Australia’s small scale RECs scheme sees record installations in 2020

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Over 362,000 rooftop solar PV systems with 3GW of capacity were installed across Australia in 2020, analysis from the CSIRO reveals.

This number marks a record for the scheme and is 28% up on the almost 284,000 installations and a 40% increase on the 2.2GW installed capacity in 2019.

The largest number of solar PV systems installed in 2020 were in New South Wales (108,922) followed by Queensland (86,912), Victoria (71,798), Western Australia (47,653) and South Australia (35,599).

The average size was about 8.5kW, which is more than double that of the earliest installs and where the average is settling after some variations in the previous years.

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As before, the majority of installs were residential, with a smaller number for commercial and industrial properties. Notably in some jurisdictions was a correlation of the installations with new build houses, indicating builders as a key driving force.

“The solar PV installation data shows how quickly PV systems have been taken up across Australia and the increasing size of the PV arrays,” says CSIRO Senior Experimental Scientist Michael Ambrose, who was part of the data analysis team.

Small-scale Renewable Energy Scheme

Australia’s Small-scale Renewable Energy Scheme creates a financial incentive in the form of small-scale technology certificates for individuals and small businesses to install small-scale renewable energy systems. Eligible systems include solar PV with a capacity up to 100kW, wind turbines up to 10kW, hydro systems up to 6.4kW, solar water heaters of up to 700l and air source heat pumps up to 425l.

The certificates are provided ‘up front’ for the systems’ expected power generation over a 15-year period or, from 2017 from the installation year until 2030 when the scheme ends.

The number of small-scale technology certificates required to be submitted by electricity retailers is set each year by a ‘small-scale technology percentage’ which is based on wholesale electricity acquisitions.

Data from the Clean Energy Regulator quoted by the CSIRO shows that more than 2.68 million rooftop solar power systems had been installed in Australia in total as of 31 December 2020. That means one in four homes have solar panels on their roof.

In addition on a per capita basis Australia leads the world with installed PV capacity at 600W/person, which is almost three times that of the US and almost eight times that globally, according to the CSIRO citing IEA data.

“Sustained low technology costs, increased work from home arrangements and a shift in household spending to home improvements during Covid-19 played a key role in the increase of rooftop solar PV systems under the SRES,” commented Clean Energy Regulator’s Executive General Manager Mark Williamson.

Solar installer review

Following issues raised on the integrity of the rooftop solar sector, the Clean Energy Regulator initiated an investigation, which is still to report.

In the meantime the Regulator has established a taskforce to target installers accredited by the Clean Energy Council who make false statements in relation to small-scale technology certificate eligibility and are deemed unlikely to have been on-site in accordance with the Council’s guidelines.

Possible penalties include cancellation of accreditation, revocation of electrical licence and civil proceedings or criminal prosecutions. Claims for certificates may also be failed.