Blog: Aussie Households Go Solar: Game-Changer


Australia’s household solar revolution has caught the government-owned electricity sector by surprise.

More than one million Australians have already installed solar panels on their rooftops. It has caused demand for electricity from the grid to plummet.

Despite being a sun-rich country, Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott continues to promote coal, a known heat-trapping pollutant, as the only source of energy for the future.

The government has just spent over $50 billion upgrading the coal-powered energy grid, expecting more demand for more electricity.

As a result of falling demand, the remaining customers are being charged more for electricity, so more people are switching to solar.

The Australian boom for solar installations shows no sign of slowing down.

In the meantime, Abbott’s coalition government has abolished the carbon tax. It’s just another in a series of initiatives to promote coal and undermine innovations in renewable energies like solar thermal and ocean wave farms.

The Minister for the Environment, Greg Hunt, spent one year studying and writing a university thesis on “A Tax To Make The Polluters Pay.” It appears that at one point in his life he believed, “it better ensures that the polluter bears full responsibility for the cost of his or her conduct.” That was when he was young and not in charge of the environment, which regularly takes a back-seat to the Coalition’s economic plan for the coming decade – one which will see a ramping-up of coal production to a whopping 770 million metric tons per annum – a death knell for the biosphere.

The abolition of the carbon tax comes at a time when Australian researchers lead the renewable energy sector with breakthrough solar thermal ‘supercritical’ steam. It’s another game-changer for power stations, enabling them to utilize supercritical solar steam that pressurizes water with enormous force.

Heat from the sun, reflected off a field of heliostats, or mirrors, is concentrated onto a central receiver point to create the steam at these supercritical levels. This phenomenal achievement is likened to breaking the sound barrier. It is so impressive; its possible implications for solar thermal technology are revolutionary.

Solar thermal can almost compete with the peak performance capabilities of fossil fuel sources, especially, as the International Monetary Fund disclosed, when the global fossil fuel industry subsidies of $1.9 trillion annually are removed and the playing field is leveled.

For the past 15 years, climate disruption has battered the Australian continent. Bushfires, prolonged sub-continental drought, extreme heat waves and enormous floods are occurring more often, eclipsing more records more frequently.

Australian households are fighting back against climate disruption by leaving the coal-powered electricity grid in droves. Technological advances in battery capacity enable households to now operate during peak demand, at night.

Tony Abbott and Greg Hunt have bet the ‘family farm’ on coal, a dirty, old, heat-trapping technology that’s killing the Great Barrier Reef and contaminating the biosphere. Australian households, on the other hand, are leaving the coal-powered grid by capitalizing on innovation that harnesses the power of the sun, thereby erasing their carbon footprints. We need a government that is in touch with the people.

Earth Dr Reese Halter is a broadcaster and conservation biologist. His upcoming book is “Shepherding the Sea: The Race to Save Our Oceans.”