Australians Install Rooftop Solar Panels at a Record Pace

Australians are installing rooftop solar panels at a record pace -- taking lockdowns to quash the spread of coronavirus earlier this year as an opportunity for some home improvement.

The sun-kissed nation is already among the world’s strongest adopters of rooftop panels, with about 29% of households drawing power from the sun and challenging traditional electricity models. The country is on track to add a record 2.9 gigawatts of small-scale solar capacity in 2020, according to the government’s clean energy regulator, with modeling suggesting that installations may double over the next four years.

“Australian families and businesses are adopting new energy technologies like rooftop solar at record-breaking rates, and we expect this trend will continue for the foreseeable future,” Energy Minister Angus Taylor said in a media release.

Australians Install Rooftop Solar Panels at a Record Pace

The surge in solar adoption is causing a headache for energy planners by crushing daytime demand for traditional power sources such as coal -- which still accounts for around 60% of total generation. The economics of coal-fired power stations are being challenged, with the potential for early retirements likely to cause a scramble to build new grid-scale capacity to fill the gap.

Investment in large-scale renewables has also been resilient during the pandemic, with 2.5 gigawatts worth of new projects financed in the first nine months of the year, almost 9% more than in the whole of 2019. The regulator noted a trend toward ever-larger developments, with three projects of more than 500 megawatts winning first stage approval.

Some of those mega-projects face delays if grid constraints were not resolved, while the surge in rooftop solar was also having an impact on demand for them in some parts of the country, the regulator said in a quarterly report. Australia’s system was built around now-aging coal plants and has struggled to accommodate the surge in new wind and solar facilities, often located in weak parts of the network.

Read: Australia Power Grid Seen Challenged by Renewables Surge

Separately, there had been a surge in demand for Australian carbon credit units from corporations and state governments seeking to abate their greenhouse gas emissions, the report found. The government’s Emissions Reduction Fund program registered 87 abatement projects in the nine months to September, more than double the total for the whole of 2019.

©2020 Bloomberg L.P.

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