Home solar surge predicted amid price spikes

'TIS (ALMOST) THE SEASON: Bendigo Sustainability Group president Chris Weir predicts a surge in demand for solar by year's end. Picture: DARREN HOWE
'TIS (ALMOST) THE SEASON: Bendigo Sustainability Group president Chris Weir predicts a surge in demand for solar by year's end. Picture: DARREN HOWE

A local sustainability group president is predicting home solar system uptake to surge by summertime, even as one study showed there was little appetite nationwide.

The Roy Morgan Research study showed almost one in four Australian households owned a home solar electric panel, but in the next 12 months only one per cent intended to buy or replace their panels.

Bendigo Sustainability Group president Chris Weir said the central Victorian region was one of the most popular parts of the state for home solar systems thanks to its long, sunny periods.

He predicted demand would spike in the second half of the year, following the closure of Hazelwood and spikes in gas and electricity prices.

Mr Weir said demand might also increase as new batteries came onto the market. 

The latest battery technology was gaining prominence. Last week manufacturer Tesla promised to build the South Australian government a 100 megawatt solar battery within a hundred days.

“To date people have been hanging back to see what happens with (home) batteries. They can be a bit expensive,” Mr Weir said.

“But every day the costs are coming down.”

After the initial rush of early adopters there had been a lull in solar system installations, Mr Weir said, and now households were starting to see prices better for their bottom line.

SUN POWERED: Percentage of households with a home solar electric panel. April 2016 – March 2017. Source: ROY MORGAN

SUN POWERED: Percentage of households with a home solar electric panel. April 2016 – March 2017. Source: ROY MORGAN

The Bendigo Sustainability Group was even considering restarting solar installation information sessions, which lagged off in recent times because locals were waiting to see how solar batteries evolved.

According to Roy Morgan, Queensland and South Australia topped the list for sun-powered homes, with 30.2 per cent and 32.8 per cent respectively. 

Victoria came in fourth, with 21 per cent of homes hooked up.

Mr Weir was not surprised Victoria was behind states like Queensland, where the days and summers were longer and people relied more heavily on costly air conditioning.

In Victoria people had also been hit by lower solar feed-in tariffs.

The payments to households for electricity supplied back into the grid had risen after plummeting from 20 cents per kilowatt hour to five at the beginning of the year.

Earlier this month the Essential Services Commission raised the minimum feed-in tariff to 11.3 cents per kilowatt hour.