'Clean and green', Climate Council says solar power now cheaper than fossil fuels

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A report by the Climate Council says solar energy is now cheaper than retail power prices in capital cities across Australia, and prices are likely to keep dropping.

The price of solar energy has dropped by 58 per cent over the past five years and is predicted to fall by a further 40 to 70 per cent by 2040, according to the Climate Council report released today.

The group said innovation was driving the drop in price, with the increased construction of solar panels identified as a major contributor.

With more than 20 industrial-scale installations set to go ahead across the country this year, expert Councillor with the Climate Council, Greg Bourne, said electricity would be generated to thousands of additional homes.

"We are seeing more and more industrial-scale solar coming online across the country and the world. Hospitals, airports, farms and a variety of other businesses have embraced smarter and cleaner power," he said.   

"The solar surge is well and truly underway, with an extra 3,700 megawatts already in the pipeline - that's enough power to over 600,000 homes."

The report found that solar industry was surging worldwide, with China, the US and Japan at the forefront of solar technology.

The findings come at a time of intense political debate regarding the viability of renewable and coal powered energy, following a blackout in South Australia and threats of power outages during a recent heatwave across Australia's eastern states.

Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull has recently voiced his support for clean-coal power stations despite calls from energy regulators who argue there needed to be greater investment in renewable energy.

Report co-author Andrew Stock told SBS an increase in household bill costs have led more Australians to embrace solar energy.

“Australians are sick of energy costs continually rising and want to take control of those costs, which they’re able to do with solar power," he said

"This report shows large scale solar plants can produce energy to meet consumer needs at a much cheaper cost than traditional forms of electricity supply that we get from gas and coal.”

A chart from the report showing global consumption (Climate Council)
A chart from the report showing global consumption (Climate Council)
Climate Council

Mr Stock said there are significant environmental and economic benefits to using renewable energy.

"More than 8,000 smart jobs have been created in Australia to date and if we continue to increase our solar energy use, these numbers will increase too," he said.

"Its clean, takes sunlight directly into electricity, no carbon dioxide from fossil fuel or pollutants from coal – clean and green. Solar reduces energy with no emissions."

How is cost decreasing if demand in increasing?

Mr Stock said the answer to this question was simply that people were working out cheaper ways to build solar panels, leading to cheaper use costs.

"Similar to consumer appliances or household computers ten years ago," he said.

"Computers were more expensive and did a fraction of what computers today do for much less cost. What’s happening with solar power? It’s growing very rapidly, globally, and demand is up 40 per cent over the past two years."

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