Rooftop Solar Power And Australia’s Carbon Price

The boost that large scale solar will receive as a result of Australia’s carbon pricing scheme will be welcome, but additional targeted support for small scale and medium solar energy seems to have been overlooked.

Small and medium scale solar power systems are the driving force behind Australia’s distributed electricity generation revolution says the CEO of Energy Matters, Jeremy Rich; who believes while continually increasing electricity costs and existing solar rebates and incentives will see more households making the switch, further uptake needs to be encouraged.

“We welcome the support for large scale solar announced on Sunday, but echoing a statement I made recently, the government needs to further its targeted support for small and medium scale solar; which could come out of the funding for large-scale – no new money needs to be allocated.”

“This will ensure Australia can gain the most carbon emission reduction benefit in the years ahead and accelerate the nation to the point where solar goes beyond grid parity and becomes cheaper than filthy fossil fuels.”

Mr. Rich says better utilisation of rooftops can make a substantial contribution in slashing Australia’s greenhouse gas emissions, create as many, if not more jobs than large scale solar and the technology addresses some controversial environmental issues, such as the amount of land required for major solar farms.

Mr Rich has previously outlined other advantages of small and medium scale solar over large scale; pointing out the company was already delivering medium scale projects at a similar price as major solar farm installation costs. He says rooftop solar power can reduce the level of infrastructure investment required by electricity networks and slash line loss associated with electricity being transmitted over long distances.

Home and commercial solar power systems are the Internet of distributed electricity generation says Max Sylvester, co-founder of Energy Matters. Decentralised solar electricity generation provides some national security benefits as well as empowering consumers in relation to their energy use. Mr. Sylvester says his company has noticed solar households also tend to become more energy efficient as a result of their hands-on role in electricity generation.

According to a statement from Beyond Zero Emissions, a group focused on developing  blueprints for the implementation of climate change solutions, “The Gillard government has ignored the most successful policy in the world for rolling out renewables deployed and reducing carbon emissions: the German renewable energy Feed-in Tariff.”

Internal analysis by Beyond Zero Emissions shows that the proper implementation of a feed-in tariff to put solar panels onto every rooftop in Australia would add a very small amount to the cost of electricity over 20 years.

“By 2015 with appropriate support leading up to that date we could have solar panels installed generating cheaper electricity than buying fossil fuel electricity at the household or business meter,” says the group.

Australia currently has a fractured feed in tariff system, with states offering their own programs. These programs have a habit of changing, creating confusion for consumers and instability for the solar industry. A national, uniform feed in tariff would provide surety for investors and businesses operating in the sector and also encourage more potential solar households to turn their rooftops into clean power generators.