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The introduction of rooftop solar panels will reach saturation point in Queensland and South Australia in the next decade, with solar power predicted to account for 14 per cent of Australia’s total energy consumption by 2035, according to a new report by the national energy forecaster.

But the Australian Energy Market Operator has warned that by the time solar power really hits its straps most of the solar panels will be outdated and inefficient, and will probably need to be retrofitted by the latest technology.

The national forecasting report released on Thursday outlined how much disruption is going to hit the National Electricity Market from renewables over the next few decades.

While coal (47.7 per cent) is currently providing just under half of Australia’s power generation, rooftop photovoltaic is predicted to almost double from 8.2 per cent to 13.8 per cent by 2035-36.

This will equate to a jump from providing 5600 gigawatt hours to 25,000 gigawatt hours by the mid-2030s, or 14 per cent of current operational consumption across the NEM.

Tariff rethink needed

AEMO chief executive boss Matt Zema said electricity tariffs needed to be changed or non-solar users would be slugged with the costs of the explosion of solar PV.

There has been a backlash over the past five years over solar users receiving generous feed-in tariffs, resulting in non-solar users being hit with higher network costs.

“That will happen again unless they change the network tariff arrangements to become more cost reflective. They are being looked at but they just haven’t come up with anything yet,” Mr Zema told The Australian Financial Review.

Interestingly, the AEMO report found that by the time saturation point for the roll-out of solar PV is reached in South Australia and Queensland most panels will be 13 years old.

Mr Zema said it was likely home owners would have to replace their solar panels with the latest technology, which is likely to be linked to battery storage.

Queensland, is predicted to have the highest projected solar power capacity, with 6552 megawatts by 2035-36, followed by NSW (6036 megawatts), with 2500 megawatts in Victoria and 2100 megawatts in South Australia.

Demand harder to monitor

The uptake in solar has changed the face of the NEM, with maximum peak demand – which is normally in the middle of the day – now moving later in the day, making it harder for AEMO to monitor demand in the network.

The report found electricity demand would remain flat for the next five years, despite strong population growth and increased consumption from the $80 billion liquified natural gas industry in Central Queensland.

While there had been an explosion in electronic devices used in the household, this had been partly negated by the new devices being more energy efficient.

Household battery storage – which has been championed by the clean energy sector – is not expected to really take off until the early 2020s when units become more affordable.

Battery storage is expected to provide 6.6 gigawatt hours of storage capacity by 2035-36 and will mostly be used to help provide power for a few hours every night, according to AEMO.

Originially posted on Financial Review

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