The current record-breaking rate of rooftop solar growth around Australia could see behind-the-meter PV deliver as much as 14 per cent of the national grid's electricity by as early as 2023, a new report has found.
The Solar Trends Report by the Australian PV Institute and commissioned by Solar Citizens found electricity generated from rooftop solar PV had increased by 33 per cent over the past year, jumping from just under 6700GWh to 8900GWh.
The study surmises that the substantial increase in electricity generated from distributed solar PV has come from a combination of more homes and businesses putting solar on their roofs, as well as a greater understanding of how to maximise output.
And if this growth rate continues, says Solar Citizens director Joseph Scales, up to 14 per cent of the NEM's electricity is likely to come from rooftop solar by 2023.
That would bring it into the ballpark of brown coal's current contribution to the grid, which – usually around 20 per cent – has been lolling at around 15-16 per cent lately, due to plant maintenance.
'Rising electricity costs and desire to take control back from energy retailers is driving significant growth in new solar and we went past 2 million solar households last week,' Scales said in comments on the study.
'But households and businesses with existing solar are also adding to their set-up and getting better at maximising output from their systems, while also fitting batteries to store power for later use.
'That's driven a 33 per cent increase in output, despite the fact the number of households with solar installed has grown from about 20 per cent to 21.6 per cent in the same time.
'There is between 43GW to 61GW of potential rooftop solar capacity on Australia's houses and currently, only 12-16 per cent of this potential is being utilised.
'An increasing amount of power is exported to the grid by solar households, which is a cheap source of power that can be provided to other households.'
Total generation from distributed solar in the year to August 2018 was 8900GWh, or around 3 per cent of total electricity consumption. But as Scales notes, distributed solar sometimes contributes more than 20 per cent of the NEM's total electricity demand in the middle of the day.
Sophie is editor of OneStepOffTheGrid.com.au and deputy editor of its sister site, RenewEconomy.com.au. Sophie has been writing about clean energy for more than a decade.