Solar capacity ‘tantalisingly’ close to exceeding expectations but analyst warns of ‘logical’ downturn


Australia is “tantalisingly close” to reaching 3,000 MW of solar capacity after November saw the addition of close to 276 MW, taking the year to date to 2,632 MW. “This has been a remarkably good year for the Australian solar PV market,” Tristan Edis told pv magazine Australia.

Yet the Green Energy Markets’ Director of Analysis believes it is unlikely the supercharged sector can continue with the same force given the drop in wholesale prices.

“If the pattern of growth in these charts below continues into next year it would be incredible but would be defying logic given middle of the day wholesale electricity prices have plummeted,” Edis said.

Kilowatts of solar PV registered by month
Australia has had a “remarkable” year for solar PV, according to both Edis and the Clean Energy Regulator’s chair David Parker.

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The Clean Energy Regulator had expected between 2 GW to 3 GW of solar capacity to be added in 2020, pointing out in November that given the extensive disruptions caused by the global coronavirus pandemic, it is “remarkable” the forecast has almost been exceeded.

Edis agrees, noting the outcome was extra surprising given the bleak outlook for the industry as news of the pandemic broke. A survey carried out by pv magazine Australia and Green Energy Markets in the early months of 2020 revealed rooftop solar installers and suppliers were seeing declines in customer enquiries to the tune of 25% to 50%.

“Who would have thought we’d be here, given how grim things looked in late March,” Edis said. “Interesting times indeed.”

Unfortunately, the analyst believes Australia will fall “just short” of registering 3 GW worth of solar for Small-scale Technology Certificates (STC) in 2020 due to Melbourne’s Covid-19 stage four lockdowns.

“Victoria’s installs dived as a result of the Covid restrictions and since they were removed the Victorian market has leapt back up dramatically. Given what we have heard about the backlog of sales in Victoria its quite possible December numbers will be a bit higher than November for Victoria,” Edis said.

“However given we lose several working days over Christmas and New Year, I don’t think installs nationally will be high enough to get us the level of installs necessary to reach 3000MW.”

Victoria’s installations dived as a result of the Covid-19 restrictions but the market “leapt back up dramatically” after the lockdown was removed, Edis noted.

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