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Solar power experts back new study

3rd Aug 2012

Well, it doesn't happen often but it seems that for once experts are in agreement with the government - regarding a new study on the future of Australian energy markets.

Published earlier this week, the Australian Energy Technology Assessment (AETA) Report and Model compiled by the Bureau of Resources and Energy Economics (among others) outlined the various benefits of electricity-generation technologies, including solar photovoltaic (PV).

The upshot? It seems that scientists believe solar power will be one of the cheapest ways to produce electricity by the mid-2030s.

And while reports of this kind are usually met with a certain amount of trepidation from industry specialists, a number have already hailed it as a comprehensive and detailed analysis.

Professor Andrew Blakers, director of the Centre for Sustainable Energy Systems at the Australian National University, told academic analysis website The Conversation that the AETA is the only government survey to reflect the "eye-popping" reductions in solar power costs in recent years.

He said: "PV has unlimited potential to supply most of the world's electricity because it utilises the enormous solar resource, requires only a tiny fraction of the world's land area, utilises only very common materials, has negligible environmental and aesthetic impact and has minimal security and military issues."

According to the professor, these aren't the only benefits of solar energy and he reeled off a number of other cost-effective advantages.

He noted that PV can now compete with retail electricity in Australia, with a payback time of up to ten years, while systems last for over double that.

"A solar revolution is taking place that will soon transform Australia's energy system," Andrew explained.

His views were backed up by Professor Ken Baldwin, director of the Australian National University's Energy Change Institute.

Ken described the release of the AETA as a "landmark event" for both Australia and the rest of the world.

"The report is both technology neutral and policy neutral: it puts all technologies on the table and enables a range of policy scenarios to be included," the expert commented.

It will ensure that the country can make informed decisions as it moves towards a carbon-free economy, he added.

Despite this, solar power will still face challenges in the future. The AETA states that wind onshore and non-renewables technology are likely to remain competitive.

Nuclear, carbon capture and storage, and combined cycle gas may still yet achieve some of the levelised cost efficiencies seen in sustainable power, the report said.

Posted by Mike Peacock

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