Country Report - Australia

Status of Solar Heating/Cooling and Solar Buildings - 2020

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

Typical applications include:

  • Solar water heating in single family homes.  Products used in this application are typically approximately 4 sq m. of collector with a 250-300 litre tank.  Tanks are almost always mounted outdoors and some are installed in a thermosiphon 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% compared to a conventional gas or electric water heater 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 for the Renewable Energy Target (RET) and White certificates in some States have supported the market. 

Low awareness of solar water heating and the tendency to replace ‘like for like’ in the replacement market 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 manufacturers have moved collector manufacturing off shore, however, most  solar water heater tanks installed in Australia are locally produced.  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.

In new dwellings the builder generally provides the solar water heater which is often purchased from the manufacturer.


According to Australia’s Clean Energy Council there are approximately 995 full time equivalent jobs in the solar water heating sector in 2015.


The average cost for a solar water heater in Australia in 2012 was AU$3,070. (BIS Shrapnel, 2012)

Other Key Topics

Australian Standards for solar heating and cooling technologies are leading intrernationally.

These standards are often joint with New Zealand.  Recent developments include:

  • AS/NZS4234 "Heated water systems - Calculation of energy consumption" is under revision.  It is a Component Test System Simulation (CTSS) method to evalaute the annual performance of water heaters including solar and Heat pumps in a range of Australian and NZ climates.
  • AS5389 2019 "Space heating and cooling and ventilation systems - Calculation of energy and comfort performance" is a CTSS methodology  that covers a number of low energy technologies that provide comfort conditions in occupied spaces.

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.  These are covered in the Building Code of Australia and generally only cover new buildings.  All new houses are required to meet the energy efficiency requirements of the Building Code.  Over 80% of new houses demonstrate compliance using NatHERS software (Nationwide Home Energy Rating).  NathHERS is based on a calculation engine developed BY CSIRO.  The use of an online registration database has faciliated a wide range of data on new housing sollution that re now available to Policy Makers and industry and researchers.

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.

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

Market Size and Trends

There are no specific requirements  for solar technologies for buildings other than solar water heaters in Voictoria.

Support for solar technologies for established buildings, including solar water heaters and PV, is provided through the Green Certificate scheme and some state based white certificate schemes.

Main Market Drivers

The main driver for residential dwellings is building regulations that are defined in the National Construction Code (Building Code of Australia and Plumbing Code of Australia) and implemented at state and territory level 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 (NatHERS)  to calculate heating and cooling energy loads from the plans, or through complying with other elements deemed to meet building regulations.

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 in white certificate schemes.  PV is included in Green Certificate schemes.

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.

The Australian Renewable Energy Agency (ARENA maintains a research program for solar energy.  ARENA has recently included industrial process heat as a prioritry area of research.

Some of the institutions conducting R&D include:

Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisations (CSIRO)

  • Residential building database

University of New South Wales

University of South Australia 

University of Wollongong

Queensland University of Technology

R&D Infrastructure

R&D Institutions
Institution Type of Institution Relevant Research Areas IEA SHC Involvement Website
Grocon Builder/Developer Green Building Task 40
University of Sydney faculty of Architecture University Housing Task 47
University of SA University Buildings Storage Solar resource Task 42 Task 46
UNSW built environment/APVI University Solar architecture and planning Task 41 Task 51
Standards Australia Committee CS028 Standards body Solar hot water Solar cooling Task 43 Task 48
Energy Analysis & Engineering Consultant Solar hot water Solar cooling Task 43 Task 48
Vipac Test Lab Solar hot water Task 43
Bureau of Meteorology Government agency Solar resource Task 46
Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisations (CSIRO) Government research organistaion Solar Cooling, Solar Resources Task 46 Task 48 Task 53
Sustainable Energy Transformation Consultant Rating and certification, Standards Task 43

Actual Innovations

Market support innovations. RET and VEU 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, AS5389, has been published facilitating performance evaluation of solar cooling system.  This will facilitate solar cooling being incorporated into Green and White certificate schemes. 

Support Framework


Renewable Energy Target (RET)

The RET scheme is designed to ensure that 20 per cent of Australia’s electricity comes from renewable sources by 2020. The RET scheme is helping to transform Australia’s electricity generation mix to cleaner and more diverse sources and supporting growth and employment in the renewable energy sector.

The RET creates a financial incentive for households, small businesses and community groups to install eligible small-scale renewable energy systems such as solar water heaters, heat pumps, solar photovoltaic (PV) 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 systems at the time of installation, according to the amount of electricity they are expected to produce or displace in the future. For example, the SRES allows eligible solar PV systems to create, at the time of installation, STCs equivalent to 15 years of expected system output.


Australian Renewable Energy Agency (ARENA)

ARENA is an independent statutory authority which commenced operations on 1 July 2012, with two objectives: to improve the competitiveness of renewable energy technologies, and to increase the supply of renewable energy in Australia.  The governance of ARENA is defined by the Australian Renewable Energy Agency Act 2011.

ARENA has committed $1 billion to nearly 200 projects across a suite of renewable energy types. Industry has matched this investment with a further $1.8 billion, taking the investment in Australian renewables to a total of $2.8 billion as a result of the programme. More information on ARENA is available at:


Clean Energy Finance Corporation (CEFC)

The $10 billion CEFC ($2 billion per year for five years) provides investment in renewable energy, low-emission energy technology and energy efficiency projects in Australia.  The CEFC was established on 3 August 2012 under the Clean Energy Finance Corporation Act 2012.  The CEFC commenced funding investments on 1 July 2013.  As at 30 June 2014, the CEFC has contracted investments of over $900 million in projects with a total value of over $3 billion.


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 Industry, Science, Energy and Resources


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. Renewable Energy Target (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 Renewable Energy Certificate 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:

  • working with State and Territory governments to introduce stricter energy efficiency requirements in the National Construction Code
  • administering the Commercial Building Disclosure Program, which requires compulsory energy ratings for large commercial buildings which are sold and leased
  • working with state and territory governments to enhance the National Australian Built Environment Rating System (NABERS), which is the system used to measure the environmental performance of commercial buildings
  • working with State and Territory governments to develop a Facilitation Strategy that support long term improvements in the energy efficiency of Heating, Ventilation and Air Conditioning (HVAC) systems through a collaborative approach with industry


Buildings: Homes

The Australian Government has a mixture of, regulation, strategies and information resources all geared towards improving the sustainability of homes.  The Australian Government is:

  • working with State and Territory governments to apply the energy efficiency requirements in the National Construction Code
  • administering the Nationwide Home Energy Rating Scheme (NatHERS), which sets a national framework for accrediting software used to rate the thermal performance capabilities of Australian homes, , and the accreditation of assessors who use the software
  • supporting the update of resources like Your Energy Savings and Your Home that provide home builders, designers and the public with up-to-date information on how to improve the sustainability of their homes.

Information Resources

National Solar Associations (industry and non-industry)

National Associations on Green/Solar/Sustainable Buildings

Most Important Media for Solar Thermal and Solar Buildings