This was very much a pep talk preaching to the converted (the audience being made up of members of the ANU Energy Change Institute). But we were in need of a pep talk. Being a member of the ANU who teaches how to combat global warming, it is disheartening to be criticized by the Prime Minister, federal cabinet, The Australian newspaper, the Australian Financial Review and some of Australian industry for suggesting investment in fossil fuels is not a good idea.
Dr Renate Egan, Chair of the Australia PV Institute, then provided a more scholarly presentation on trends in solar power. and argued that the PV industry needs to work with utilities She pointed out that in 2013 the cost of the PV panels for a domestic solar installation was less than the cost of the system. As the cells become cheaper, householders are likely to want panels which look better, rather than just generate more power.
Professor Andrew Blakers, Foundation Director of the ANU Centre for Sustainable Energy Systems in his "Renewable Energy Systems" then made the remarkable claim that the cheapest form of solar water heating now is to use a PV panel and a resistive electric water heater. Up to now conventional wisdom has been that hot water is efficiently produced from sunlight by direct absorption (turning sunlight into heat). However, solar hot water systems require a complex systems of pipes, with water (or another fluid) circulated through the roof-top collector. With low cost PV panels, the installation is much simpler, just requiring an electrical cable from the roof, to a tank on the ground.