The West

Blue-collar suburbs and areas with high proportions of ageing baby boomers lead the solar charge, countering claims only middle-class and affluent households can afford the systems.

As the number of rooftop solar panels soars past 100,000 across Perth and the South West, electricity retailer Synergy released surprising figures showing where demand was highest.

The figures show the working class southern suburb of Canning Vale had the most solar panels with 2239 customers sporting a photovoltaic system as of December 19.

It was followed by Thornlie, where 1513 customers had solar panels, Baldivis (1376), Willetton (1299) and Ellenbrook (1198) for the most solar systems by suburb or town. In contrast, none of the 20 biggest solar suburbs were in affluent or inner-city areas.

This was despite the widely-held belief that State and Federal government subsidies and rebates for solar panels, which have largely been axed amid spiralling costs, flowed to wealthier households.

The true figures were also likely to be higher because Synergy said only customers registered with the renewable energy buyback scheme and who had "bi-directional meters" were included.

Households, non-profit organisations and educational facilities which have solar panels but are not registered with the scheme were not counted.

Ian Milne, who helps run a Perth solar company, said the figures tallied with his experience.

Mr Milne said most demand tended come from retired or retiring baby boomers and middle to lower-income households - groups which were more sensitive to increases in their power bills.

"They see the power bill as a long- term risk to their income or savings and so it is self-protection on that impost that influences them," Mr Milne said.

Acting Energy Minister Troy Buswell said the data supported the Government's residential solar subsidy scheme, which allowed 80,000 households to receive a windfall for the surplus electricity their systems pumped into the grid.

"Government subsidies have stimulated the development of the rooftop industry and contributed to significant reductions in solar PV system costs," he said.

Shadow energy minister Bill Johnston said more people would have been able to benefit from photovoltaic cells if the Government had not botched the scheme.

The West Australian

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