Rising electricity bills and other cost-of-living pressures have encouraged a record number of Australian households to invest in solar technology, a report has revealed.
Figures from data firm SunWiz found investments in solar power broke records during the last three months of 2023, with rooftop solar capacity rising by 14 per cent during the year compared to 2022.
But energy experts said the federal government could further capitalise on the nation’s “solar momentum” by launching financial incentives to get solar technology on to more apartment buildings and rental accommodation.
SunWiz managing director Warwick Johnston said November and December became the busiest months for solar panel installations in 2023, fuelling a record-breaking quarter in which households and businesses added 921 megawatts of solar capacity.
Overall, Australia’s solar capacity grew by 14 per cent last year compared to 2022, rising by 3.17 gigawatts, though it fell short of records set during the home improvement boom of 2021 when Australian households and businesses added 3.23 gigawatts.
“The reasons for the build-up (of consumer interest) are electricity prices and cost-of-living pressures,” Mr Johnston told AAP.
“The other driving factor is electric vehicles … because it makes a great deal of sense for them to be powered by cheap electricity.”
Mr Johnston said figures also showed the “payback period” for solar panel investments had shortened, with most installations paying for themselves in less than five years and households in some states, including Queensland, better off financially in as little as three years.
Preliminary figures also showed more Australian households were investing in battery storage for their solar power, he said, with as many as one in five households buying storage.
Mr Johnston said he predicted the trend in solar investments to continue in 2024.
“I expect we’ll have a bigger year this year than we did last year,” he 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 welcomed the figures on Monday, and said research showed households could save $1200 a year using rooftop solar.
But he said more affordable household batteries would be needed to “continue the solar momentum” in Australia and the federal government should provide incentives to add solar power to more homes.
“In 2024, the government needs to get more solar panels on apartments and rental properties,” Mr Pringle said.
“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.”
One third of detached homes use rooftop solar panels, according to the Australian Energy Market Operator, and that figure is expected to rise to half in 2034 and more than two thirds by 2050.
(Australian Associated Press)