Should Australia Mandate Solar Rooftops?

7th April 2015

Marc Howe reports in Sourceable (6/4/15):

"Under new legislation in France all new buildings situated in commercial areas must cover at least a portion of their roofs with either solar panels or plants. The law, just recently approved by the French legislature, is scaled down from an initial proposal made by environmental advocates that would have seen the entire rooftops of all new buildings rendered completely green, irrespective of usage. ... While such legislation may appear heavy-handed, at the very least imposing a certain uniformity of appearance upon the country’s commercial real estate, it will at the very least do wonders for raising their sustainability and efficiency.

"Were similar legislation introduced in Australia, it could play a vital role in expediting the uptake of rooftop solar in the commercial districts of urban areas – an area which experts contend remains severely under-utilized. According to data from the Australian Photovoltaic Institute (APVI) released at the end of 2014, the country has in excess of four gigawatts of rooftop solar PV, a fourfold increase compared to levels in 2011. Most of Australia’s rooftop solar facilities are small-scale systems, however, installed on the top of residential properties by homeowners incentivised by state-level feed-in policies. ...

"While Australia’s local governments have achieved much success with policies focused on spurring the uptake of rooftop solar by homeowners, it may be time for forceful measures similar to those just adopted by the French government for fostering their installation on commercial premises.

"Kylie Catchpole, associate professor of solar engineering at Australian National University, referred to Australia’s 'completely untapped market for solar systems on commercial buildings' in mid-2013 – at a time when major strides were being made in the installation of residential rooftop systems in South Australia and Queensland. This is a particularly acute inconsistency given that solar facilities are often far more extensively used when installed on commercial buildings, which are in active operation during the day while the sun’s still up, unlike many residential properties which might be left unoccupied and idle during such periods. According to Catchpole, two primary reasons why solar PV systems have proven less popular with the commercial sector are a dearth of capital and the problem of split incentives – with lessees responsible for paying for utilities bills as opposed to building owners who bear any installation costs.

"Under such circumstances, and given the vast untapped potential for the installation of solar power on Australia’s commercial buildings, a mandatory measure akin to that put in place by the French Parliament might be the ideal solution."

Read the full article at: 


Solar roof or green roof or both?  Photo shows solar panels installed by Going Solar on a 'green roof' commissioned by the City of Melbourne demonstrating that not only can you have plants on your roof but also solar panels. In fact the nearby vegetation helps keeps the panels cooler so they perform more efficiently. (It is however important to make sure that the selected vegetation never shades the solar panels).

For the Case Study on the solar/green roof contact: