Rooftop solar to beat coal, demolish midday demand in SA by 2025

Rooftop solar PV capacity in Australia is expected to overtake that of coal fired generation within the next decade, according to new forecasts by the Australian Energy Market Operator, published on Thursday.

The AEMO forecasts, part of the National Electricity Forecasting Report, predict that rooftop solar installed on Australian homes and businesses – currently standing at around 4.2GW – will continue to grow to as much as 25GW by 2034.

At some point in the next decade, this means the installed capacity of rooftop solar will overtake that of coal-fired generation, which is currently at around 27GW but will decrease dramatically in coming years as plants like Playford, Northern, Liddell and others are closed down and phased out.

AEMO’s forecasts for grid consumption are now guided by various scenarios in the take-up of rooftop solar, from low to near saturation coverage of rooftop solar for homes and businesses by 2035. 

In South Australia, it predicts that within a decade, there will be zero demand from the grid at certain times due to the proliferation of rooftop solar.

This conforms to the growing view, in research (CSIRO) and industry circles (Engie, the owner of Hazelwood power plant), that at least half of all demand in Australia will be sourced locally – via rooftop solar and battery storage – relegating the role of centralised generators such as coal-fired power stations.

It also suggests that while investments in large scale renewables could become hostage to policy uncertainty at the federal level, homes and businesses are willing to invest tens of billions into rooftop solar to transform their own consumption profiles.

AEMO’s medium scenario sees the household market growing at rate of around 600-700MW a year, with the commercial market also growing strongly – and accounting for one quarter of all installations, up from around one tenth now – as businesses look to source much of their own generation.

But it’s high scenario suggest installations could grow much quicker, with a 20 per cent higher total between 2024 and 2034, or around 25GW. This is nearly double its forecast for solar of just three years ago.

© 2015 Solar Choice Pty Ltd

Giles Parkinson