Australia’s potential rooftop solar output could exceed grid demand: expert analysis

Australia's potential solar output exceeds electricity consumed in NEM.

The potential rooftop solar energy output of Australia is greater than the amount of electricity we consume through the national grid each year.

The revelation comes in a new report released this week from the Clean Energy Finance Corporation and the Property Council of Australia. The report’s analysis looked at rooftop space available for solar panels across the nation.

The ‘How Much Rooftop Solar Can Be Installed In Australia?’ report reveals a massive 179 GW in solar potential – with Australia currently using less than five per cent of the available rooftop space.

Australia only scratches surface of potential rooftop solar

The report draws on data from the Institute for Sustainable Futures, the Australian PV Institute and UNSW Sydney.

Potential rooftop solar: Australia's potential solar output exceeds amount consumed

Australia is currently generating only a fraction of the nation’s rooftop solar potential. Image: CEFC

It found that potential rooftop solar energy reaches an annual energy output of 245 terawatt-hours (TWh). This exceeds the 200 TWh of electricity currently consumed each year in the National Electricity Market.

Australia now has more than 2 million small-scale solar installations. Yet we are still only scratching the surface of our possible rooftop solar output. The report shows:

  • Residential zones make up half of the unused potential.
  • Primary/rural production zones offer the next largest potential (34 GW).
  • Commercial and industrial zones combined form 26 GW of rooftop potential.

Governments should lead by removing solar barriers

However, there are challenges to overcome before Australia can realise its full potential rooftop solar energy.

The report estimates usable roof area, taking into account slope, orientation and shading. However, it does not consider the structural integrity of individual dwellings.

It’s also harder for tenants and apartment dwellers to take advantage of potential rooftop solar installations.

The report concludes that governments should take the lead to make solar installations more attractive to investors, households, business and community.

This could unlock large volumes of clean energy, taking Australia closer to full rooftop solar capacity.

Domestic and commercial solar full steam ahead

The report states that solar installations are continuing despite the down-scaling of generous state feed-in tariffs at the start of the decade. This is because installation costs are falling and electricity prices are rising.

Australians have now invested in more than 8,000 MW of rooftop solar PV. And around one-fifth of this was installed last year.

The bulk of rooftop installations are domestic, yet the report shows commercial solar system installations are also growing.

Growth is fairly even across Australia. However, NSW leads with 400 MW while Queensland and Victoria follow with close to 300 MW each.