Shellharbour City Council on the South Coast of New South Wales (NSW) is poised to become the first local government area (LGA) in Australia to mandate the installation of solar PV panels on the rooftops of all new buildings constructed in the region.
A motion calling for council officers to prepare a report on making rooftop solar a requirement on all new buildings and dwellings built within the Shellharbour City Council LGA was tabled at the council meeting earlier this week.
“This report should include, but not be limited to the potential cost impacts on new builds versus the long-term energy cost savings and the projected city-wide carbon emissions reduction figures,” the motion read.
The motion was unanimously passed.
Councillor Robert Petreski, who was among those who spoke in favour of the motion, said the mandated rollout of rooftop solar not only made economic sense but would further reduce the council’s carbon footprint and aid its net zero targets.
“This motion comes from obviously an evolving landscape,” he said.
“In terms of solar cost, the costs of solar panels have come down exponentially and the efficiency has gone up.
“The business case is there, commercial entities and for-profit organisations would not be putting massive solar banks on their roofs if it wasn’t economically viable.”
Shellharbour Council’s proposal comes as Australia’s appetite for solar continues to surge. The Australian PV Institute (APVI) earlier this month announced that Australia has reached 25GW of installed solar – more solar per capita than anywhere else in the world.
Australia, with a population just above 25 million, installed a record 360,000 rooftop systems in 2021, a massive 40% increase on 2020.
The APVI said at the end of 2021 there were more than 3.04 million PV installations in Australia, with a combined capacity of more than 25.3GW.
Shellharbour homeowners have been playing a part with more than 3,135 small-scale systems installed in the 2529 postcode area at 31 December 2021. With approximately 9,367 dwellings in the area, the rollout matches the Australian average of 33 solar panel systems per 100 households.
“If you want a business case for rooftop solar you just have a look down the road at Shellharbour Square, at the large clubs – even half the houses in our area are voluntarily putting on solar,” Petreski said, adding it wasn’t the intent to introduce any retroactive policy that would force the installation of rooftop solar on existing homes.
However, he hoped to “encourage” the fitting of solar panels to existing dwellings.
“It’s not going to be applied retrospectively,” he said. “It would apply to new dwellings and seeing where we can encourage retrofitting to existing dwellings.”
Petreski said the report would allow council to make an informed decision and nothing would be implemented as a requirement before the report is completed.
While Shellharbour is thought to be the first local council in Australia to investigate the possibility of requiring all new builds to have solar panels on the roof, the concept is already gaining traction in other nations.
The Berlin House of Representatives last year passed the Berlin Solar Act which requires the installation of solar PV systems on all new buildings in the German capital from 2023.
The law’s new provisions apply to all new buildings as well as to major renovations of roofs in existing buildings with usable areas of more than 50 square meters.
Those who don’t abide by the new PV requirements will have to pay a fine of almost $80,000 (€50,000) if it’s a non-residential building.
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