The choice to go solar and electrify is obvious, but choose wisely

Last week was a big one for those of us helping Australians buy and install rooftop PV, solar batteries, and smart energy systems in their homes after a relatively new event rolled into town. Sydney played host to Energy Next and it was evident from the visitor numbers, which were higher on the first day than over the whole event last year, that there was plenty of interest in the topics!

Both industry bigwigs, and many home- and business-owners were present, showing just how keen people are to learn about not only all things solar, but also about the need for fully electrified homes.

At Energy Next, Warwick Johnston, director of market intelligence and consulting firm SunWiz, provided an update on Australia’s rooftop solar and home battery market in Australia. He’s been active on the Aussie solar scene since its early days and was a keynote speaker at the event.

In addition to discussing the solar and storage markets, Johnston also provided some predictions for the future. One of the key trends he sees is that to enable a residential market transitioning to electrification – with the addition of supporting technology like storage, electric vehicle (EV) charging, and heat pumps – rooftop solar system sizes are beginning to increase markedly from the days when 6.6 kW was the standard.

Instead, the analyst and consultant said that to provide the power available for a home to pursue the goal of electrifying everything, system sizes of more like 26.6 kW will be needed. That’s a lot of solar to fit onto the roof, but most Australian homes have the space, particularly if they use high efficiency PV panels and equipment.

Booming demand

That Aussie home solar and battery systems are getting bigger is also backed up by new market data. To see also : array. This info was published in a Guardian article from a couple of weeks ago that quoted Tristan Edis, the director of analysis and advisory at Green Energy Markets.

Edis noted that of the new PV systems being purchased in Australia this year, many customers are opting to replace their smaller existing systems with larger ones as they seek to take advantage of decreasing prices and the fact that each panel can produce much more power.

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“No brainer”

Additionally, on the back of the widely reported soaring electricity prices, Edis said demand for rooftop solar systems from Aussie homeowners and small businesses is picking up, with roughly 1.46 GW of new systems added to residential properties and businesses in the first half of 2023. Read also : Key Issues With Low cost Solar Techniques (With One Necessary Warning For 2021!). June in particular witnessed stellar growth, with 13.2% more installations recorded than the previous year, at 250 MW, he said.

You can check out the installation numbers in the chart above, with the orange line showing the 2023 installations. It’s likely it will head upwards for the remainder of the year.

Given another increase in electricity prices of up to 25% this month, Edis said he is confident that 2023 will see the 3.2 GW rooftop installation record achieved in 2021 beaten.

“It’s tracking at the second highest it’s ever been,” Edis told the Guardian. “I think it’s going to continue to be a robust year in terms of sales because of power prices … and by the end of the year, [new capacity] is probably going to be similar to what it was in 2021.”

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Act now!

For those who have been considering installing a rooftop solar system to counter soaring costs, now is the time to act, according to consumer advocacy group CHOICE. Read also : LG Solar completes production. Indeed, given the high electricity prices and improved payback times on solar systems of four to five years, CHOICE says that “there’s never been a better time to take the plunge.”

Based on a 6.6 kW system that self-generates 35% of a household of five’s total energy consumption, solar expert Chris Barnes said that quarterly payments could be under $100 dollars compared to hundreds of dollars.

“What you get for your dollar is generally superior to what you’d have bought a few years ago,” he said. “The solar payback period is how long it takes for your solar panel system to pay for itself from the savings on your reduced electricity bills.”

Overall, CHOICE found that payback periods in capital cities could drop by an average of 10%, and by up to 30% in some regional areas.

Barnes added that regardless of where you live, “The sooner you get panels on the roof, the sooner you start saving money. It’s sometimes said that the best time to get solar was a year ago, and the next best time is now.”

Source: Reed Exhibitions

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Driving force

As Energy Next event attendees also heard, a key component of growing the solar industry, and electrification, are EVs. And, while there is still a way to go in the Australian market, with challenges to overcome, including building consumer confidence, reducing current high vehicle prices, and installing adequate charging infrastructure, there is a huge opportunity in the country to drive this industry forward.

This sentiment was underscored by a recent report released by Schneider Electric, which stated that 1% of businesses have expressed a desire to electrify their fleet. And I’m confident that number is going to shoot up.

This is good news for residential solar, given the opportunities such a fleet presents for it to take advantage of the energy generated when the EVs are not in use. As event panelist Brett Milne, Managing Director and Founder, Karit, pointed out when addressing concerns around grid stability and load management, virtual power plants are a key solution.

“There are a lot of different definitions of a virtual power plant but one of the main benefits is the ability to share from one side to another. We are seeing this being used on quite a large scale, with factories, wineries and residential dwellings connecting and sharing,” he said.

Batteries baby

Inevitably, when installing PV systems, and moving towards 100% electrification, energy storage is also a key component.

According to the 2023 Australian Battery Market Report by SunWiz – Warwick Johnston’s outfit – Australia’s home energy storage system market grew “significantly” in 2022 across all states and territories. The annual increase was a whopping 55%, reaching a total of 589 MWh of home energy storage.

What’s more, systems combined with PV grew from 8% in 2021, and even surpassed 2017’s record of 12%, to reach 15% in 2022, thus bringing cumulative capacity to 180,000 homes in Australia, or 1,920 MWh.

We can’t forget about smart energy management systems either. As we at Natural Solar highlighted last October: “For the effective decarbonisation of Australian homes, solar energy will also have to be used efficiently in the home and in an increased number of ways. Fossil-fuel using heaters, cooktops, and cars must be electrified, and the powering of these with rooftop solar is not only done best with a home battery, but also with a smart energy management system.”

These systems mark a transition from pure residential solar 1.0 to a smart energy home business 2.0.

An integral part of this is our smart energy controller, the Heartbeat, which helps homes take maximum advantage of their full electrification potential. As I wrote at the time, with a right-sized residential solar and battery system coupled to the Heartbeat, we’ve seen some homes save 120% on their electricity bill.

But beware!

While CHOICE is advocating for consumers to install clean energy systems now, it does warn about the dangers of consumer exploitation by “shark” companies that are not adequately qualified.

“Don’t fall for classic traps such as ‘limited time offers’, and get the full specs of the solar system in writing before signing up, to avoid the provider substituting alternative brands at the last minute,” advised Barnes. Instead, opt for a qualified and pre-vetted solar installer that also offers trusted and established equipment brands.

With a proven background that includes being an Approved Supplier of the NSW Empowering Homes Program – the goal is to deliver solar batteries to up to 300,000 NSW homes across the next 10 years – and with “unicorn” 1KOMMA5° backing us up, Natural Solar has demonstrated it is Australia’s leading installer of solar batteries, and can be relied upon to go the distance.

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