Where to for solar energy in Australia?

Blessed with a mild climate and sunny disposition, Australia would seem to be well-placed to make the most of solar energy. With concerns surrounding electricity prices make headlines across the country, it seems that sustainable energy generation is the way forward.

However, a new report from the Grattan Institute highlights that policymakers have a fair way to go before the country lives up to expectations.In its report Sundown, sunrise: How Australia can finally get solar power right, the institute explains that the country is in the grips of an energy revolution.

Solar panels are becoming an increasingly viable way for households to generate energy without having to plug into the grid, while groundbreaking at-home battery technology is allowing more Australians to become self-sufficient. As such, electricity suppliers are faced with a conundrum - adapt fast or risk even lower demand. 

To put it in perspective, only a decade earlier just one thousand homeowners were making use of residential solar panels, according to the Grattan Institute's David Blowers in an article published in The Age. Nowadays, there are 1.4 million households with this technology, which Mr Blowers claims to be the highest proportion of any country in the world. 

However, the report points out that state governments has taken the wrong route in the past, particularly in regards to feed-in tariffs. While these initiatives have encouraged residents to take emission reduction into their own hands, they have cost the economy an estimated $9 billion.

"It's true the schemes have reduced emissions but at a very high price - we could have found much cheaper ways to tackle climate change," says Grattan Energy Program Director Tony Wood.

Or has Australia embraced change?

Will Australia continue to grow its solar potential?Will Australia continue to grow its solar potential?

But has Australia entirely bungled the energy revolution? According to the Clean Energy Council of Australia, definitely not.

In a May 25 response to the Grattan Institute's report, Chief Executive Kane Thornton said Australia has already made significant headway into the solar energy market.

In fact, by 2028, the government would have delivered around $30 billion in total investment into the technologies. This has lead to developments such as the Nyngan Solar Plant in Western NSW and further projects in the pipeline

Mr Thornton estimated that this investment has led to the creative of more than 13,000 jobs in the solar energy industry. 

"The Grattan Institute report ignores the value of these jobs created by solar power and the flow-on economic and employment benefits associated with this industry," he said in a May 25 statement. 

"As the cost of solar power continues to decline and the opportunity for battery storage grows, we expect solar power to go from strength to strength as Australians embrace it in ever-greater numbers."

Whichever side of the debate you fall on, it seems clear that a radical shift is on the cards for electricity suppliers in Australia - and it could have a big impact on your final energy bills.

Posted by Richard West