In the Media

Published on May 26th, 2015 | by St Peter's College

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SA rooftop solar uptake to grow

A VISITING energy market expert is predicting further growth in South Australia’s adoption of solar rooftop systems, which serve a “purpose beyond just kilowatt hours”, including keeping up with the Joneses.

Seb Henbest, research firm Bloomberg New Energy Finance’s London-based head of Europe, Middle East and Africa, will address a public forum on the Rise of Renewables at St Peter’s College tomorrow night.

A former Adelaidean, Mr Henbest said the price of solar rooftop technology was going down at a rapid rate and the launch of new energy storage technology was making it more appealing.

“Today Australia is the cheapest place in the world to put solar on your roof because the competition has increased, the cowboys have gone and there is a lowering of margins,’’ he said.

“Now that (Elon) Musk (of Tesla) has launched his sexy batteries, the decision is not based around necessity, but penetration.

“What’s happening with solar photovoltaic systems could be compared to what happened with mobile phones.

“With a compelling cost and enough other people having it, the technology has become more accessible and appealing.

“Look around Adelaide, in many cases, people are making decisions based on what their neighbours have because they also like the idea of having it.

“It serves a purpose beyond just kilowatt hours; it’s because they want to be at the cutting edge of technology.”

He said there was an energy market transformation underway that no governments could stop, dictate or control.

In places like Australia, flat and falling energy demand is forcing businesses to manage demand not supply and become more consumer-friendly.

Mr Henbest’s predictions come as the Grattan Institute released a report revealing 1.4 million households across Australia had solar panels – the highest proportion of households of any country.

South Australia leads the country in this uptake with nearly 45 per cent of the state’s owner-occupied premises sporting panels.

“An energy revolution is at hand in Australia, as the arrival of home batteries combines with the falling cost of solar panels to transform the centralised grid,” Grattan Institute’s energy director Tony Wood said.

“But for its benefits to be spread fairly and efficiently, governments must avoid the mistakes of the past by rejecting expensive subsidies and by setting charges that reflect the true cost of providing electricity.”

He said the first phase of large-scale growth in solar was driven by the “lavish feed-in tariff schemes’’ introduced between 2008 and 2011.

The schemes in Queensland and South Australia were particularly attractive and remained open for the longest time.

State governments, however, began winding back the schemes in 2012, but by the time the last runs out in 2028 they will have cost the economy $9 billion.

“Worse, people who chose not to install solar, or could not afford it, have paid for the schemes through a subsidy to solar PV owners worth $14 billion,’’ Mr Wood said.

“The schemes have reduced emissions, but at a very high price. There are much cheaper ways to tackle climate change.’’

Mr Henbest said the large-scale energy system of the future would need to be flexible, ruling out nuclear.

“Australia has no history or skills capability in nuclear and we need more flexibility to manage our more efficient use of energy.

“Nuclear is constant but not flexible, hugely expensive to ramp up and ramp down.

“For China, nuclear makes sense.

“In Australia we don’t see a reason why the demand will be huge – there is no large-scale manufacturing and there is that push to get more sophisticated and use less.”

Mr Henbest will present the Rex J Lipman Fellows Lecture at 7.00 pm at St Peters College tonight. Book now

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