Australian households have strongly supported solar photovoltaics (PV) over the past decade as a means to reduce their bills and emissions from electricity consumption, making Australia a world leader in household PV uptake. Increasingly businesses are also signing up to solar, both onsite and via power purchase agreements to buy renewable energy from utility scale solar farms. Distributed PV delivered 8,900 GWh and 7.4Mt CO2-e emissions abatement (4% of emissions from the electricity sector) across Australia in 2017-18.
The Federal government has thus far failed to commit to climate or renewables policy for the electricity sector beyond 2020. In this context, the actions of households installing small-scale PV, as well as State government renewable energy targets, and related policy instruments, are critically important for driving Australia’s transition to a lower emissions electricity sector.
In this report, the authors showcase the growth in solar across Australia, especially in the residential sector. The authors compare the progress of different states and highlight leading local government areas. While PV is an excellent investment for Australian households and residential uptake of PV has been strong, some groups of households have thus far been largely excluded from the benefits of PV, including those that live in apartments, renters and public housing tenants. In this report, the authors estimate the potential for PV on residential buildings across Australia, and highlight the untapped potential, including on apartment buildings. In some housing sectors, previously untapped potential is now being realised, with a number of the fastest growing solar areas being strongly supported by social housing solar programs. The authors analyse solar payback for hundreds of households, and focus in on three case study households that illustrate the impact of solar on different types of families living in different Australian climates, and explore how tariffs and installation decisions can affect the outcomes.

  • Australia leads the world in residential rooftop solar. 21.6% of all houses (excluding apartments)1 in Australia now have a PV system installed. Queensland and South Australia lead with more than 30% of houses having installed a PV system.
  • Spatial analysis shows there is still a 43GW to 61GW opportunity for PV installations on Australia’s housing stock including up to 4GW on apartments.
  • Distributed solar in Australia generates 8,900GWh of electricity per year, and growing. This is as much as is generated by the Liddell coal-powered plant in the same time.
  • Australian homes and businesses investing in solar are contributing 7.4Mt CO2-e emissions abatement (a reduction in 4% of emissions from the electricity sector) towards our national emissions goals.
  • Solar is an excellent investment for almost all Australian households, but there are a wide range of savings, depending on the characteristics of household electricity consumption, retail tariffs and roof characteristics. Nevertheless, the majority of households installing a wide range of PV system sizes under different types of tariffs can expect a payback of between 3-7 years.
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