Solar can meet Western Australia's daytime power needs, says state minister

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Western Australia’s Energy Minister and state treasurer Dr. Mike Nahan has spoke in glowing terms of solar PV’s capacity to meet the daytime electricity needs of the Western Australia (WA) region over the next decade.

Speaking at an Energy in WA conference this week, Nahan told the attendant audience that solar PV is likely to provide virtually all new generation capacity in the state by 2025 as falling component costs and rising electricity tariffs made the switch all-but inevitable.

As former executive director of conservative Australian thinktank the IPA, many within WA’s thriving solar sector had feared that Nahan’s appointment as energy minister would serve to maintain the status quo that has seen coal rise to prominence.

However, as the economics of rooftop solar continue to confound doubters, the data has served to convince Nahan that a solar-powered future is not only increasingly likely, but increasingly desirable.

"We expect that the bulk of generating capacity during sunlight hours in the [Perth] metro area in about 10 years time will be provided by rooftop solar," said Nahan. "That’s the reality. So it is going to provide the bulk of additional capacity going forward."

Currently, around 170,000 households in the South West Australia grid have solar arrays installed, with Perth’s PV capacity standing at 500 MW – a figure that is set to double over the next few years, Nahan said.

"Solar will also displace a lot of the existing [coal-based] capacity," he added. "It’s low-priced, it’s democratically determined and it’s something we’re committed to facilitating."

This facilitation will likely involve the decommissioning of a number of power stations in the region, Nahan warned – an evolution that would loosen utility Synergy’s monopoly on the household power market. This monopoly has created a 42% oversupply of power, with lots of capacity sitting idle.

"Small-scale solar is growing at 20, 30% a year, and will do nothing but accentuate and it is actually quite cheap," Nahan added. "We have excess capacity, most of it is in Synergy’s hands, 70%, so some will shut."