New data from United Energy shows solar panels are being installed at a rapid rate so far in 2020, supporting forecasts for up to one quarter of all homes in the network to have solar power.
The number of solar PV installations in the United Energy network increased by 5.45% from 77,463 on 1 January 2020 to 81,690 by 30 April, on pace with for a 16% increase this year, the same rate as last year.
This data also supports forecasts under United Energy’s plan for 2021-2026 which estimates the proportion of residential customers with solar will grow from 11% to 23% by 20261.
United Energy’s General Manager, Electricity Networks, Mark Clarke said the figures reinforced the need to upgrade the network to ensure customers can get the full value from their investment in solar.
“This rate of growth is exactly why we need to invest in the network,” Mr Clarke said.
“If we don’t make these strategic investments, customers serviced by many of our zone substations will experience difficulties when they try to export excess energy to the grid.”
United Energy proposes to spend $42 million over the next five years to accommodate the rise in solar PV systems and enable them to have full export capability while unlocking over 95% of solar constraints.
The plan is part of United Energy’s regulatory proposal to the Australian Energy Regulator (AER) for 2021-2026 through which the business aims to deliver more to customers at a lower cost. Feedback on the submission is invited until 3 June 2020.
“This is all about giving as many customers as we possibly can the opportunity to export their solar energy back to the grid.” Mr Clarke said.
“We’re proposing a range of network upgrades and other innovative solutions to unlock over 95% of solar constraints for our customers.”
Mr Clarke said while feedback from some solar installers indicates the number of installations in the second half of the year may be affected by the economic impact of COVID-19, the signs for solar were still positive.
“We’re still seeing strong growth through the first few months of COVID and it’s clear to me that people are really keen to take control of their energy costs,” he said.
“That’s why the investments we want to make are so important to allow customers to continue to make those choices.”
The red-hot start to 2020 follows a blistering 2019, with postcode-level data painting a picture of how different suburbs are embracing solar.
Huge increases in solar installations were seen in Dandenong from 2018 to 2019, with around 18% growth.
Frankston saw a 15% increase in the same period, while Mornington had 13% growth.