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Snowball effect in solar power gaining momentum

31st Oct 2012

There is an obvious snowball effect having an impact on the solar power market - one expert has claimed.

Nigel Morris, founder of Solar Business Services and frequent commentator on renewable energy, said the sector is experiencing a peculiar phenomenon in which demand still seems to be rising despite the removal of lucrative government incentives.

And it's not simply an Australian issue. Nigel cites recent research released by Yale and New York University that showed a "statistically measurable" trend in the US too. 

The figures showed that in postcodes where ten new solar installations go up, it will result in a 7.8 per cent rise in the likelihood of neighbours following suit.

Whereas, a ten per cent increase sees a whopping 54 per cent jump in the number of people who decide to go solar.

But Morris was quick to highlight how this is manifesting in local markets and recalled a recent chat with a client of his.

He quoted the punter as saying: "We could have, perhaps should have, put a system on a year or two ago, but we put if off.

"The latest bills are in and now, well, the cost of electricity just seems to make it worthwhile, despite the lack of support. And I see the damn things going up everywhere."

And Morris believes this snowball is growing due to the visibility of solar power systems and word of mouth.

He argued that this is also being played out in Queensland, with customers flocking to buy rooftop PV systems in spite of the state government reducing generous feed-in tariff (FIT) rebates.

Originally a mouth-watering 44 cents per kilowatt-hour, Queensland's FIT scheme has been brought down to eight cents.

"Applications for PV installations ... have re-emerged already, with an average of 70 new applications a day rolling in," Morris explained.

"It's almost as if Queenslanders are flipping premier Campbell Newman the 'solar' bird!"

So what is driving this snowball, apart from word of mouth? Well, Morris believes recent reports about the benefits of renewable energy could be having an influence.

He pointed to the Clean Energy Council's recent Renewable Energy Target report, which claimed the scheme was responsible for $18.5 billion worth of investment - with a similar amount still to come should the initiative be allowed to continue in its current form.

Data like this shows why the electricity market is currently skittish about sustainable power, the expert concluded.

Posted by Mike Peacock

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