Australian solar PV market takes a dive in September

Australian solar PV system registrations for September fell considerably, down 27% on the peak in June. Also the removal of feed-in tariffs is flowing through to the size of systems customers are choosing.

Australian PV system registrations fell considerably in September, following a general downturn in the market.

A downturn was expected after the reduction in solar multiplier drove installations into Q2, but registrations in Q3 were buoyed by the closing feed-in tariffs in Queensland and Victoria, and by the lag between installation and registration.

Overall, 84 MW was registered nationally in September, a 15% fall from August, and 27% lower than the registration peak in June. September was a quieter month in all states other than Victoria, who managed to register the same volume as the previous month. 40% of recent system capacity went into Queensland, with Victoria at 25%. However, registration in both states is expected to decline considerably over coming months.

In Q3 last year, NSW registration plummeted as the backlog of approved systems were finally installed ahead of the multiplier reduction. This effectively sucked the life out of the state, which languised for 12 months.  So, perhaps the least-worst news is that NSW has finally recovered from the valley of death that followed its installation boom: Registration figures in Q3 2012 were higher than those for the same period one year ago, though still lower than those figures of Q3 2011.

A one-to-two year setback must also be considered as possible in Queensland, where 9 months of pre-registered interest was created at the closure of its feed-in tariff. Anecdotally, NSW companies used to selling in the absence of a feed-in tarff are making new sales more easily in Queensland than local companies, but the industry remains dependent upon the SRES to sustain itself as it weans itself off transitionary support provided by the solar multiplier.

As a result of the wind-back in feed-in tariffs, people are moving back towards smaller systems in NSW and WA, which could be considered a less efficient outcome for the environment. This trend is countered by those seeking to make use of the last remaining feed-in tariffs to install a larger system.

However, once such installations run out, we may see all states return to smaller systems. This has two impacts worth noting:

1. it increases the competitiveness of the PV industry due to the low barriers to entry; and

2. it removes the state-policy counterbalance to federal policy settings over the past six years that have advantaged lower-quality product.

PV Market in numbers

-- Last month saw 84MW of PV registered across Australia, a slowdown from the peak of June/July.

-- More than 20% of Queenslanders recently chose a 5kW system, largely due to the ending feed-in tariff. By contrast those in states without feed-in tariffs sell 5kW systems only 7% of the time.

-- The PV industry continues to be highly competitive - the top 20 PV retailers and STC-creating wholesalers only account for 40% of the market.

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 Warwick Johnston is Managing Director of Sunwiz Consulting

This article was originally produced by Sunwiz, republished with permission.

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