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Sustainability 2013, 5(4), 1406-1442; doi:10.3390/su5041406
Article

Household Solar Photovoltaics: Supplier of Marginal Abatement, or Primary Source of Low-Emission Power?

Received: 24 February 2013; in revised form: 15 March 2013 / Accepted: 18 March 2013 / Published: 26 March 2013
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Abstract: With declining system costs and assuming a short energy payback period, photovoltaics (PV) should, at face value, be able to make a meaningful contribution to reducing the emission intensity of Australia’s electricity system. However, solar is an intermittent power source and households remain completely dependent on a “less than green” electricity grid for reliable electricity. Further, much of the energy impact of PV occurs outside of the conventional boundaries of PV life-cycle analyses (LCA). This paper examines these competing observations and explores the broader impacts of a high penetration of household PV using Melbourne, Victoria as a reference. It concludes that in a grid dominated by unsequestered coal and gas, PV provides a legitimate source of emission abatement at high, but declining costs, with the potential for network and peak demand support. It may be technically possible to integrate a high penetration of PV, but the economic and energy cost of accommodating high-penetration PV erodes much of the benefits. Future developments in PV, storage, and integration technologies may allow PV to take on a greater long term role, but in the time horizon usually discussed in climate policy, a large-scale expansion of household PV may hinder rather than assist deep cuts to the emission intensity of Australia’s electricity system.
Keywords: solar PV; peak demand; greenhouse emissions; embodied energy; EROI solar PV; peak demand; greenhouse emissions; embodied energy; EROI
This is an open access article distributed under the Creative Commons Attribution License which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.

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MDPI and ACS Style

Palmer, G. Household Solar Photovoltaics: Supplier of Marginal Abatement, or Primary Source of Low-Emission Power? Sustainability 2013, 5, 1406-1442.

AMA Style

Palmer G. Household Solar Photovoltaics: Supplier of Marginal Abatement, or Primary Source of Low-Emission Power? Sustainability. 2013; 5(4):1406-1442.

Chicago/Turabian Style

Palmer, Graham. 2013. "Household Solar Photovoltaics: Supplier of Marginal Abatement, or Primary Source of Low-Emission Power?" Sustainability 5, no. 4: 1406-1442.


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