Jun 1, 2012

A third of energy from solar by 2022? Depends who’s connected

A new report suggests Australia could produce one third of our energy capacity via solar by 2022. The barrier will not be about cost or a lack of demand but the ability to get connected, writes Giles Pakinson of RenewEconomy

It seems that the greatest barrier to the rapid deployment of solar in Australia will not be about cost or a lack of demand — it will be the ability to get connected.

That has been the common theme from a range of reports from different sources in recent weeks — from the Victorian Competition and Efficiency Commission’s inquiry into feed-in tariff’s in Victoria, the Australian Energy Market Operator’s landmark report on solar this week, the accompanying analysis from Sunwiz and Solar Business Services, and the Australian PV Association’s annual report for 2012.

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29 thoughts on “A third of energy from solar by 2022? Depends who’s connected

  1. John Bennetts

    Is the AEMO report available on line? If so, how about a link?

  2. John Bennetts

    Secondly, it is nice to see Giles now mention “socket parity”, which presumably means that solar power is now cheaper than full retail tariff, ie about 25 cents per kWh.

    Grid parity would, of course, be about 5 or 6 cents, because that is the average market wholesale price of energy sold into the grid. Five cents per kWh is, of course, is totally unachieveable in the forseeable future using photovoltaics, hence the need for uneconomic non-market forcing of PV via a muddle of mandated greenpower targets and feed-in tariffs which serve almost no recognisable purpose apart from cost shifting from the PV generators to retail customers in general.

    Socket parity is a far more relevant term, but only to the retail on-site user. When selling PV electricity back into the grid, the appropriate price comparison is with other suppliers to the grid. That is the true meaning of the term “grid parity”. So, the grid parity price is only about 20% of that for socket parity.

  3. John Bennetts

    The heading “A third of energy from solar by 2022?” is misleading. Nowhere in the article is it stated that one third of energy might be solar.

    If the heading was “A third of installed capacity by 2022?”, it would be closer to the truth.

    Come on, Crikey, even your editorial team are not so dumb as to not know the difference between peak or nameplate capacity of intermittent power supplies such as solar and the expected energy actually generated, which for solar averages perhaps 20% of the nameplate rating.

    In other words, it takes 5 kW of PV to generate at an annual average (allowing for clouds and night time and so forth) of 1 kW.

    Thankfully, Giles had this correct in the article – the error only appeared in the heading.

  4. gdt

    Here in SA most of the increase in electicity price will come from maintenance and upgrade of the grid. Consider that customer-mounted PV pushes out such maintenance as there’s less total demand and less peak demand. So although PV is bad news for electricity generators, it’s good news for electricity distributors. What needs to be fixed is a way for the distributors to pay PV owners some share in the reduced expenditure on the grid, at the moment the feed-in tariff doesn’t do that and distributors are getting a free ride at the expense of generators.

  5. Hamis Hill

    The off-grid connections are interesting. Presumably portable gas is also used and obviously water and sewerage is off grid as well. This has interesting effects on the supply of land and land prices. Fixed income owners like retirees should be attracted to such stand-alone homes no less because the costs are fixed or reducing unlike grid connected suburban homes. Domestic banks holding one trillion dollars of mortgages on suburban homes will be very alarmed at a threat to their holdings.
    Will they fund a political challenge to renewables? Or have they already? It may be too late for them as it seems that the future is already here, complete with that holy grail, the affordable home. The NBN
    guarantees communications so the last barriers to comprehensive decentralisation are going down despite the long political struggle to delay these enabling technologies. Seems quite revoluitonary across the whole economy. Is a counter-revolution coming form the “conserve the old paradigm” dinosaurs? This whole market is racked with political motive and opportunities to subvert the public interest infavour of private, vested interests. A bigger picture here?

  6. John Bennetts

    @ GDT:
    Your contention that PV pushes out peak demand is false.

    Winter peaks occur in either the morning or evening, neither of which is contributed to by PV because the sun has not risen or has set.

    In summer, the peaks are in the middle of the day, but PV still cannot contribute if there is cloud about or, worse, rain.

    So, PV needs to be 100% backed up by other means, which at present means gas fired or (worse) coal fired generation, complete with the capital and operating costs which this entails.

    The transmission lines are not downgraded due to PV installations – in fact, they need upgrading in order to move this unpredictable power around to find a load.

    Apart from installations which are off grid, PV has been an expensive scam and a waste of opportunity. Take a long hard look at the German experience, where they have committed many hundreds of euros to PV and wind in order to simply stand still. Their generation capacity has not risen for years, they are now constructing new coal fired power stations (low grade dirty plants, at that!) yet they are persisting in throwing money at their wind and PV toys. This is incredible.

  7. AR

    We’ve seen how legislation can be manipulated depending of the flibbertigibbets flavour in politics so I would be wary of trusting any given promise, incentive, guarantee or other inducement to go PhV.
    There are any number of reasons to do so apart from those listed above – sheer independence being my favourite.
    However the storage of unused power until required remains problematic – batteries are expensive, toxic, shortlived & environmental disaster.
    With the right topography, ideally, or a new outbreak of hilltop reservoirs there is an old idea, still used by Snowy Hydro & Sydney Water which is to pump water up when power is excess and use it to generate flowing down when needed. There is a loss of 30% but environmentally neutral, in that the same water is used, no external inputs or waste product.

  8. Microseris

    Historically a lot of very intelligent people have said some pretty silly things: “There is not the slightest indication that nuclear energy will ever be obtainable. It would mean that the atom would have to be shattered at will.” — Albert Einstein, 1932.

    Who knows where some political will and scientific developments will take us. Conceding defeat from the outset is a cop out. If we leave it to the likes of the John Bennetts of the world, we will still be digging up and burning coal to generate electricity in 100 years.

  9. John Bennetts

    @ Microseris:

    My comment relates to the art of the possible, today. That is the real world.

    Microseris, on the other hand, is referring to his perception of a future time, which may or may not come to pass, where photovoltaic energy is available in vastly greater quantity than is possible at present – hundreds of times greater.

    Einstein probably didn’t consider that parallel universes exist.

    Microseris is living in one, although I do agree with him in one regard – the atom has been split. And what a marvellous source of safe, reliable energy it has become.

  10. Microseris

    Yep I’m living in a parallel universe for expecting science will advance..

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