to Grimes, who predicts “a huge backlog of wind projects, which have been at a standstill for more than two years, to crack ahead as soon as possible,” adding that “it is very likely the RET target will be saturated with wind projects well before the point that solar out-competes wind in terms of economics.”

Public Criticism For Solar Subsidies

To top it all off, however, the Grattan Institute released a report on Monday which said that government incentives and rebates that have encouraged solar for households “created a policy mess that should never be repeated.”

There is no need for me to go into great detail regarding the report, as Giles Parkinson has already done so in a superb article published Monday. Parkinson, the editor of RenewEconomy and a regularly sought after voice in the Australian energy media, writes: “If Grattan’s goal was to secure big headlines, let’s give it a credit. But to achieve it, it had to concoct a witch’s brew of mistaken assumptions and omissions.”

Furthermore, according to Parkinson, the failure of the report to adhere to any semblance of accuracy is “a shame,” considering that a number of the conclusions the report makes regarding battery storage “are important, even if not terribly new.” But, as Parkinson goes on to note, these conclusions “will be obscured by the numbers that have and will be used like confetti by those seeking to restrain the deployment of solar PV in an attempt to protect vested interests.”

The Australian Clean Energy Council similarly had hard words for the Grattan Institute report.

“It is important to recognise that the government support provided to solar power has leveraged billions of dollars in private investment to date, and will have delivered approximately $30 billion in total investment by 2028 – the same period examined by the Grattan Institute report,” said the Clean Energy Council’s chief executive, Kane Thornton. “This support has also created over 13,000 jobs in the solar sector, particularly in regional and rural parts of Australia where employment opportunities are otherwise limited.”

“The Grattan Institute report ignores the value of these jobs created by solar power and the flow-on economic and employment benefits associated with this industry,” Thornton added.

Furthermore, however, and maybe more damning, is the fact that the report also creates a belief that the solar industry is somehow special by receiving Government support, when the reality is that “many subsidies right across the energy sector” were provided, “including throughout the fossil fuel sector and for diesel fuel.”

Make sure to check out Giles Parkinson’s entire article on the missteps in the Grattan Institute report here.

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Joshua S Hill

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10 thoughts on “Australian Solar Industry Receives Public Support And Academic Criticism

  • Only 23% support for coal? That’s pretty amazing considering much of Australia’s economy runs on coal. Very encouraging. Boot Tony Abbott ASAP!

    Why is geothermal support so low? I suspect a lot of people don’t exactly know what it is and how it works.

    • Australia’s geothermal resources are mostly in the form of hot dry rock. That’s excellent (high temperatures, so good efficiency), but requires a drilling technique similar to fracking in order to work.

      FF advocates dislike geothermal because it’s renewable. Greenies run to the hills whenever they hear the word fracking (even though the technology itself is not inherently problematic).

      • AltaRock has successfully “fracked” geothermal wells at multiple levels using benign (mostly CO2 IIRC) chemicals. They refer to it not as fracking but shearing.

        At this point there seems to be little information about shearing so when people hear fracking in relation to geothermal they probably assume the sort of crap natural gas companies inject into their wells.


          AltaRock’s mixture contains the same sort of tracers and diverters used in fracking (including the napthalene series). Much as with NG frackers though, those compounds are approved and safe if used in a properly designed and maintained drilling operation. That standards haven’t been as high as they should be (with contaminations as a result) is not proof of a flaw in the technology, but of lax regulatory oversight.

          Shearing is rather similar to fracking. The main difference is that in shearing, the fractures remain open after being created. In fracking, sand is injected to keep them open.

          • Here’s what AltaRock states –

            “Multiple-zone stimulation is made possible with AltaRock Energy’s patented Thermally Degradable Zonal Isolation Materials (TZIM), which are designed to shift/divert stimulation from one zone to another, and then degrade into non-toxic components such as water and CO2 when the stimulation is complete and the well is allowed to reheat.”


            Table 13 of your link lists biodegradable and natural materials.

          • See page 120 and beyond. AltaRock uses tracers that are mildly unpleasant to say the least and the usual drilling mud additives (to be found in the appendix). Only the use of biodegredable diverters is a point of difference.

            I’m not saying that AltaRock is harming the environment in any way, far from it. But there’s little point in pretending that they are doing anything other than fracking. Water use, drilling mud additives and other problems anti-frackers have are very much present here.

            Fracking (and its little brother shearing) are neither good nor bad. They are simply tools. Tools that are perfectly safe when used properly and that can have some very nasty consequences when used carelessly.

            Newbury is an area that’s anything but dry, and AltaRock seems very committed to safe well design. In those circumstances, I can’t find fault in what they’re doing.

          • Man. I’m really starting to like you – very well informed.

            Thanks for the insightful comments! (Both this and the multitude of others)

    • Australia has no conventional gerothermal capacity and that would be one reason why support is so low. And the fact that it is not really on most people’s radar is no doubt another. For those in the know, its inability to compete with wind and solar in the short term is clear as well as the fact that it may never be competitive, especially given the remote location of our best non-conventional geothermal resources. One quite optimistic estimate is that with enough investment geothermal could get down to close to 3 US cents a kilowatt-hour but wind is already down to 5 cents and rooftop solar is currently outcompetes any utility scale generation in Australia.

  • For a country like Australia to support Nuclear, without having nuclear power, is an
    outstanding result at 26 %, and
    given the large numbers of household with solar have not changed people outlook on nuclear energy.

    • 23% coal is also outstanding.
      A strange country.

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