Rooftop solar scores another big month, but Covid-19 clouds future

The small-scale rooftop solar market enjoyed another strong month of installations in March, with record numbers in terms of megawatts installed and system numbers, but there are questions over how long the surge in installations will continue because of the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic.

These charts (above and below) from Green Energy Markets show that the registrations for STC’s (the certificates issued for rooftop solar installations up to 100kW) showed no sign of a slowdown in March, with a new record total of 254MW.

But GEM analyst Tristan Edis points out that the STC data is subject to lags of about 3 weeks between install date and registration of the STCs, so would likely hide any falls in consumer demand.

The anecdotal evidence about demand for rooftop solar varies – some point to a slowdown in commercial solar due to lack of interest from aged care centres and shopping precincts, others point to growing interest from supermarkets, cold storage providers, food manufacturers and feedlots.

There is also the possibility that the residential solar sector, at least, will be shut down completely as state governments tighten measures to prevent the spread of the Coronavirus.

The Clean Energy Council said on Tuesday that it would continue to make a case for Australia’s rooftop PV industry to keep operating during the Covid-19 lock-down, but that this would depend on whether solar could be classed as an essential service, being so closely tied to electricity.

In the meantime, Smart Energy Council chief John Grimes has warned that rooftop solar companies must “go all-in” on strict infection control measures if they expect to keep installing through the health crisis.

“Those companies that take this crisis the most seriously are likely to … be the same companies that are going to survive,” Grimes said, referring to the economy-wide downturn that will inevitably follow the Coronavirus shut-down.

“Go all in, get deadly serious,” he added. “You’ve actually got no choice. Otherwise, you might as well shut up shop and see where we’re going to be in three month’s time.”

One Step Off The grid is looking for feedback from installers and others about whether they’ve seen a noticeable drop-off in customer interest/sales in the last 4 weeks, or if sales and enquiries are holding steady. Please let us know by email, or in the comments section of the website.

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