Status of Solar Heating/Cooling and Solar Buildings - 2013

Status of the Market for Solar Thermal Systems

Market Size and Trends

Solar water heater sales have reduced from a historically high level in 2009 due to reduced markets support mechanisms from State and Federal governments.

Typical Applications and Products

  • Solar water heating in single family homes.  Products used in this application  are typically approximately 4 sq mof collector with a 250-300 litre tank.  Tanks are almost always mounted outdoors and some are installed in a thermosyphon configuration with the tank close coupled with the collectors, others are installed on the ground with forced circulation to the roof.  Many tanks include auxiliary boosting within the tank using an electric element, others use a post heater, often inline gas fuelled, to provide backup for periods of insufficient solar input.  Savings of 60% to 95% are achieved. 
  • Solar pool heating.  This typically uses unglazed thermoplastic collectors to provide improved comfort in outdoor pools or energy savings for indoor pools. The area of collector installed is generally 50% to 80% of the pool surface area.

Main Market Drivers

Solar water heating for domestic hot water has been driven by building and plumbing regulations that promote low emission water heaters.  This varies from State to State.  

Over the past decade market support mechanisms such as green certificates (SRES), Rebates and White certificates in some States have supported the market.  Many of the rebates have been phased out since 2009

Low awareness of solar water heating and the tendency to replace ‘like for like’  in the replace marker remains a key barrier.

Solar pool heating is driven by the high cost of using conventional energy to heat pools.


Australia has a large manufacturing base of solar water heaters and pool heating collectors.

Some solar water heaters installed in Australia are imported.  Some Australian products are exported.

Most products are sold through specialist suppliers or conventional plumbing supply chains.  Some specialist suppliers are franchisees of manufacturers but this is a small part of the current market.


According to the Clean Energy Council there are approximately 1400 full time equivalent jobs in the solar water heating sector.

Other Key Topics

Some solar water heaters installed in Australia have had issues with overheating in summer causing water loss due to boiling.  AS/NZS 2712 has been revised to include an overheating test to address this issue.

Status of the Market for Solar Buildings


In Australia there are a number of schemes that promote energy efficiency in buildings and also wider sustainability schemes.

Passive solar technologies including daylighting are not specifically recognised however the energy reductions contributed by these technologies help to reach energy consumption targets include in the schemes.
Market size and trends

Market Size and Trends

There a a few industry leaders that are providing high levels of sustainability in buildings, however the mass market is producing regularity minimum buildings.

Main Market Drivers

The main driver for residential dwellings is building regulations that require a minimum level of energy efficiency of the structure for new builds.  This is measured at the planning stage using computer simulation programs to calculate heating and cooling energy loads from the plans.

Commercial buildings require disclosure of energy consumption at sale or lease which will influence property values.  There is also a Green Building rating scheme, Green Star, which identifies good and best practice in new builds as a means of rewarding leading builds and developers.  Many new CBD office buildings are achieving market recognition using Green Star.

There are Green and White certificate trading schemes that are market drivers for existing residential and commercial buildings.  These are limited in scope and apart from solar water heating no solar technologies are currently included.

R&D Activities

R&D Programmes

While research on solar thermal and solar buildings is being undertaken by various institutions, there is not a single ‘national’ R&D program.

Some of the institutions conducting R&D include:

University of New South Wales

  • Centre for Energy and Research Policy Analysis
  • Centre for Energy and Environmental Markets

University of South Australia

  • Barbara Hardy Institute

Australian National University

  • Solar Thermal Group

Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisations (CSIRO)

  • Energy Transformed Flagship

Australian Renewable Energy Agency

University of Sydney

  • Centre for Sustainable Energy Development

R&D Infrastructure

R&D Institutions
Institution Type of Institution Relevant Research Areas IEA SHC Involvement Website
CSIRO Energy Transformed Flagship Government Research Organisation Solar cooling, Building energy efficiency and renewables, Solar thermal power Task 48, Task 34
Grocon Builder/Developer Green Building Task 40
University of Sydney faculty of Architecture University Housing Task 47
University of SA University Buildings, Storage Task 42
UNSW built environment/APVA University Solar architecture and planning Task 41, Task 51
Standards Australia Committee CS028 Standards body Solar hot water, Solar cooling Task 43, Task 48
Solem Consultant Solar hot water, Solar cooling Task 43, Task 48
Vipac Test Lab Solar hot water Task 43

Actual Innovations

Market support innovations. SRES supports solar water heating by means of using computer simulations to calculate savings using an Australian and New Zealand Standard methodology (AS/NZS4234).

