Armada director Justin Ryan with some solar panels his company installed on an Ainslie rooftop. Mr Ryan said he hoped any removal of government support for the industry happened gradually. Photo: Rohan Thomson
The number of rooftop solar connections in the ACT has crashed to its lowest annual levels since 2009, with the release of the federal government's renewable energy review to provide a short boost in numbers, industry figures have said.
There were 720 connections to mid-August, down about 60 per cent from the same time last year, after the capital's dominant retailer moved to a payment scheme focused on self-consumption.
ActewAGL Retail general manager Ayesha Razzaq said she anticipated a surge of interest in rooftop solar in the "immediate term" as a result of Thursday's renewable energy target review to government, followed by reduced interest in the short term.
"Customers currently thinking about solar are likely to bring forward their purchasing decision to avoid anticipated price rises that would follow if the government acts on recommendations made to reduce the small-scale technology certificates subsidy for rooftop solar," Ms Razzaq said.
It's a view endorsed by solar installers like Justin Ryan, who is set to launch advertising in coming days to encourage interested homeowners to get in fast before the government decided its response to the review, expected in about a month.
Mr Ryan, founder of Canberra company Armada, said he expected a similar boom and decline pattern as had followed ActewAGL's decision last year to scrap its more generous solar tariff rate, butthe rooftop industry would eventually rebound even if the RET was hit.
"We know there's going to be a decrease in the support to solar, and we hope it just happens in steps," Mr Ryan said.
ActewAGL Distribution figures show on current rates there would be about 1150 rooftop hook-ups by the end of the year, down from the peak of 5023 in 2011 and the 3200-plus in each of the past two years.
Environment Minister Simon Corbell said the decline was largely believed to relate to ActewAGL's move in July last year to cut by more than half – from 17.9 cents per kilowatt hour to 7.5c/kWh – the price paid to new customers for solar power given to the network.
New Origin customers are now paid (or offset) 6c/kWH, while those at EnergyAustralia receive 5.1c/kWh for the equivalent excess power.
Ms Razzaq said customers under ActewAGL's current solar scheme received a tariff of 18.3c/kWh for electricity they produced which was used in their home.
The removal of the "multiplier" rate for the small-scale technology certificates – a response to cheaper solar panels – was a key cause of the installation rate decline, she said.
Mr Corbell, who has flagged a new ACT scheme for rooftop solar if federal support ended, said saturation of key markets – with nearly 15,000 rooftop connections in a city with about 130,000 houses – was also a likely factor in the year's decline.