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Feb 04 2021

New data shows solar shines despite lockdowns

Rooftop solar installation grew by 18 per cent nationally over the last year, according to the Australian Energy Council’s latest Solar Report, which showed record growth in solar PV capacity and installations during 2020.

The AEC’s Solar Report also shows Victoria’s solar industry staged a spectacular comeback from the Covid-19 lockdown last year.

Stage 4 restrictions saw new solar installations drop by more than half in Victoria in August and September 2020 compared to the previous two months and then rebound in October and November.

The AEC’s Chief Executive, Sarah McNamara, said that despite the setbacks due to COVID Australia continues to see record levels of solar PV being installed.

“It is also continuing to push demand levels for the state to new minimum levels, particularly on mild, sunny days. We can expect this trend to continue as more homes install solar.”

Australia’s rooftop PV market has been remarkably resilient with an additional 2.6 gigawatts (GW) and 333,978 installations added to the grid during the year – both the capacity and installations are around 18 per cent higher than 2019 (2.2GW and 284,000 installations).

By the end of 2020 there were more than 2.66 million homes and businesses with solar rooftops.

In Victoria there were 6,161 solar PV systems installed in August/September compared to 14,091 installations for June and July, a 56 per cent reduction. COVID Stage 4 restrictions limited installation work in Melbourne and the Mitchell Shire with installers only able to attend up the three sites per week. Solar systems could not be installed on occupied homes, except for new-builds or when the home was fully vacated. As a result, installations in Melbourne Metropolitan and Mitchell Shire areas saw a low of only 490 installations (16 per cent of Victoria’s total installation) in September 2020.

Over the year, the state reported 3 per cent growth in capacity installed in 2020 compared to a year earlier (483MW compared to 468MW). Victoria accounts for 18.5 per cent of Australia’s installed rooftop solar with a cumulative capacity of 2.5GW.

“Victoria’s rooftop solar capacity has also seen the state’s minimum electricity demand continue to fall. On Christmas Day the state recorded a new record for minimum demand of 2529MW at 1pm (834MW below Christmas 2019),” said Ms McNamara.

“Overall, there was a noticeable dip in installations in April 2020 which marks the impact of COVID-19. Since then, the general trend has been for continued growth. New South Wales reported the highest monthly installations, while Queensland took over the second spot from Victoria in the last quarter of 2020.”

The increasing amount of solar in the system is also continuing to see minimum demand fall to new low levels with Victoria and NSW reporting their lowest operational and underlying demand* levels across the day on Christmas Day (Victoria recorded the lowest daily demand of 172GW and 198GW respectively, while NSW’s demand was only 294GW and 318GW in 2020).  Christmas Day also had the lowest daily total underlying demand for the National Electricity Market for the year at 934GW.

* Operational demand is the amount of electricity drawn from the grid (and does not include power supplied by rooftop solar) while underlying demand includes is all the electricity used by consumers, which can be sourced from the grid but also, increasingly, from other sources including consumers’ rooftop photovoltaic (PV) and battery storage.

About the Australian Energy Council

The Council represents 21 major electricity and downstream natural gas businesses operating in the competitive wholesale and retail energy markets. These businesses collectively generate the overwhelming majority of electricity in Australia, sell gas and electricity to over 10 million homes and businesses, and are major investors in renewable energy generation.

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