Solar power to dominate in coming decades

Solar energy has long been delegated to the novelty energy sector, but new insights from Deutsche Bank uncovered some surprising revelations about the future of solar energy solutions across the globe - and in Australia. This could have some interesting implications for the future of electricity prices across the country.

Shining brightly

In a February report on the solar industry, named Crossing the Chasm, the bank highlighted that solar energy is expected to generate around $5 trillion in revenue by 2030 and its share in the market is predicted to grow to 30 per cent. This would see it become the primary source of electricity the world over in the next 15 years, outstripping traditional fossil fuels. The tipping point would see the government no longer needing to subsidise renewable solar energy systems.

While its research focusses on the rise of solar energy as a global phenomenon, the news comes ahead of revelations in southeast Queensland. According to a March 9 article in Renew Economy, the state's local network operator, Energex, revealed that 27 per cent of detached homes have a solar panel installed. Already, Energex found that 281,811 rooftop solar systems are in place across southeast Queensland, according to Renew Economy. In total, they produce more than 937MW of electricity. Energex pointed out that, at this impressive rate, the region will reach 1GW of energy generated from residential solar panels within the next few months.

This puts the southeast of the Sunshine State in equal place with South Australia, the current record holder for solar panel installation. Twenty-four per cent of households have a solar energy system installed on their property in SA as of December 2014, according to the Australian Bureau of Statistics.

Deutsche Bank notes that the rising prevalence of solar power has a lot to do with the soaring cost of electricity from traditional providers, while solar panel installation costs significantly less. In Australia, implementing a solar energy system costs around half the price and the market has already reached 'grid parity', according to the report. Deutsche Bank expects the gap in revenue is expected to close significantly in the coming years.

Harnessing potential 

There is similar growth expected elsewhere in the country. The Australian Renewable Energy Agency (ARENA) reported that Alice Springs in the Northern Territory could see an additional 10MW of solar energy created. ARENA CEO Ivor Frischknecht said this highlights the potential for a solar energy grid in Australia without running into supply issues. ARENA research found that by spreading panels out across a wide geographical area, weather conditions didn't have as much impact on energy generation.

"The findings of this study are timely and show how more solar PV could be reliably introduced into Australian electricity networks," Mr Frischknecht said.

"This analysis is very relevant to solar projects currently being planned in the NT and elsewhere in Australia, and could allow network planners to increase the amount of solar PV that can be connected to the network."

It will be interesting to see how this scenario plays out in coming decade, particular if more Australian electricity suppliers put greater emphasis on renewable sources.

Posted by Nikki Wilson-Everett