Following a milestone month in September, Ergon Energy now has more than 100,000 customers with solar PV connected to its network. Five years ago, when planning for Ergon's 2010-15 submission to the Australian Energy Regulator, there were only 1917 premises with a solar PV connection.

Ergon's distribution network is one of the largest of its kind and I'm sure our experience, where there has been a 50-fold growth in residential distributed generation, is similar to that of other utilities.

Having now passed 100,000 solar PV connected customers it's worth taking stock and recognising the revolution that is taking place. The spectacular growth of solar PV in regional Queensland has been partly attributed to the state government's original 44 cents per kilowatt hour feed-in-tariff (FIT).  In the 2013/14 financial year, the cost of FITs was $118 million, a cost which is ultimately passed through to customers in future prices.

The original 44c FIT, which remains in place to 2028 for eligible customers, was more than 10 times the wholesale cost of energy when it was introduced. Ergon advocated for its reduction due to cost impacts on all customers and the tendency for it to influence behaviours that added to the peak demand and therefore increased network costs.

At the same time, the average residential customer without solar has dropped their energy use from 7789 kilowatt hours to 6396 kilowatt hours;  that's an 18 per cent reduction over five years.  Solar PV connected customers incorporate 16 per cent of Ergon's entire residential customer base, accounting for approximately 21 per cent of all detached homes in regional Queensland. 

If you were to place every solar panel end-to-end, the panels would stretch about 2800km – that's around the equivalent of Cape York to Sydney. That is a vastly different energy landscape than we envisaged just five years ago when there were less than 2000 solar PV installations connected to our network.

We'll be capitalising on what we have learned since 2009 as we continue to power Queensland's future economy and meet the challenges of the 21st century evolving grid, all the while maintaining an effective, safe and reliable network for all our customers.

Solar takeup infographic