Solar industry brightening up

Solar industry brightening up

The 2017 winter may have been the hottest on record since 1910 (when national records began), but for the solar industry the entire calendar year was hot.

Sure, the industry has had its moments in the sun in previous years-one was 2012 when generous feed-in tariffs meant big take-ups by consumers-but this was different.

Co-founders of solar brokerage ShineHub, Alex Georgiou and Jin Woo Kim, are working on changing how solar is delivered to the Australian market.

Co-founders of solar brokerage ShineHub, Alex Georgiou and Jin Woo Kim, are working on changing how solar is delivered to the Australian market.

"In 2017 we saw rates of installation for solar larger than the boom time of 2012 ... with no support like feed-in tariffs," says CEO of the not-for-profit Smart Energy Council, John Grimes.

"It's the fundamental economic driver for solar that is driving this market."

What all this means, of course, is jobs, particularly given that the thriving market for solar by consumers is being paired with the development of numerous large-scale solar facilities in regional Australia.


"Big engineering companies are doing civil works," Grimes says of these large projects, which are set to deliver Australia an additional 15 gigawatts of solar power by 2020.

"They are employing lots of local people for everything from putting pylons and fencing in, but also [there's a] flow on effect into the local economies that's crept up on people."

As the solar industry hits a new peak, old roles may change form. Grimes believes a flourishing solar industry will eventually change the role of electricians.

"In my view where this industry is heading is that your local electrician will become your local energy consultant," he says.

"They will be able to come into your home, look at your energy needs, then optimise a system to meet your needs."This higher skilled work will also allow electricians to develop stronger ongoing relationships with customers. It's a new reality that matches the vision of solar business ShineHub.

There, co-founder Alex Georgiou is focused on changing how the solar industry works in Australia. He says quality assurance and high-level solar engineering by trusted installers is part of the big picture.

The company, which began in 2016 and took in $1.2 million in year one (the second year forecast is $9.2 million), is essentially a marketplace for vetted solar providers.

ShineHub partners with local solar companies, then offers a streamlined online service for consumers to buy, approve their panel design, schedule their build and make payments. Think Airbnb for solar and you're part way there.

Of course, all of this means reskilling, at least on the installation side. The Smart Energy Council runs training for battery installation, which now accompanies the majority of solar installations, so the captured energy can be used when it's most needed, as well as solar licensing.

For Georgiou, the jobs in his business are primarily software based, although industry wide he notes there is strong demand for good salespeople, as well as good installers.

His own entry to the solar industry was motivated by a few factors. Georgiou had long harboured a desire to run an ethically minded business.

After working as an energy efficiency auditor and then at a solar firm in the US, he quickly saw where the answer lay.

"I realised that solar was the best way to make the carbon change that's needed," he says.

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