AEMO chief says 25% of Australia’s electricity will come from rooftop solar PV by 2040

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As Sydney sits coughing in a bushfire haze that has the city looking more like the smoking area of a Beijing bar than the sapphire of the South Pacific, the Smart Energy Council’s (SEC) long-awaited National Smart Energy Summit (Summit) got underway at the Hilton Hotel. 

The Summit, featuring speakers of repute from former Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull to Atlassian billionaire and large-scale solar investor Mike Canon-Brookes, started a bang which cannot be blamed for the smoke. 

The bang was provided by Australian Energy Market Operator (AEMO) CEO Audrey Zibelman who said that by 2040, about 25% of Australia’s electricity will be produced by Australians with their own rooftop solar PV. “We are leading the world in per capita growth of rooftop solar,” said Zibelman. 

In the recently released 2019 Emissions Projections report released by the Department of Environment and Energy, it was suggested that between now and 2030 an additional 15 GW of small-scale solar PV will be installed in Australia. 

Interestingly, that figure of 15 GW closely mirrors the amount of coal-fired generation set to retire in the next 15 years, equivalent to approximately two-thirds of the current coal fleet. Clearly, residential, commercial and utility solar PV, along with other renewable sources, is the most inexpensive and economically self-evident path forward. 

“This is not political play,” said Zibelman, “this is economic play.” 

Of course, Zibelman stressed that in order to pursue this path Australia needs to plan and construct a new network infrastructure, one not only capable of transmitting the renewable energy produced from solar, wind and storage rich parts of the country, but also the network within which individuals and families can produce their own clean energy, their own smart energy. 

The AEMO’s Integrated System Plan (ISP) seeks to set out an integrated roadmap for the developmental course of the NEM over the next 20 years, and as Zibelman stressed today, much of that plan will hinge on solar PV. 

As Zibelman put it to the delight of the Summit audience: “Let’s put the smart into smart energy!”