Rooftop solar saves money.
If an Australian business puts solar on their roof, it reduces their energy costs making that business more competitive and resilient. This means they can provide their products or services cheaper, be more competitive for exports, leading to growth a more employment. They are better able to pay their suppliers on time and work with banks and other businesses to growth and see more economic development.
If a community organisation, school, university or hospital put solar on their roof, this saves money that can be invested in improving their core operations such as helping the community, education, research or providing medical services. The savings are ongoing
If a household puts solar on their roof, it saves money. This money can be spent on meeting other bills, local economy and adding to the quality of life of those families.
Due to the reductions in costs of solar, and our great sunny renewable resource in Australia, we will see more rooftop solar with or without government help. Solar power is not free, but when a suitably sized system is compared over the life of an inverter (10 years) or life of solar panels (25 years), there are significant savings.
Government support to get solar where we need it most, to gain all the benefits we can get from solar, is a good investment.
But there are challenges: tenants cannot install if they may have to leave their building a few years later, before getting their return on investment; there is limited data and evidence of loan payments default rates of solar loans, making it difficult for lenders to give good interest rates; many cannot afford the up-front cost of solar, no matter how good the savings over time; and many households and organisations cannot access the finance required when needed to fund their rooftop system.
This is where government support of innovative new business models and bringing forward these issues so they are addressed and become business as usual. The solar supply and installation industry is mature, but deployment is only mature for owner occupier houses and businesses.
Much of the debate about Government support of solar (and wind) concentrates on the support of the renewable energy industry and the jobs it creates. But government support of solar can support our entire community.
On the other hand, Wind Farm projects see important economic development, particularly during operation phase, of our regional towns, while worldwide trends see economic prosperity move to cities. Farmers can receive rent from hosting wind farms to provide ongoing revenue, particularly important in leaner crop years. Regional councils get increased rate revenue – the economic benefits flow on.
There are great organisations and communities already utilising solar and wind to strengthen their communities, through crowd funding, crowd investment, bulk buying schemes and other initiatives. These organisations and communities have realised the benefits of solar and wind and taking action themselves to make things happen.
Governments of all levels can support solar getting to where it is most needed, projects that may not lend themselves to business as usual. As Obama realises, rich people and large organisations have easier time borrowing money, even when for productive means such as housing and rooftop solar.
The renewable energy industry is more than clean tech job and investment dollars. It is an investment in strengthening our economy and communities.
Governments should continue it’s the increased support for the greater deployment of solar power, not only for the sake of the renewable energy industry, and the environment, but to save us money and maximise the benefits it can bring to Australia.