Australia leading world in solar installs: Flannery

Professor Tim Flannery says Australia installed more solar panels last year than any other country, but the renewable energy sector still has room to shine.

The Climate Commission has released its first major report on renewable energy, which shows Australia is doing well but still under-utilising its renewable energy potential.

Professor Flannery, chief commissioner and report author, says about 10 per cent of Australia's energy needs are being met by renewable energy such as wind and solar power.

However, he says there is a global shift away from fossil fuels and Australia is well placed to develop its potential in renewables.

"The purpose [of the report] is to highlight two things: one is Australia's potential in terms of renewable energy; two is the speed at which this is happening," Professor Flannery said.

"What we can now see is the emerging inevitability that renewables are going to be running the economy at some point in the future." The report says momentum for renewable energy in Australia is building and Australians have benefited from the drop in the cost of solar panels - 75 per cent in just four years.

It says solar photovoltaic and wind could be the cheapest forms of power in Australia for retail users by 2030.

As of July, almost 754,000 households and businesses in Australia had solar panels.

The report says Queensland is leading Australia in solar panel installations and has doubled its use of solar energy in less than two years.

'Makes sense' Professor Flannery says he does not believe it is widely acknowledged that renewables will drive the energy market in the future.

"You talk to people in government and industry and many people on the street, those facts really haven't started to sink in," he said.

Professor Flannery says renewable energy makes sense for regional Australia.

"In regional communities, wherever we go we see the arguments put to us that those regional communities spend millions of dollars every year - money that just goes out of the economy for energy, electricity and so forth," he said.

"If they had some local infrastructure, they'd be creating jobs and keeping the money in the community, which would benefit those local communities tremendously." He says a lot of the uptake for solar is coming from lower to middle-income groups rather than the wealthy.

"[They] are making that investment because they're feeling the pinch, they feel it more than some wealthy people," he said.

"In places like Tasmania, it's interesting, the State Government there is pursuing solar for community housing and trying to spread the benefit over all the people in that very lowest socio-economic group."

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