Industry expert lauds solar PV impact

14th Nov 2012

Solar PV is having an enormous impact on energy markets – and the government is finally sitting up and taking notice.

Or so says Andrew Blakers, director of the Centre for Sustainable Energy Systems at the Australian National University, who claimed the recent release of the federal government's 2012 Energy White Paper was encouraging for solar power proponents.

Writing an article for educational news site The Conversation, he claimed there were many positives to be taken from the report regarding renewable technologies.

And for Andrew, one of the biggest highlights was the fact that the government now seems willing to admit that it underestimated the growth and popularity of solar PV.

In the document, it states: "Few could have predicted the dramatic reduction in solar PV costs that has occurred over the past few years."

It's an admission that goes beyond what the government has previously been ready to disclose, Andrew argued.

"This was a radical departure from previous government assessments in that it recognised that solar and wind are on track to be low cost, fully competitive energy generation technologies rather soon."

However, it wasn't all positive for the white paper and the academic expert was keen to emphasise areas in which he feels the report falls short.

More specifically, Andrew believes there could be more advice and recommendations for electricity providers as to what implications these renewable developments will have for them.

According to the specialist, rooftop solar PV now generates electricity for less than the retail tariff – and not just in certain areas, across the entire country.

"There is an urgent need to rethink the national electricity market and infrastructure to take account both of the need for demand management and to cope with widely distributed electricity generation," he argued.

This will require changes to tariff structures, infrastructure modifications and a new way of approaching business models for utilities providers.

And he didn't stop there. Andrew also pointed to the white paper's "unambitious" Renewable Energy Target revision of 40 per cent of power coming from sustainable sources by 2035.

A much more aggressive approach is needed, he stated, such as 50 per cent by 2030 and 90 per cent by 2040.

With rapidly dwindling solar power and wind costs, this will have little economic impact on the majority of Australians, he concluded.

His comments came after the Climate Change Authority recently gave a preliminary report that it would likely keep the current RET structure in order to ensure a stable investment environment.

Posted by Bob Dawson

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