While Australia's federal politicians are bickering over net-zero targets and a plan to meet them, households and small businesses are doing the heavy lifting on emissions reductions with more than 3 million rooftop solar systems now installed.
This milestone comes after rooftop solar achieved record installation levels in 2019 (with approximately 279,000 solar systems installed) and 2020 (with approximately 369,000 systems installed), with growth continuing despite lockdowns as sales surged with large numbers of Australians forced to work from home.
Solar market analyst Warwick Johnston, the Managing Director of SunWiz, said passing three million solar installations is a remarkable milestone.
"Thanks to our homeowners, Australia leads the world in per-capita uptake of solar power - 22 per cent higher per capita than Germany or Japan in 2020, according to the International Energy Agency," Mr Johnston said.
"The transformation of Australia's carbon-intensive electricity supply has been led by households directly investing in solar power on their homes. Not just because it benefits the planet - because it makes financial sense to do so."
"Thanks to Australia's highly-efficient solar workforce, Australia is one of the lowest-cost countries for a rooftop installation. Our abundant sunshine, large homes and high electricity prices combine to make paybacks in Australia shorter than in most other countries."
Clean Energy Council Chief Executive, Kane Thornton said Australia has long been the world leader in household solar installations, helping consumers lower their power bills, reducing pressure on the energy grid during the summer peak, reducing emissions and playing a key role in keeping the economy moving.
"On average, more than 41 solar systems are being installed every hour across Australia, equating to one panel every 44 seconds," Mr Thornton said.
"This sheer scale means that on 17 October, rooftop solar was able to account for 38 per cent share of demand on the National Electricity Market.
"For every megawatt of new rooftop solar, six jobs are created each year, illustrating that it is the largest generator of employment in the renewable energy industry. These are skilled workers, employed by small- to medium-sized businesses that are critical to local economies right across Australia."
Ellen Roberts, the National Director of community-based solar owners organisation, Solar Citizens, said Australians have installed rooftop solar in droves to slash their electricity bills and do their bit for the environment.
"So far, it's everyday people that have done the heavy lifting on carbon emissions reduction, while the Australian government has been dragging its feet. Luckily, the progress we've made together will make it easier to slash carbon pollution in other sectors, like transport and heavy industry," Ms Roberts said.
"As we transition to a cleaner economy, having abundant cheap energy during the day is a valuable resource that we can use to power electric vehicles, charge up community batteries and underpin new onshore manufacturing industries.
"Because of the hard work of Australians, we're in a good starting position to become a clean energy superpower that can export our sunshine to the world."
With the Morrison Government having finally joined most other wealthy nations in committing to net-zero emissions by 2050, the Clean Energy Council said rooftop solar would be critical to Australia achieving this target.
"Having more than 3 million rooftop solar systems now installed is a transformational change as Australians take control of their energy bills, do their bit to tackle the impact of global warming and support small business," Mr Thornton said.
"In a recent Transgrid report, Energy Vision, under the Prosumer Power scenario, the operator of the transmission network in NSW and ACT predicted that more than 80 per cent of Australian homes could have rooftop solar by 2050. In this scenario, the generation from rooftop solar alone would supply 27 per cent of the National Electricity Market's generation needs."
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