North Coast residents are leading the nation in their uptake of rooftop solar panels, and have reduced their electricity consumption by about 20 per cent over four years, according to data from Essential Energy.
Total Environment Centre spokesperson Mark Byrne said ‘the reduction in use of electricity on the north coast was about three times the decline of the national market in the same period.
That’s despite an increase in the region’s population of about five per cent.
Mr Byrne said there were a number of factors that had led to the drop in electricity usage.
‘While consumers have used less energy in response to escalating bills, that’s happened across most of the national market,’ he said.
‘The standout reason for the steep decline on the north coast has been the massive uptake of rooftop solar systems.
‘In many postcodes more than a quarter of households have rooftop solar.
‘The system size is increasing, in spite of rebates being rolled back and there being no mandated feed-in tariff for energy exported to the grid.’
Mr Byrne said the 20 per cent decline represented an annual saving of 219,000 tonnes of carbon pollution, which was equivalent to taking 70,000 cars off the road.
But despite the take-up of solar by households, Mr Byrne said businesses on the north coast have been slow to embrace solar.
In other energy news, the NSW Greens have warned that the Australian Energy Regulator’s decision to slash 23 per cent of the operation spending in the state’s electricity distribution network would result in thousands of job losses.
Under the ruling, Greens NSW MP John Kaye said approximately 3,350 jobs would disappear from the state’s electricity grid, leaving the Baird government’s poles and wires sell-off facing an uncertain future.
‘The Australian Energy Regulator and the highly defective rules it enforces have locked NSW into a less reliable and ultimately much more expensive energy supply,’ he said.
‘Electricity prices might fall in the short term but within five years NSW will be saddled with a skills deficit that will condemn the state to becoming an energy technology backwater.
‘Opportunities for much lower energy costs will be lost.
‘Hollowing out the distribution and transmission workforce to create a temporary dip in power bills represents the worst kind of short term thinking.
‘To meet the Regulator’s unrealistically tight operations budget constraints, the distributors will be forced to shed experienced technical staff and abandon apprenticeships.
‘In the short term, reliability and service quality will suffer. In the longer term, the state will be badly left behind in the global move to smart grids, local renewable energy trading and household energy storage.’
Dr Kaye said private investors would be taking another look at the NSW electricity industry and asking serious questions about the consequences of the AER determination.
‘The Baird government should abandon privatisation and instead grow the wires and poles businesses into other activities that reduce the number of job losses and drive new energy solutions.
‘Ausgrid, Endeavour and Essential Energy are well placed to become key players in energy management and new renewable and storage technologies,’