Shining a light: Peel region charging ahead in solar panel installations

West Australian homeowners are shining a light on the importance of renewable energy, with many suburbs throughout the South-West leading the charge in solar panel installations.

Since 2001, almost 300,000 rooftop solar units have been installed in WA, accounting for more than a quarter of households throughout the state.

Rooftop solar systems act like a mini power station atop homes, helping to reduce both the strain on the electricity network as well as power bills for consumers.

A state government spokesman said the Peel and South-West regions were leading the way when it came to solar energy.

According to recent data from Australian government agency, the Clean Energy Regulator, many local government areas in the Peel and South-West regions exceeded the state average for number of small-scale solar unit installations.

The Shires of Murray and Serpentine Jarrahdale are leading the percentage uptake of solar panel installations.

Shire of Collie residents have embraced renewable energy, with 1207 installations, which equates to 28.8 per cent of the town's dwellings.

Curtin University Sustainable Policy Institute doctoral researcher James Eggleston said it was "interesting" to observe the locations of the most solar power installations.

"Solar is going into mostly low socioeconomic status suburbs," he said.

"Often it is new suburbs and whoever builds the most houses that year, that's who gets the mantle.

"Baldivis have the second highest penetration in the country behind a suburb in Queensland but they are neck and neck.

"Considering you have a conservative voting population and a population that has a lot of employment in mining and oil and gas, it is quite interesting that it is not exactly a suburb full of bone-through-the-nose greenies putting solar in."

A Climate Council spokeswoman said rooftop solar installations were responsible for much of the power generated in WA.

"Western Australia's share of renewable energy is low overall as WA generates just 7.5 per cent of its electricity from renewable energy however, the state has the third highest proportion of households with rooftop solar," she said.

"Queensland and South Australia have the highest proportion of households with rooftop solar and Western Australia is in third place with 26.9 per cent of households with rooftop solar.

"This means that, collectively, rooftop solar generates more power than any other power station in WA."

However, she said that when it came to large-scale solar projects in WA, there was still plenty of room for improvement.

"In terms of utility-scale solar, WA has only three renewable energy projects under construction, totalling 70 megawatts - the lowest amount of new capacity under construction of any state or territory," she said.

"Western Australia remains the only state or territory in Australia without a target to increase renewable energy or achieve net zero emissions by 2050.

"However, Western Australia's Labor government has bowed to increasing pressure to develop a new and improved climate change policy for the state and there has also been recent news that the Labor government is starting to draw up plans that facilitate a shift of the grid from coal to renewables."

Mr Eggleston agreed, adding that more home owners were choosing to install solar panels "because it just stacks up" and that utility-scale projects should follow suit.

"With the fall in price of renewable technology, the technological improvement and economies of scale in battery, it means that we don't have to take that approach now.

"Every megawatt or kilowatt hour those renewable assets generate, you're avoiding generating from either a gas turbine or coal generation plant.

"Battery and solar are saving the day, the future is renewable."

According to data from the Australian Bureau of Statistics, the number of full-time jobs in the overall renewable energy sector grew by 28 per cent to 17,740 jobs in 2017/18.

Rooftop solar created the most employment, accounting for 46 per cent of all jobs.