Western Australia’s treasurer and energy minister, Mike Nahan, has predicted that solar PV will meet the daytime electricity needs of the state within the next decade, in a speech at a conference this week.
In the landmark speech, Nahan said solar was cheap, democratic, and likely to account for all new generation capacity, displacing the state’s ageing coal generators.
“We expect that the bulk of generating capacity during sunlight hours in the [Perth] metro area in about 10 years time will be provided by rooftop solar,” he told the Perth energy conference.
“That’s the reality. So it is going to provide the bulk of additional capacity going forward.
“Solar will also displace a lot of the existing [coal-based] capacity. It’s low-priced, it’s democratically determined and it’s something we’re committed to facilitating.”
Nahan – a former head of right-wing think tank the Institute of Public Affairs and, in that role, a former critic of renewable energy – has been presented with the reality of a state, which as RenewEconomy has mentioned on several previous occasions, is something of a basket case.
The centralised, fossil fuel system has relied on massive government subsidies that now equate to more than $600 million a year, or more than $500 per household.
Nahan wants the subsidy phased out within a few years, which will make rooftop solar – and battery storage – even more attractive as retail electricity prices rise.
“Small-scale solar is growing at 20, 30 per cent a year and will do nothing but accentuate and it is actually quite cheap,” Nahan said this week.
About 170,000 households in the main WA grid, known as the South West Interconnected System, now have rooftop solar, amounting to around 500MW of capacity – the equivalent of a major base-load power station.
This is expected to more than double within years, resulting in excess capacity. And because of the contracts given to the capacity market, the excess capacity that will need to be shut will come from the government-owned utility, and its ageing coal plants in particular.
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