Standards  A solar cooling standard will soon be published facilitating performance evaluation of solar cooling system.  This will facilitate solar cooling incorpoartionint Green and White certificate schemes.

Support Framework


On 10 July 2011, the Australian Government announced its plan for a clean energy future which will cut pollution and drive investment in new clean energy sources. This plan includes introducing a carbon price, promoting innovation and investment in renewable energy, encouraging energy efficiency, and creating opportunities in the land sector.

The Government’s Clean Energy Future Plan commits Australia to an unconditional 2020 emissions reduction target of five per cent below 2000 levels (which could be increased to between 15 and 25 per cent below 2000 levels depending on the scale of global action) and a 2050 target of 80 per cent below 2000 levels.

Carbon Price
The Australian Government introduced a carbon price of $23 per tonne on 1 July 2012.  This will rise by 2.5 per cent per year for a three year fixed price period before moving to an emissions trading scheme.  The carbon price will apply to around 500 of Australia’s largest emitters, including stationary energy, some transport sectors and industrial processes.  The carbon price provides an incentive for fossil fuel power stations to invest in lower emission generation technologies.

Renewable Energy Target (RET)
The 20 per cent by 2020 RET will more than double the amount of renewable energy generation in Australia.  With a carbon price, the RET is expected to encourage around $20 billion in investment in renewable generation and equates to 45,000 GWh of renewable generation (plus 15,000 GWh of existing large-scale hydroelectricity).  It includes two parts:  the Small-scale Renewable Energy Scheme (SRES); and the Large-scale Renewable Energy Target (LRET).  

The LRET will deliver the vast majority of the 2020 target (approximately 41,000 GWh) and provide investment certainty for large scale renewable energy projects. The SRES is uncapped and provides a fixed subsidy to small scale technologies, such as solar panels and solar water heaters.  The SRES, in combination with previous State and Territory Government feed-in tariffs (FiTs), and the global reduction in solar photovoltaic (PV) prices has driven strong growth in the use of small scale solar PV systems in Australian households.  

Three significant initiatives have been created specifically to support investment and innovation in clean and renewable energy, including the opportunity to transform existing manufacturing businesses to re-focus on meeting demand for inputs for these sectors.

The $10 billion, commercially-oriented Clean Energy Finance Corporation will invest in renewable energy, low pollution and energy efficiency technologies. A variety of funding tools will support projects, including loans on concessional terms and equity investments.

The Australian Renewable Energy Agency (ARENA) is an independent statutory body, managing $3.2 billion in funding in existing Australian Government renewable energy grants supporting research and development of renewable energy technologies and initiatives to bring them to market.  Around $2.2 billion of this funding is currently uncommitted and is available for ARENA to provide early-stage grants and financing assistance for projects that strengthen and drive down the costs of renewable energy technologies.

The Clean Technology Innovation Program will provide $200 million in grants to support business investment in renewable energy, low emissions technology and energy efficiency.  

Energy Efficiency
In July 2009, the Council of Australian Governments (COAG) agreed to the comprehensive, 10-year National Strategy on Energy Efficiency (NSEE), to accelerate energy efficiency improvements and deliver cost-effective energy efficiency gains across all sectors of the Australian economy. The NSEE aims to streamline roles and responsibilities across government by providing a nationally consistent and coordinated approach to energy efficiency.

Government Agencies Responsible for Solar Thermal, for Solar Building Activities

Department of Resources, Energy and Tourism
Clean Energy Regulator
Department of Innovation, Industry, Science, Research and Tertiary Education

ACT - Environment and Sustainable Development Directorate
Victoria – Sustainability Victoria
Queensland – Department of Energy and Water Supply
New South Wales – Department of Trade and Investment, Regional Infrastructure and Services
South Australia – Department for Manufacturing, Innovation, Trade, Resources and Energy
Northern Territory – PowerWaterCorp
Western Australia – Public Utilities Office
Tasmania – Department of Infrastructure, Energy and Resources

Most Important Public Support Measure(s) for Solar Thermal and for Solar Buildings

The Small-scale Renewable Energy Scheme (SRES)

The SRES creates a financial incentive for owners to install eligible small-scale installations such as solar water heaters, heat pumps, solar panel systems, small-scale wind systems, or small-scale hydro systems. It does this by legislating demand for Small-scale Technology Certificates (STCs). STCs are created for these installations according to the amount of electricity they produce or displace. RET-liable entities have a legal requirement to buy STCs and surrender them on a quarterly basis.

