At a seminar on “The Future of Solar” at the University of Melbourne, Stefan Jarnason, the technical director of Suntech Australia, predicted that solar PV capacity in Australia could reach 10 gigawatts by 2020, when it would be growing at a phenomenal 2 gigawatts a year.

Mr Jarnason predicted that changes in government incentives would cause solar rooftop installations to slump in the short term. But in the medium to long term, they would grow by 20% per annum.

He expects commercial-scale PV, such as large factory rooftop installations, to grow by about 40% a year and utility-scale installations to experience massive growth from around 2018, as costs come down and hidden subsidies on fossil fuels are removed.

Mr Jamason said that solar PV could supply 5% of Australia’s energy needs by 2020.

This contrasts starkly with the federal government’s forecast of 5% solar by 2050 – which is. perhaps, not surprising when the Government’s "High Level Consultative Committee" on long-term energy policy.has no representaive the solar industry but does include representatives of Shell, Xtrata Coal, Woodside Petroleum, Santos, Rio Tinto, Origin Energy, BHP Billiton, AGL and the Australia Petroleum Production and Exploration Association. The sole representative of the renewable energy sector is Dr Michael Ottaviano, MD of Carnegie Wave Energy.

Mr Jamason said that while most of the solar PV hardware would probably come fom China, more than half of the economic value would be in building, operating and maintaining the plants.