Australian Solar Policy

Despite its enviable wealth in solar resources, boasting the highest average solar radiation per square metre of any continent, Australia has long resisted renewable energy. Recently, however, there has been a surge in solar power generating capacity, due to federal government initiatives such as the Renewable Energy Target, and state level support and flagship projects.

Australia still suffers from an historical dependence on its enormous resources of coal, which continues to hinder moves to decarbonise its electricity production. Nevertheless, the inevitable lure of cheap and readily available solar power has begun finally to take hold, despite powerful lobby groups obstructing effective government policies to support the fledgling industry. In the past year, 33% more power generating capacity has been added to the grid, and more than two million homes have solar systems on their rooftops, mainly solar thermal water heating. Remote off-grid locations have been early adopters of PV electricity. By September 2018 there was over 10.13 GW of installed PV solar power, with 3.37GW having been installed in the preceding 12 months. Australia has a long way to go, as this is a mere 3.8% of its electricity production.

The Renewable Energy Target is a government policy package which has stimulated solar growth recently, including feed-in tariffs, renewable energy targets, and investment in research and development. The Clean Energy Initiative Solar Flagships Program managed by the Department of Resources Energy and Tourism has invested $1.5 billion in support. One result are four large-scale solar power plants, using both solar thermal and PV technologies.

Solar irradiation potential ranges from 1500-2400kWh/m2 p.a. from the Eastern coast to central western desert regions.