Australian Solar industry celebrates grid parity

Solar industry celebrates grid parity
Matt Peacock, staff
Updated September 07, 2011 20:44:44

The [Australian] Photovoltaic Association says the drop in cost of producing power from solar
panels has made solar power competitive with coal-generated grid power.

Solar power generated by photovoltaic cells on Australian rooftops has become so cheap
and efficient that they now produce electricity for the same price that is charged by the
electricity grid.

Australia is one of the first countries in the world for such solar power to reach what is known
as ‘grid parity’.

In a time of rising electricity prices, it means even without solar subsidies it makes good
economic sense to install the panels on your house.

Across the country, governments of all persuasions are abandoning schemes to pay people
for the power their rooftop solar cells generate.

Despite controversy over feed-in tariffs – which have been blamed for Australia’s rapidly rising
electricity costs – rooftop solar photovoltaic (PV) panels are now generating electricity for the
same price and sometimes cheaper than can be bought from the grid.

In effect, this makes solar competitive with coal, even without subsidies, according to
Photovoltaic Association spokeswoman Dr Muriel Watt.

“It’s competitive with coal if you add what you need to do to bring the coal-fired electricity to
where you want to use it,” she said.

“So it’s coal plus the network. I think it’s a really good investment and that’s just looking at it
from the price of electricity now.”

Mr Watt says the growth in the market will mean a continuing decrease in solar production

“We’ve seen rapid reductions in costs of production and now that’s being reflected in prices
as well, as we’ve seen a whole lot of new production come on stream,” he said.

“Australia also has the high dollar, so that’s made prices in Australia even cheaper than they
are in other places, and our electricity prices have gone up significantly in the last five years.”

Australian sunlight is stronger than it is in other parts of the world, making PV panels here
more effective.

Mr Watt says grid parity is solar’s coming of age and governments now need to rethink their
whole power-pricing models

“It’s been the holy grail of the industry to reach it,” he said.

Mr Watt believes home-generated power should be worth a higher, competitive price given
that it is already on the doorstep and does not require the huge cost of poles and power lines.