2012, could it have been worse?
+ 2013 Tips and Market Synopsis
Could 2012 have been any worse for solar PV? The solar multiplier was eliminated, feed-in tariffs (FiT) wound back in Victoria and Queensland, a voluntary near-zero FiT implemented in NSW, and the RET Review is recommending to shift commercial PV into the LRET.
2012 could have been much worse. Were it not for the continuous engagement of PV industry organisations and their leadership committees, 2012 could have seen a solar divisor recommended by the Climate Change Authority, instant closure of the QLD FiT without transitional support or 9 months’ worth of installations, a gross FiT in Queensland with special charges for PV customers, a voluntary FiT in Victoria, and continually perpetuated ignorance in the halls of parliament and the bureaucracies that advise them (okay, so that last point is debatable).
Instead, 2012 saw a record amount of PV installations (thanks to many of the aforementioned factors), recognition by the Energy White Paper that PV can’t be ignored, projections by BREE that solar will soon be the cheapest source of electricity in the nation, and acknowledgement by the Australian Energy Market Operator (AEMO) that PV will influence the National Electricity Market. Indeed, SunWiz’s forecast report to AEMO proved both influential and one of the most visited pages on my website.
We have to thank for this situation the consumers who have demanded PV, and the retailers and installers who have delivered in massive quantities, all while managing a highly volatile market. But without the tireless efforts of the solar industry organisations and those PV leaders who contribute to them, 2012 would have been much worse than it was.
There’s a huge amount that goes on behind the scenes. The activities of the industry groups are taken for granted by many in the solar industry, who forget that the reason we had feed-in tariffs in the first place was due to the efforts of their representatives. Over 2012, the CEC commissioned studies of the costs and benefits of feed-in tariff options in Queensland and Victoria, and joined the APVA and ASC in making submissions to feed-in tariff reviews. The CEC commissioned work on the benefits brought by the RET, the APVA performed research on grids with high-penetration of PV, and the APVA, CEC, ASC, and SEIA all facilitated engagement with the distribution networks.
A lot of media engagement was also successful. The CEC revealed the top solar postcodes, which was loved by the press around the country. The ASC and 100% Renewable took this a step further with engaging politicians and the press with analysis (provided Pro Bono by SunWiz) of solar electorates. This analysis overloaded my web server, and revealed Julia Gillard’s Lalor seat to be the second highest for uptake. This evidence of PV becoming a political force was confirmed when Campbell Newman bowed to public pressure and agreed not to levy special charges on PV owners. The newly-formed REC Agents Association had some great mileage in the media, busting the myth that PV was for the wealthy, and pointing out the contribution PV had made to recent reductions in electricity demand.
Traditionally, much of the PV industry has been a free-rider on the back of the work done by its industry organisations. This shifted markedly during the RET Review, which galvanised an amazing amount of effort by many industry organisations, and the companies that engaged in the consultation process. For once, industry submissions really shaped the outcome, PV’s voice was heard. And heard in unison, for the RET Review brought out a spirit of collaboration amongst the industry organisations, the ASC facilitating some meetings that brought together the ASC, APVA, CEC, Solar Business Council, ATA, 100% Renew, Austela, RAA, SunWiz and Solar Business Services.
SunWiz was proud to be invited by the CCA to sit on a RET Review Roundtable, and (together with Solar Business Services) to author a RET Options Analysis report commissioned by the Australian Solar Council. Thank you to SMA and Canadian Solar for being industry leaders willing to fund this work, which proved highly influential in steering the CCA away from a solar divisor based on 10-year paypack period. What’s left on the table (deeming phase-out from 2017 and SRES 10-30kW cap) seem to be the least-worst options for cost containment, though we encourage the government to not ‘jump at shadows’ and hamstring a commercial PV market that is just getting to its feet.
Many people and companies have stepped into leadership positions within the industry, demonstrating their enthusiasm for guiding the sector. New board members of ASC include Paul Scerri (Bosch), Lucas Sadler (Yingli), and Geoff Bragg (New England Solar Power). I was elected (unopposed) to become the Chair of the PV Directorate of the CEC. This means I will also sit on the CEC’s PV Leadership Committee, joining those elected from Anthony Coles (Solco), Derek Marsden (ReneSola), Douglas Smith (Trina), Jeremy Rich (Energy Matters), Oliver Hartley (Q- Cells), Paul Scerri (Bosch), Rob Grant (Mark Group), Robert Bartrop (First Solar), Scott Magee (RFI), Stefan Jarnason (Suntech), Steve McRae (Ingenero), and Wilf Johnston (Sunpower). Many people have been involved in the update to Australian Standards for PV installations, which will contribute to improved outcomes for the industry.
