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Private Members' Statements - Rooftop Solar Systems

I have long been an advocate for accelerating the uptake of rooftop solar, and I want as many households and businesses as possible to enjoy the benefits of the transformative, miraculous technology that captures abundant sunlight from otherwise unused roof space and turns it into clean, free electricity. I am proud of the work of Northern Beaches Council during my time as mayor to increase rooftop solar on its own buildings and to increase uptake in its community.

Council alone is saving millions of dollars. Over 17,800 premises on the beaches now benefit from solar power, which is reducing our carbon emissions by approximately 100,000 tonnes every year, and council has set an ambitious target for the Northern Beaches local government area of 50 per cent of suitable premises with solar installed by 2030. It saves money and helps the planet; it is a no-brainer. Many local groups and individuals share a vision for the northern beaches to lead in rooftop solar uptake. I particularly recognise and thank the Solar Alliance and ClearSky Solar and Clean Energy for Eternity Northern Beaches, as well as the Northern Beaches Climate Action Network.

New South Wales has an important place in the solar energy history books, with researchers at the University of New South Wales with the Australian Centre for Advanced Photovoltaics making numerous technological breakthroughs from 1989 onwards. They have revolutionised the industry and helped bring solar to the masses. But we desperately need more. Today, Australia leads the world in per capita uptake of rooftop solar. Some 33 per cent of houses in New South Wales have rooftop solar. With such a strong rate of uptake, it is easy to think the job is done, but that is absolutely not the case. In fact, recently rooftop installations have stalled. There are well over a million homes in New South Wales which could have rooftop solar but do not. Why? That is a great question. Overcoming the up‑front cost barrier for rooftop solar is the key. That is why I am championing an interest-free loan program for residential solar.

Here is the pitch: offer home owners up to $15,000 in interest-free loans to install rooftop solar systems without a cap or a postcode qualification—or disqualification, as it turns out. Without pricing the environmental benefits, the policy's benefit-cost ratio—using public service speak—exceeds two within the first year and exceeds five within 10 years. The benefit-cost ratio continues to rise strongly after the loans are repaid and the solar panels continue producing emissions-free electricity. The closest policy is the Australian Capital Territory's sustainable household scheme. It provides 10-year loans of up to $15,000 for a range of energy efficiency products for households and community groups. The Australian Capital Territory has seen a sizeable uptick in rooftop solar installations as a result.

The need to increase rooftop solar is only becoming more urgent as the entire electricity system transitions off centralised coal-fired power. With coal-fired power station closures fast approaching, distributed energy on rooftops can add much-needed generation capacity. Rapidly expanding rooftop solar, including in residential, commercial, industrial and publicly owned sites, such as schools and hospitals, in combination with battery storage, must be an urgent priority. Increasing uptake of rooftop solar in the short term will set us up for a cheaper, cleaner, electrified future. I am encouraged to see momentum building behind the "Electrify Everything" idea and its champion, Saul Griffith from Rewiring Australia. A fully electrified home with all-electric efficient appliances, rooftop solar—even an electric vehicle—is cheaper and cleaner, and it is the future.

Analysis by Rewiring Australia shows that those actions together can slash between $3,000 and $5,000 annually from energy bills. That is much higher than any rebate given by this Parliament. With the impacts of climate change bearing upon us and only getting worse, we must urgently and decisively implement the transition to renewable energy. July was the hottest month on record globally. The sea ice melt in Antarctica is literally off the charts. Nearly every day there is fresh news of records being smashed, defying even many scientists' expectations. Members elected to this place, and especially those holding office in the Executive Government, have a duty of care and an obligation to act.

Increasing distributed rooftop solar is an important piece in the puzzle of reaching net zero whilst very meaningfully reducing the cost of living. I look forward to continuing my advocacy on expanding rooftop solar, working with people in my community and across the State, including my parliamentary colleagues, whilst I am in this place. It is very easy. It is non-fuss: maximum impact, minimum effort. I seek the collective support of members in the House to just get this done.

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