Australia

Feb 6, 2014

David and Goliath battle over solar: why they want you on the grid

Australian households are flocking to solar, screwing up the business models of the nation's state-owned electricity generators. Politicians have yet to come to grips with the situation.

The Australian solar industry is preparing for what it calls a “David and Goliath” battle against the country’s biggest generators and network operators. The outcome will likely decide the immediate fate of rooftop solar in Australia, and the pace of the so-called “democratisation of energy” — a contest that pitches households and their solar modules against the centralised utilities that have dominated the industry for a century or more.

21 comments

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21 thoughts on “David and Goliath battle over solar: why they want you on the grid

  1. Merve

    Boggled. The support for the coal industry and the political power it weilds is staggering.

  2. Chris Hartwell

    Why do conservative governments – and indeed, conservatives in general – appear to be allergic to evidence and facts? Ever decrying it as bias or spin-doctored. The consies protesteth too much, methinks.

  3. Khupert the Runt

    Let me get this right. Incentives have made it possible for many more people to install PV solar. So the prices have come down as well as producing less C02 from coal generation.

    Instead of continuing to support PV solar so that costs can come down further and we meet our international reduction targets, governments are trying to increase support for coal. We must truly have rocks in our heads.

  4. JamesH

    What is the source of the “science fiction” quote in the last para?

  5. graybul

    If, for no other reason at all, the Australian electorate must place the Federal Govt. and politicians at large on notice . . support and prioritize renewable energy OR ELSE!!
    Solar roof-top generation is a no-brainer. It works, does not pollute, is increasingly more efficient, and delivers at a lower capital cost with each technological advance. Solar just goes on giving, and giving. It will continue to do so until a “Black Hole” swallows our Sun! Fossil fuel energy polluters . . . and lick-spittle politicians your time has come . . . and gone. All it takes folks’ . . is a vote!

  6. Geoff Russell

    1. Giles, please, do you have any evidence at all that solar panels are “shifting peaks” as you claim in your article? Without storage, how is peak solar generation during the middle of the day going to shift the summer peak when people get home from work and hit the air con?

    2. Correct me please, but isn’t the purpose of clean energy to reduce carbon emissions sufficient to avoid dangerous climate change? If so then how exactly does roof top solar help? Household electricity is about a quarter of electricity and electricity is about a quarter of the energy generated from fossil fuels (though a bigger fraction of the fossil fuel emissions). These numbers imply obviously, that even if every house in Australia had rooftop solar, we’d still be way, way, way above the kinds of emission levels required to be “doing our bit”. So what exactly is the function of roof top solar?

    To make the kind of dent in emissions that will constitue “doing our bit” (i.e., dropping per capita emissions down to about 5% of current levels) will require a massive investment in real clean energy, and changes in diet, not rooftop symbolism. But if you spend buckets of money subsidising rooftop toys (or coal), then there will be less money to do the stuff that CAN make difference.

  7. Peter Hannigan

    I suspect that unless people are actually penalised for putting on solar – and that is a real possibility with fixed network access charges – then people will continue to install without incentives. The rapidly rising cost of electricity, environmental concerns and lingering questions about the reliability of network delivery will all continue as drivers. Even refusing to pay for solar generated power – which would be a very hard position to sell – would not necessarily stop takeup, just slow it down.

    A change in household energy usage patterns can get the best out of solar and change the peaks. For example, here in Queensland even if you are out of the home all day you can have the airconditioning cooling the house powered by solar. This either avoids or minimises the need for cooling in the evening.

    The electricity distribution companies need to rethink what business they are in. Is it energy distribution from a centralised generator, or energy management from multiple sources.

  8. Jimmy

    Geoff – “Without storage, how is peak solar generation during the middle of the day going to shift the summer peak when people get home from work and hit the air con?” Sorry does the sun set at 5pm in summer where you live?

    “Household electricity is about a quarter of electricity and electricity is about a quarter of the energy generated from fossil fuel””So what exactly is the function of roof top solar?” According to you householed electrictiy makes up 6.25% of our total emmissions – if just 1/3 of that can be provided by rooftop solar we would be almost half way to your 5%.

  9. Stephen

    I wouldn’t say politicians have “yet to come to grips”.

    Around the country, they’ve smartly reduced home solar rebates, doing exactly what Big Power tells them. In ACT, rebates have dropped from 46 c/kWh to 8 inside three years.

    When vested interests diverge from community interests, you should always back the former.

  10. Carbon Footprint

    So that’s a new twist on energy conservation- taxpayers subsidising CO2 emissions.

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