Solar water heater or heat pump installations are eligible if the system is new and listed in the Register of Solar Water Heaters managed by the Clean Energy Regulator. Eligible small-scale systems are entitled to create STCs based around how much renewable electricity the systems produce or displace. The number of certificates a system can create is based on the amount of electricity in megawatt hours (MWh):

  • generated by the small-scale solar PV panel, wind or hydro system, over the course of its lifetime of up to 15 years; or
  • displaced by the solar water heater or heat pump, over the course of its lifetime of up to 10 years.

This number may vary depending on geographic location, what kind of system is installed, Solar Credits eligibility, and/or the size and capacity of the installed system.

There is a legal obligation on RET-liable entities (usually electricity retailers) to purchase and surrender a certain amount of these certificates each year. The trade in these certificates thereby provides financial incentive for investment in renewable energy power stations, and for the installation of solar water heaters, heat pumps, and small-scale solar panel, wind, and hydro systems.

The certificates are created and traded through the REC Registry, an Internet-based registry managed by the Clean Energy Regulator.

Buildings: Commercial

The Australian Government has a mixture of financial incentives, regulation, strategies and information resources all geared towards improving the sustainability of commercial buildings. As part of the National Strategy on Energy Efficiency, the Australian Government is:


  • HVAC HESS is a ten-year initiative under the National Strategy on Energy Efficiency (NSEE) that aims to drive long term improvements in the energy efficiency of HVAC systems Australia wide. It takes a whole of life perspective in targeting HVAC efficiency improvement, encompassing the design, manufacture, installation, operation and maintenance stages of the HVAC lifecycle. It recognises that large efficiency gains can be achieved through the maintenance and operation of existing systems in existing building stock, and seeks to establish national system standards of documentation for design, installation, operation and maintenance of HVAC equipment/systems.
  • The Strategy has been designed to address non-technical barriers to efficiency, identify and promote highly efficient technical solutions and optimisation processes, and create/foster an environment in which energy efficiency gains are quantifiable, sustainable and valued. The Strategy consists of a number of complimentary measures that fall under the three broad initiatives - People, Practices and Systems.
  • Recently under the 'Practices' initiative the Guide to Best Practice Maintenance & Operation of HVAC Systems for Energy Efficiency has been published. It is a practical guide designed to encourage those working with the maintenance and operation of HVAC systems to focus on improving energy and water efficiency.

Buildings: Homes

The Australian Government has a mixture of financial incentives, regulation, strategies and information resources all geared towards improving the sustainability of homes. As part of the National Strategy on Energy Efficiency, the Australian Government is:

  • developing a National Building Framework to deliver consistency in how building energy efficiency is assessed and rated throughout Australia
  • working with State and Territory governments who have agreed to introduce stricter energy efficiency requirements in the National Construction Code
  • administering the Nationwide Home Energy Rating Scheme (NatHERS), which sets national standards for software used to rate the thermal performance capabilities of Australian homes
  • working with State and Territory governments on developing the proposed Residential Building Disclosure, which would require owners of existing houses, flats and apartments to provide energy, water and greenhouse performance information when selling or leasing their properties
  • supporting the update of resources like Living Greener and Your Home that provide home builders and the public with up-to-date information on how to improve their homes.

Information Resources

National Solar Associations (industry and non-industry)

The Clean Energy Council covers all renewable energy supply and energy efficiency technologies

The Australian Solar Council is the Australian affiliate of ISES.  It supports the PV and SHW industry.

The Australian PV Association supports both  PV and solar heating and cooling technology research.

National Associations on Green/Solar/Sustainable Buildings

The Australian Green Building Council  supports the green building industry and runs the voluntary GreenStar scheme

The Australian Sustainable Built Environment Council is a peak body supporting implementation of sustainable buildings and precincts

Most Important Media for Solar Thermal and Solar Buildings

Solar Progress - Australian Solar Council Journal

Climate Spectator


The Fifth  Estate