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Report Shows Record Number of Household Solar Installations Reached

‘Those pressures on household budgets are still very present and solar panels remain a great way of reducing electricity bills.’

Australians are investing in solar technology in record numbers amid a cost-of-living crisis, data from a new report has shown.

According to preliminary figures released on Jan. 8 by Australian solar company Sunwiz, Australia’s solar capacity rose by 14 percent in 2023 compared to 2022, increasing by 3.17 gigawatts.

The 2023 annual PV report also showed that investment in solar power broke records during the last three months of 2023, with November and December becoming the busiest months for solar panel installations.

SunWiz Managing Director Warwick Johnston noted that households and businesses were estimated to have added about 921 megawatts of solar capacity compared to 3.23 gigawatts in 2021

Mr. Johnston said that the built-up of consumer interest was caused by rising electricity prices and cost-of-living pressures.

“The other driving factor is electric vehicles … because it makes a great deal of sense for them to be powered by cheap electricity,” he told AAP.

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The report also revealed that more Australian families were buying battery storage for their solar power, with one in five households purchasing storage. The trend is expected to continue in 2024.

“I expect we’ll have a bigger year this year than we did last year,” Mr. Johnston said.

“Those pressures on household budgets are still very present and solar panels remain a great way of reducing electricity bills.”

Solar Citizens Acting Chief Executive Joel Pringle said that research showed households could save $1,200 (US$806) a year using rooftop solar.

The cost of a solar panel installation varies depending on the output capacity, with the average 6kW system costing about $4,000 to $6,000. When taking a battery-charging system into account, it would take about five years for households to recover their initial cost.

Meanwhile, MarketWatch estimated that a household could save about US$1,432 (A$2,100) per year with a 6kW solar system.

Mr. Pringle noted that more affordable household batteries would be needed to “continue the solar momentum” in the country. He also called on the federal government to roll out more incentives to “get more solar panels on apartments and rental properties.”

“Renters, people living in apartments, social housing residents, and people with low incomes and limited savings are currently stuck with higher energy bills because they can’t access rooftop solar,” he said.

Decline in Solar Panel Installations in the US

While solar panel installations are going up in Australia, the trend is sliding downward in the United States, with hundreds of projects being scrapped over high costs.

U.S. legislation that targeted slave labour in China also led to a limitation in Chinese imports including solar panels, resulting in supply restraints.

Data from research firm Wood Mackenzie showed that new utility-scale solar installations have dropped by about 40 percent in 2022 compared to the previous year. Meanwhile, utility-scale solar deployments in the third quarter of 2022 were 36 percent lower than that in Q3 of 2021.

“The low installation figures are the result of previous project delays and continued supply chain constraints,” the report said.

Safety concerns over battery storage are another issue. In October 2023, the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) warned households with solar storage systems to check if their system at home contains recalled LG batteries and, if so, switch them off immediately.

These affected batteries could get overheated or cause fire and, therefore, may result in an injury or even death, ACCC said.

Consumers with affected LG batteries were asked to register their details with LG to receive a free replacement, refund or software.

AAP and John Xiao contributed to this article.

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