Trina Solar also supported a gathering of minds on what to do with Commercial PV. This led to CEC-commissioned APVA modelling financial options for commercial PV, so that we know what to best lobby for – what will be most effective in reducing costs of commercial PV. Nigel and I were happy to again collaborate on the industry keystone report, the CEC’s “Solar Power Australia” which was quoted extensively in the CCA’s final report. The APVA’s Australian PV Status Report is also an invaluable contribution that informs the International Energy Agency what’s happening in Australian PV.
At SunWiz we are proud of our contribution to the industry’s success in 2012, much of which takes place behind the scenes. We were also proud to sponsor the “Best Academic Poster” prize at Solar 2012, with the intention of supporting our next generation of solar intelligence. The winning poster demonstrated (for a real grid in the NT) that the amount of PV capacity that could be connected before excessive voltage rise occurred could be doubled from 4.5kW to 9kW per house by balancing the phases of individual connections.
So, while 2012 saw FiT reductions in Victoria and Queensland, and an early end to the solar multiplier, it could have been far worse was it not for the efforts of solar industry leaders. 2013 will be a federal election year, so no doubt we’ll be busily engaged again. Here’s my list of hot issues to watch out for:
- How the government responds to the CCA Recommendations, some of which require legislation and others regulation.
- Solar business cashflow in the first half of the year. Most businesses relied upon the multiplier reduction boom to keep them afloat. The end-of-year mini-boom won’t provide that cash injection because of short notice and stock shortages. Solar business must plan for a soft residential market in the first half of 2013.
- Developing a small-commercial PV offering will therefore be more important than ever. Given the long sales gestation process for commercial PV, focus on filling your pipeline with high-quality leads that will buy quickly. Then move to more speculative prospective customers. SunWiz can help analyse and improve your commercial sales processes, and our PVsell software will help your sales.
- Don’t write off residential PV, it should provide you with a more consistent sales base that covers your operational overheads while you chase more lumpy commercial work. Now you can’t rely on multiplier reductions to draw out residential customers, an entirely new market strategy is required.
- Be prepared for the federal election. Making a monthly financial contribution to 100% Renewable (as SunWiz does) can help influence policy, through voter-driven actions.
- Contribute to your industry organisations. It’s a great way of keeping updated with what’s around the corner, and of demonstrating your credentials to your more savvy customers.
- Use SunWiz’s strategic business intelligence, outsourced engineering services, and custom analysis to ensure your success. Our PVsell software (www.pvsell.com.au) is helping hundreds of solar businesses make a successful transition to 2013.
- Last month saw 78MW of PV registered across Australia, a considerable fall-back from October’s 90MW but still higher than the same time last year.
- Victoria dropped back considerably, but most other states were steady. A recovery began mid November in Victoria and Queensland.
- In November, there were 1200 systems installed in Energex’s region under the new QLD FiT, compared to 6700 installations under the old FiT. The average system size has dropped from 3.9kW to 3.2kW.
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- STC creation has risen in the past 5 weeks to be 750k last week.
- An overhang of >17.5M STCs is expected by year’s end. Get your STCs submitted ASAP as this will make next years target more accurate.
- The last six months have seen a return to REC Agents, who now represent 25% of creation.
- The weekly and monthly STC creation tally are displayed on our website – check in regularly.
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We’ve made the following additions to PVsell over the last month:
- Released a feature called ‘PVsellect’ which helps you choose the best roof to minimise export and maximise time-of-use revenue.
- Increased the number of locations supported to 41 Australia Wide.
- Implemented an ‘email to customer’ feature with customisable email template
- Plus many other tweaks and improvements.
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In the last month, SunWiz has:
- Met with the Climate Change Authority together with the Australian Solar Council.
- Presented at Solar2012 PD Day on “Compelling and Accurate Sales in a Post-incentive World”.
- Awarded a prize for best academic poster at Solar2012.
- Developed a number of operations manuals for commercial PV systems.
- Reviewed the CEC’s response to the Queensland Competition Authority’s recommendations.
- Advised on the viability of a 100kW system.
- Assisted with the design and grid connection of a 100kW system.
- Provided a range of line diagrams and flexible designs.
- Picked out a puppy that we take home December 30
To learn more about what we can do for your solar business, visit www.sunwiz.com.au
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