Going solar: renewing Australia’s electricity options



solar panels on suburban roofs|Photographs by Gnangarra...commons.wikimedia.org [CC-BY-2.5-au (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.5/au/deed.en)]

Recent debates around electricity prices and renewable energy policy have largely ignored the rapid drop in solar technology costs, and the cost and risks associated with ‘business as usual’.

Going solar is the first economic assessment of future electricity price shocks if fossil fuels continue to dominate. The report takes a close look at Australia’s electricity price security and singles out rising gas prices and more frequent droughts as key risks. Prices for gas-fired electricity are now linked to volatile international fuel prices. Water scarcity reduces supply from water-cooled coal plants, pushing up wholesale electricity prices.

going solar

Embracing the shift to renewable energy can reduce vulnerability to electricity price shocks and energy insecurity. Rising popularity and rapidly falling costs put rooftop solar at the leading edge of this change. Yet, without stable policies to support renewable energy, Australians risk future bill shocks of up to $250 a year for the average household, plus supply interruptions. Yet effective support for fossil fuel electricity was $3.6 billion in 2012-13, more than double the support given to renewable energy.

Going solar looks at the key role rooftop solar will play in our future electricity system, and makes a series of practical policy recommendations to maximise the benefits of rooftop solar while minimising the cost of integrating it into the electricity system.

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The world’s electricity market is on the cusp of a transformation from fossil fuels to renewable generation. In 2011, global investment in the renewable energy sector reached a new high of around $250 billion, almost double the pre-financial crisis levels of 2007.

By 2035, renewable energy is
expected to compete with coal as the primary source of global energy.