Australian households leading the world in solar uptake, but businesses desperately lagging

Jess (left) is looking forward to getting solar panels installed on her roof. Source: SBS

As tens of thousands of people across the country turn out for the Global Strike 4 Climate, Dateline asks where Australia's renewables industry ranks on the global scale.

Australia has the most solar panels on household roofs per capita out of any nation in the world, Australia is "falling far behind" when it comes to commercial uptake of renewable energy, says Research Associate with the UNSW Center for Energy and Environmental Markets, Mike Roberts.

“We’re lagging behind even some of the European countries where they’ve got far less sunshine than we’ve got in terms of utility scale,” he said.

There’s no policy certainty to support investment in the industry. We need to see politicians showing some leadership. 

Sydney climate strikes

While Australia is already set to hit its 2020 target of having at least 33,000 gigawatt-hours of electricity coming from renewable energies, other nations have set much higher targets.

Sweden is aiming to be the first fossil fuel-free nation by 2040, Costa Rica is already running on 95 per cent renewable energies, and Scotland generated 98 per cent of its energy via wind last October.

While Mr Roberts says Australia will have no choice but to eventually rely on renewables, he says the timing of that uptake will make all the difference.  

If we can’t hold the temperature rise to 1.5 degrees, then we’re in a lot of trouble. Lok at the drought across NSW, you look at the bushfires in QLD, it’s happening now.

“We’re going to see rising sea levels, we’re going to see mass migrations, we’re going to see food shortages – it’s a crisis.”

Sydney climate strikes

Fighting for the future

Some of Australia's youngest climate campaigners - school children - came armed to Friday's rallies with some very clear messages on renewables. 

David, 10, said he went to the protest to urge the government to stop relying on fossil fuels.

"I think we should have more wind turbines and also some more water turbines, since we have some very wavy beaches. And I think children should speak in the parliament "

Jess, 12, said she had spoken with her dad about putting solar panels on their roof.

"If we don't do something I don't think our future will be anything like today. We won't have nearly as much green, we won't get rain at all everything will be so dry, it won't be nice," she said.

"We're renovating and we're definitely going to put solar panels on our roof, as our dad works for a solar panel company."