In our 2015 paper Beyond Wind: Furthering development of clean energy in South Australia, we identified a relationship between subsidy availability, subsidy withdrawal and rates of PV installation in South Australia.  The story was clear: here in sunny South Australia, subsidisation of PV caused a strong consumer response. When subsidies were combining (i.e. renewable energy certificates and feed-in tariffs were both available) at the same time as power prices were rising and system prices were plunging, PV became a true financial no-brainer. As subsidisation budgets became subscribed beyond expectations (and budgets), a process of reduction and withdrawal began. This lead to a series of installation peaks and finally what appeared to be a “new-normal” installation rate at a level far below historical peaks.

Figure 6 Solar PV install by month

Figure 6. Monthly solar photovoltaic installation in South Australia (kw month−1 ) from February 2011 to November 2014 showing reduction and withdrawal Renewable Energy Certificate (REC) multipliers and Feed in Tariff (FiT). Sources: Clean Energy Regulator (2012), Clean Energy Regulator (2014c).

We now have over a year more data on this issue, so it pays to see what has happened since.

Figure 6 Solar PV install by month
Data to end January 2016 from Australian Photovoltaic Institute. There may be some remaining lag on the January figure while all systems are deemed

The “new normal” remained remarkably solid for about a year and then appears to have taken a dip to levels not seen since 2010. South Australia has continued to add PV at a much lower rate. At the time of our manuscript completion PV was providing about 5 % of South Australia’s electricity. Now it is providing more … but not much more. At over a million systems installed and penetration of nearly 25 %, any pragmatist can see that the first great age of PV has ended in South Australia. Doubtless, more can be achieved but the low-barrier, low-cost period seems to have ended.

Which was, of course the core theme of our paper: deciding whether or not to use solar or wind is a moot point. The question is: what do we do next?

One comment

  1. Globally the subsidies offer to renewables are less than 1% of those nuclear and fossils have obtained from the taxpayers. Not to mention the kings ransom of academic research superpowers have poured into nuclear power development for seven decades. And yet still nuclear is climbing north on the cost curve while various RE generation sources sail south down a seep learnings curve. All the more reason to subsidies RE deployment more heavily than we do, because it brings down the hard costs (modules) and the soft-costs (regulatory compliance, installation etc).

    Thanks for the graph it underlines the fact that we aren’t doing enough to promote the rapid uptake of distributed solarPV and large scale solar in Australia, especially in a state as blessed with insolation as SA.

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