Solar energy reaches parity with coal fuel costs19th Aug 2011
Positive speculation is brewing over Australia's solar future following new claims that photovoltaic power has reached parity with retail grid power in several states.
Speaking to The Age yesterday (August 18), Andrew Blakers, director of the centre for sustainable energy systems at the Australian National University, says that the majority of the country has made significant progress towards a renewable energy future.
He says: ''If you look at the prices being paid today, we have already reached grid parity in a lot of places except Melbourne and Hobart."
The comments give hope to many in the industry who have faced tough times in recent months - particularly those in New South Wales - where a lack of government policy is having a negative impact.
Grid parity is crucial as it demonstrates the viability of solar power generation for the future.
Some households have been able to benefit by receiving payments equal to that which it would cost to buy the power from utilities companies.
National parity with coal will allow the solar industry to operate sufficiently without rebates and is critical for widespread adoption by the public.
Price equality eliminates the perception that renewable energy costs more than traditional coal-fired power which creates significant amount of carbon pollution every year.
NSW saw thousands of homeowners take up the solar bonus scheme in 2010.
According to the Independent Pricing and Regulatory Tribunal (IPART), many households are still awaiting the installation of their systems, meaning that NSW's solar generation capacity is already set to increase.
Currently the NSW government is waiting on IPART to conduct an investigation into a fair and reasonable price for the future feed-in tariff.
The report is expected to be delivered in April, from which the government will draw up a new policy for consumers who wish to create a cost-benefit arrangement with their utilities company.
The concerns for many essentially boil down to the cost and the new announcements regarding grid parity will help many households and businesses make the switch.
Once it becomes cheaper to generate electricity from rooftop solar panels than purchasing it from suppliers, it is expected that the solar industry will see a boost in the number of installations.
The positive news follows an announcement on Wednesday (August 17) that Australian company Silex Solar will stop producing solar cells at its Sydney factory.
Company chief Michael Goldsworthy says that the company will still produce solar panels, but will import cells from overseas.