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Environment

Australia’s Solar Power Installations Soar to Record Heights


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Rooftop solar installations in Australia in the first quarter of this year were almost double those of a year earlier, data from Green Energy Markets (GEM) revealed Monday.  

The GEM Renewable Energy Index showed Australians installed almost 500 megawatts of rooftop solar in the March quarter, 46% greater than the same period in 2018 and two-and-a-half times higher than the first quarter average across the past four years.

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"Households and businesses have embraced solar at record rates in response to persistently high power prices,” the index reported. “Given that level of installations tend to rise towards the end of the year, it appears likely small-scale rooftop solar installations for 2019 will exceed 2,000 megawatts nationally.”


The surge is predominantly thanks to Victoria. The Daniel Andrews state government introduced a Solar Homes Package in August 2018 that offers rebates of up to $2,225 AUD to support the installation of solar power systems. The rebates package saw the state’s solar installations increase by 90%.

"The Victorian Government rebate has really turbocharged sales in Victoria,” said Green Energy Markets’ Tristan Edis, according to electricity news magazine, PV. “It’s also spectacular that we’re seeing ongoing robust sales in other states as well, with perhaps the exception of Western Australia.”

In March, overall renewable energy sources — including solar and wind — supplied almost 20% of electricity to Australia’s main grids. The Age reported that supply could provide enough energy for 9.5 million homes, subsequently saving around 2.7 million tonnes of carbon dioxide.

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Despite the growing renewables sector, coal remains Australia’s strongest source of energy. 

A March report from private consultant NDEVR Environmental revealed declines in emissions from Australia’s electricity sector pale in comparison to growth in other industries. The report showed Australia’s annual overall greenhouse gas emissions reached the highest level on record once unreliable land use data was excluded.

"When excluding land use, Australia’s annual emissions for the year to September 2018 were the highest on record," the report announced. “Transport emissions were the highest on record and can be attributed to the rise in Australia’s diesel fuel consumption. Emissions from stationary energy and fugitives similarly continue to trend steeply upward.”

Last month, Australia was pinpointed by the World Economic Forum for its continued heavy dependence on coal and its failure to cut carbon emissions. Among the World Economic Forum’s list of 32 advanced nations, Australia ranked 28th for its preparedness to transition to a “secure, sustainable, affordable, and reliable energy future.”