The demand for rooftop solar in the ACT has reached new heights, with the number of solar generators increasing by more than 17 per cent during the last financial year.
According to the ACT Government’s 2019-20 annual Feed-in Tariff (FiT) report, there are now more than 28,000 solar generators in Canberra, with more than 119,000 megawatt-hours (MWh) of clean energy generated in 2019-20, an increase of 18.8 per cent.
The total installed capacity from solar generators on Canberra’s rooftops last financial year was 135 megawatts, which is more than six times that generated by the ACT’s large-scale Royalla solar farm.
While Minister for Water, Energy and Emissions Reduction Shane Rattenbury acknowledged the COVID-19 pandemic has partially fueled the increase in demand for ACT households to instal solar panels, he said the cost benefits were the enduring factor.
“The cost of installing solar, depending on the size and electricity usage of your house, is about $5000 and payback on the system is anywhere from three to five years. People will also start seeing savings of $500 to $1000 a year,” Mr Rattenbury said.
According to the report, the ACT Government’s small and medium FiT scheme supported 10,153 local solar generators last financial year, generating 47,296 MWh of electricity, an increase of 1.6 per cent.
The cost of the scheme also declined by 1.46 per cent to just 83 cents a week for the average consumer.
Canberra resident Tenille Fricker had solar panels installed in August last year after deciding to take action because of the summer’s bushfires and her concerns about climate change.
“Climate change is something I’ve been concerned about for a really long time, but living through the smoke in the ACT over last summer is something that really galvanised the need for us to take immediate action and try and reduce our own emissions,” she said.
“We’ve seen cost savings already. Our first full quarter bill was $233 and our last full quarter bill was $75 in credit.”
Ms Fricker’s advice was to find a company that had a good reputation and to look into options including a battery to store generated energy.
Bin Wang of Mondiaux Solar in Canberra said they have been doing between 17 and 25 solar panel installations per week. The company installed more than 1.4 MWh of solar during the last quarter from October to December.
“The concept of renewable energy has really gained momentum as more people spread the word about solar energy,” Mr Wang said.
“We started with three staff three years ago and now we have 28 people working for us.”
Mr Rattenbury said rooftop solar will continue to play a valuable role in maintaining the ACT’s 100 per cent renewable electricity supply.
The ACT Government will also commence the Sustainable Household Loan Scheme rollout through 2021 that will remove the up-front financial barrier to access cheaper forms of energy for households such as rooftop solar.
“This initiative allows households without the available capital to make the sustainable investment to reduce their power bills immediately, support more jobs in our economy, and reduce emissions,” Mr Rattenbury said.
However, he said more work needed to be done to ensure the infrastructure could cope with the extra power coming into the grid.
“There’s a lot of design work still to be done and we’re anticipating the grid of the future will be much more two-directional,” Mr Rattenbury said.
“Canberrans are playing a significant part in generating the ACT’s 100 per cent renewable electricity supply. Canberrans recognise the value solar has to our clean, green and affordable energy future.
“The FiT scheme, which was designed as an incentive to boost solar uptake when the technology was new and more expensive, has made an important contribution to renewable electricity generation in the ACT.
“Though the scheme closed to new applicants in 2011, having served its purpose to drive investment and help bring solar system prices down, I am delighted to see so many Canberrans are taking up clean, green renewable energy options.”
You can view the 2019-20 annual report on the Environment, Planning and Sustainable Development Directorate’s energy website.